AMARILLO, TX – No other sport in the Texas Panhandle has had a longer and more storied run than hockey. The longest tenured hockey team in the Texas Panhandle is set to hit the ice this weekend as the 9th Amarillo Bulls Training Camp faces off at the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center.
Players have slowly started arriving in Amarillo and will participate in a team and billet family meeting on Saturday before physicals on Sunday morning, and then hit the ice for their first workouts at 11:15 am.
The Bulls finished fifth in the South Division with a mark of 23-26-8-3 for 57 points, including 13 wins on home ice. Rocky Russo returns for his second season behind the behind as Head Coach and is excited with the crop of players that will be vying for positions.
“We have done a lot of work as a staff and started to lay the foundation the way this organization should be run,” said Russo. “We like our players that we have coming in. We have a great veteran presence with Brett Abdelnour, Alex Peterson, Jason Brancheau, Trey Bagwell, Nick Stuckless Brendan Datema, Nick Anderson and Jason Grande. That is a great foundation to work with along with guys like Jordan Venegoni and Aaron Swanson who spent time with us last year. Those guys know the expectations that come with being an Amarillo Bulls player, not just on the ice, but off the ice, in the gym and the community.”
Russo said he is also excited to work with the new Coaching Staff members George Lewis, Will Heim and Kyle Harden.
“George and I have a great friendship and relationship that I think will make the transition to a new assistant coach seamless,” said Russo, who worked with Lewis in the EHL with the Philly Little Flyers. “He and I think a lot a like when it comes to systematic work and how we handle our players, the approach we want to take on a day-to-day basis. Kyle and Will have been great to this point. These guys are detailed, organized, on time, and ready to go. They are doing the things to be ready when the boys are here this weekend.”
When asked who will be the calm one on the bench between Russo and George Lewis, the Head Coach laughed and said they will certainly both have their moments.
“I am certainly not the same person I was five, six, or seven years ago, when I was a little quick to the trigger, regards to the emotional stuff,” Russo said. “I’m very passionate and I won’t apologize for that. I think our fans and players appreciate that and know that when I do get emotional, it comes in the right place, and a desire to protect our players here in Amarillo. I want to make sure they are getting a fair shake, and the best opportunity to succeed and grow as players and as people.”
Training Camp will feature workouts in the morning and again in the afternoon before a couple of scrimmages with the Odessa Jackalopes next Friday and Saturday. After that it, will be a stretch of 14 days before the 2018-19 Home Opener against the Lone Star Brahmas. Russo said the coaching staff wants to see compete level and good work habits during that first week.
“I think since the dawn of time, coaches have tried to jam as much system work they could in the first week of practice,” he commented. “Certainly, we are going to lay the foundation for our systems throughout the first week of practice. George and I are fully in agreement that we really need to work on good habits and trusting our process to accomplish things on a day-to-day basis.”
It was certainly an emotional 2017-18 Amarillo Bulls season that was filled with tragedy off the ice with staff members losing loved ones, including Russo’s father who passed away. Coach Russo was reflective of the year and said communication was something he learned through all of it.
“The loss of my father was something I had to handle myself and with my family, and obviously I’m not over that but I am able to be a little more focused as I enter the rink every day,” he said. “Where I faltered last year was a lack of communication at times with the players because I was in my own world. I want to start with great communication and relationship with our players this year. I think that goes along way and something I took pride in during my time in Philadelphia. It is not something new to me but something I need to focus on this year. I want to get to know the players more than just what they are on the ice. I want to make sure they understand that the relationship with the coaches goes much further than this arena but can go forward for the rest of their lives.”
In less than 30 days, the 9th season of the Amarillo Bulls faces off when they take on the Lone Star Brahmas on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7 pm. It’s not too late to think about Full or Half Season Tickets, the new Seven Game Pack or 10-Game Flex Packs. For further information on price-points and the benefits being offered, visit 301 South Polk in the Amarillo Building or call 806-242-1122.
BULLS TRAINING CAMP WORKOUT SCHEDULE – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
- Sunday, Aug. 26 – 11:15 am to 1:15 pm
- Monday, Aug. 27 – 9 am and at 3 pm
- Tuesday, Aug. 28 – 9am and at 3 pm
- Wednesday, Aug. 29 – 9 am and – 3 pm to 4:30 pm (Split Squad Scrimmage)
- Thursday, Aug. 30 – 9 am and – 3 pm to 4:30 pm (Split Squad Scrimmage)