CEDAR RAPIDS — It took awhile, and they had to go out of state for it, but the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders finally conducted their annual tryout camp last week.
COVID-19 delayed things, obviously. So did not having their arena.
ImOn Ice was out of commission throughout the summer as it underwent scheduled upgrades. Then last month’s derecho took it even more out of commission, causing severe damage to the building, especially on the Olympic ice sheet side.
Coach/General Manager/President Mark Carlson moved everything to Minnesota, specifically the HealthEast Sport Center in Woodbury (a Twin Cities suburb), and 80 kids participated. That’s a normal amount in a non-pandemic year.
“We have had some Futures Camps up there in the past,” Carlson said. “They have a great staff and a great facility there. We knew we couldn’t have camp here, so it was a pretty simple process.”
Masking and social distancing was of utmost importance during the three-day event, with Carlson saying he felt everyone involved adhered well to those demands.
“I thought all the players and any of the other people who were in the building, whether it was parents or family or what have you, everyone just did a great job of, number one, very simple, wearing a mask, and, number two, social distancing,” he said. “We had big, dispersed areas for players to get dressed, so we could social distance there.
"I just thought everyone did a fantastic job of being disciplined and caring about others. Really caring about other people and looking out for other people. Like a sports mentality, right? Put the team first and look out after everybody else and not just yourself.”
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About a dozen guys with playing experience here last season took part in camp. None of the Riders’ potential returnees, draft picks or protected list players from other countries, including Canada, were there.
You won’t find a list of camp survivors, as that stuff has become a closely guarded secret over the years. The United States Hockey League has roster limits, according to dates, which are fluid at this point because of the uncertainty over a season.
The league recently announced its intention to begin its regular season Nov. 6.
“I thought there was good depth in the camp,” Carlson said. “Overall, it was successful. For me, the thing I was happiest with was that just about all of our returning players took a significant step, as far as their weight training, being bigger, stronger, faster. More determined. It looked like they’d worked a lot, and I think they are poised to have real good seasons.”
That apparently included goatender Aidan Harper, who by reports was very strong.
“Yeah, I thought Harps did a really good job, and I think he’s poised to have a big year,” Carlson said. “I think you’ll see that from a lot of returners. I think our guys are excited to get up here and get playing.”
Carlson said the target date to bring kids into town is early October. He lauded the crews working on repairing ImOn Ice, though it’s still unknown when it will be available for the club, or anyone else, to inhabit.
“They’re doing a great job of cleaning up and taking significant steps every day ... It appears they are making great progress,” Carlson said. “Our slogan all summer, especially now with everything that has happened, has been to get back together and give our city and surrounding communities something to cheer about.”
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