LEWISTON — One by one, the players trickled in. Some had heavy bags of hockey gear slung over their shoulders, and some of those bags were already emblazoned with the Lewiston Maineiacs logo.

Others walked through the doors of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee — from the normally-hot August temps into the cold-as-a-freezer hockey rink — confused. For some of the glazed-over hockey players, this was the first time they’d traveled to the United States. For many of them, it was their first taste of major junior hockey.

And for all of them, it was the first step toward what coaches, management and even the players believe will be a very productive season.

The trickle of players began early. A trio of returning players — Sam Henley, Francis Beauvillier and Jess Tanguy — sauntered into the rink without their gear, carrying instead bags full of Subway sandwiches. They checked in quickly in the back of the rink, but the locker room, and then climbed the stands to the top row to eat their food and talk.

But they weren’t official yet.

That didn’t start until nearly 2 p.m. By then, front office staff and hockey operations staff had merged at the front of the building, in the food court rotunda. Players entered the rink, turned a corner and were met with a line of tables at which a host of paperwork awaited. There were passports to be copied, registration forms to fill out, questionnaires to answer and people to meet.

There to greet every registering player, from the returning Sam Finn to the newly-drafted Christopher Lalonde, was team majority owner Mark Just, GM Roger Shannon, coaches J.F. Houle and Darren Rumble, and the team’s equipment staff, who handed out t-shirts and caps, and sized the players for windsuits, polos, long-sleeve shirts, hats — and even rings, just in case.

Not every player made it through registration in the first hour, but a good handful did, including a very shy Jonah Coonishish-Coon, a player many fans have experessed interest in seeing. Since he was signed by the team as a free agent at the QMJHL draft in June, he appears to have lost some weight and bulked up.

Other players changed, too. Francis Beauvillier, a wide-eyes, 16-year-old rookie last season, appeared at camp registration this year at least two inches taller and cut. Olivier Dame-Malka appeared to have added 10 pounds of solid muscle from pictures available of him from Acadie-Bathurst, and even Sam Henley, already tall a year ago, appeared a bit bigger.

Jess Tanguy, who many said needed to add some weight, appears to have done so.

The team will enjoy an evening off Tuesday. They’ll gather as a team at the rink and walk from there to the Hilton Garden Inn of Auburn, where the team is sponsoring a concert by the river. There, they’ll then eat as a team, with the players’ parents, and then the players will get to meet their new host families.

The real fun for the players begins Wednesdsay, when the team will participate in fitness testing and an introduction to dryland training.

But on Day 1, thoughts weren’t there yet. Trying to get the lay of the land, players mingled with one another at the rink, deposited equipment in their assigned locker rooms and hung around.

It’s going to be a tough week, both on and off the ice, for these players, but by the end, the staff will have a pretty good idea which of the players might be able to withstand the rigors of the full season.

Hockey is back, and for the players, it’s full steam ahead.


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