Oilers off to boot camp

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:29 PM ET

Most of them would not hesitate to dive in front of a slap shot if it meant helping their team.

But some had reservations about jumping out of a 30-metre tower in order to bond.

Yesterday those attending the Oilers development camp went commando, taking part in team-building exercises at the Edmonton Garrison.

"It's definitely a new experience, I've never done this before," said defenceman Jordan Benfeld. "It was a lot of fun. The tower was good. I'm not afraid of heights, but as soon as I jumped, I realized that it wasn't a good idea."

The prospects took part in a number of military exercises throughout the day.

They were picked up by armoured vehicles from Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, where the week long camp is taking place, and transported to the base.

From there, they got an opportunity to fire weapons under simulated conditions -- essentially a giant video game -- then went out to play soldier for the remainder of the day.

"I think all of us have seen war movies and played video games and wondered what it would be like to do something like this," said forward Geoff Paukovich. "It's a lot harder than it looks and it takes a lot of dedication to be one of these guys.

"It's great that they let us hang out and take part in something like this for the day."

The military activities were a welcome break from the summer workout routines that dominate a prospect's day in preparation for the upcoming season.

There's a lot at stake for most of the players as they try to make the jump to the next level.

"It gives you a real appreciation for the military," Benfeld said.

"Just going for a run in this equipment was tough. It'd be really interesting to be one of these guys, but at the same time, it would be really hard to do what they do."

The concept of team-bonding on a military base is not new.

The Canadian Junior Team did it this winter preparing for the world junior championships in Ottawa.

Jordan Eberle, the Oilers top pick -- 22 overall -- in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft was on that team.

"I've done it before, but it's still not an easy thing to do," Eberle said. "These guys use this as training in order to jump out of a plane, so it's obviously a tough jump."

Considering there were some high-priced prospects taking part in the exercises, there may have been some trepidation in allowing players to jump out of a tower, rappel down a wall or run an obstacle course.

But every precaution was taken by the military personnel in charge and the reward was considered of high value over the minimal risk.

"It's great to kind of get the guys all together here," Eberle said. "We have a lot of guys from different countries here and it's nice to get them under one uniform here and bring them together.

"It's definitely a fun thing to do."


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