Nearly eleven months after they last had a full team activity, the Grand Rapids Griffins were together again as camp officially opened on Sunday.
"When you are skating in the summer and you are with four guys, maybe it's six guys however many, obviously it was smaller numbers but once you get back in the locker room and you have the energy going and you feel the energy from everybody in there it is certainly exciting," Griffins forward Kyle Criscuolo said. "We are feeling fortunate to be able to play and I think everybody is just happy to be back in the locker room."
Just as all sports and levels have, the American Hockey League (AHL) will be playing in front of a limited number of spectators.
It might take some getting used to.
"Same that go to work and once we are on the ice we work and we play and we have fun," Griffins forward Evgeny Svechnikov said. "Without any fans or anybody of course it is huge support, huge mentally, emotionally support but we have to do what we have to do, if there is none of that so we will go and just play and have our own fun."
There is the potential for many variables throughout the season from player availability to last minute cancellations.
"Make sure we are keeping it as positive as we can and controlling what we can control and sometimes we can't control some of the issues that we are going to face," Griffins head coach Ben Simon said. "I think being able to realize that and sometimes that we are probably going to sit there and think this is crazy, this is nuts but you just kind of roll with it."
Camp is quick, the team plays its first game Friday in Chicago.
For many on this Griffins team that were in camp with the Red Wings, they have long been awaiting the chance to play in a real game.
"We've kind of mentally prepared ourselves to a point where we know it is time to go out there and play the game and get some results and have that good feeling after a win and learn from losses," Criscuolo said. "I think that's the most exciting part is that we have been preparing and we feel like we are ready to go."
Grand Rapids will play its first four games on the raod.
The first game at Van Andel Arena is scheduled for February 20th against the Monsters.