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  September 2, 2001



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Hitmen camp shows signs of potential


By BRET HART -- SLAM! Wrestling
 It's been such a hot summer it's hard to believe the ol' Farmer's Almanac is predicting an early winter.

 With the kids back at school, I'm starting to get my annual sad feeling that the beautiful weather will soon be gone. Every year at this time, I smile when I remind myself that what gets me through the winter blahs is hockey.

 I stopped by a Calgary Hitmen practice to see how the roster is shaping up.

 Everyone knew this would be a rebuilding year for the team but I've got news for anybody who thinks they're not gonna be tough this year.

 Think again!

 Brent Krahn mentioned to me that his knee isn't bothering him at all and he's feeling better than ever. We've got a one-two punch in goaltending. Brady Block did really well last year and Krahn is one of the best in the league.

 Johnny Boychuck showed a lot of heart last year, especially at the end of the season. I suspect I'm not the only one who expects this to be a banner year for him.

 Shaun Norrie, Wade Davis and Chad Wolkowski look like they've been hitting the weights during the summer.

 Mike Egener and Robin Gomez will define our physical presence on the ice. Both showed great potential last season, especially Gomez in the playoffs.

 One of my favourites, Owen Fussey, looks bigger and better than ever.

 Jordan Krestanovich is sure to be picked up by an NHL team.

 Rod Sarich is a big, happy farm kid and proud of it. He's headed to training camp in Minnesota, hoping to get picked up by the Wild.

 Brandon Segal will be a real leader on the team this year.

 There are high hopes for the newest European recruits, Dennis Sergeev from Russia and Fredrick Sjostrom from Sweden, who I'm told is a phenomenal skater and really good with the stick.

 Wes Rypien, the tough winger who got to show us a little of what he could do at the tail end of last season, will be back.

 No new rookie defencemen have officially made the team yet, so let's not speculate.

 One thing for sure is that Richard Kromm is a great choice for coach.

 For the last three years, he's been head coach and director of hockey operations with the UHL Muskegon Fury. After a nine-year NHL playing career with the Flames and Islanders, Kromm started coaching in 1993-94 as an assistant coach in the IHL for Cincinnati. He became head coach in the AHL with Carolina from 1995-97.

 Originally from Trail, B.C., Kromm's roots are with the WHL Portland Winterhawks, where he played three seasons before being drafted by the Flames in the second round of the 1982 NHL entry draft.

 After three seasons, he was traded to the New York Islanders, where he spent the remainder of his NHL career, playing close to 400 NHL games, including 36 in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

 As an assistant coach with the IHL Chicago Wolves, Kromm helped lead the team to a Turner Cup victory. As head coach of the Muskegon Fury, the team won the Tarry Cup and the Colonial Cup Championship during the 1998-99 season. He was named the United Hockey League's Coach of the Year for the 1998-99 season.

 It'll be interesting and exciting to see how the Hitmen roster shapes up in the next couple of weeks.

 The home opener is Sept. 21 against Lethbridge.

 See you there!

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