East Lansing — Call it a sort of hockey class reunion for Michigan State.
And another sign that hockey season can’t be too far away.
About 20 former Spartans — and local pros looking to get back in hockey shape — are taking part in a pro hockey camp at Munn Ice Arena this week in preparation for training camp and the upcoming season.
As probably could be expected Monday, there was a lot of huffing and puffing, straining for the water bottle, and getting a lot of kinks out as many players began to ratchet their conditioning, with NHL training camps beginning in about a month.
“This is kind of the first organized skate for a lot of guys,” said forward Justin Abdelkader, who was on the ice Monday along with Red Wings teammates Drew Miller and Jakub Kindl. “Do drills for an hour, scrimmage; it’s a real good skate and you get a lot out of it.
“At the same time, it’s fun being back here.”
Abdelkader and Miller are both former Spartans, and will be joined during the course of the week by former MSU players David Booth (Toronto Maple Leafs), Torey Krug (Boston Bruins), Jeff Petry (Edmonton Oilers) and Jim Slater (Winnnipeg Jets), among others.
Several eras of Michigan State hockey will be represented on the ice.
“This is one of the things that keeps us all together, guys coming back for this and the golf outing (Friday),” said Miller, who has had nine other relatives play at Michigan State “The guys who aren’t playing or are older, they still come back for the golf outing.
“For me, this is where I grew up. I was in this locker room when I was nine, 10, 13 years old and hanging out here. It’s always fun to come back.”
Tom Newton, MSU assistant coach, runs the camp and enjoys seeing the players back in East Lansing.
“I always look forward to it; it’s a great week,” Newton said. “It’s fun to see how they’ve grown up. They’re real professionals now, they want to come out and work. They’re pros.”
Which is what Kindl enjoys, while preparing for the NHL season.
Kindl has been attending the MSU camp for the past five seasons, in essence becoming an honorary Spartan.
“He keeps coming back,” Abdelkader said.
Said Kindl: “There’s not a lot of places where you can get a good skate in because everyone is on their own, living in different areas. You don’t want to get to camp without having any skating in.
“Something like this helps everyone. It’s hard to find 20 guys in a group like this, this close to camp, it’s pretty cool. It’s good for everyone.”
Several other Red Wings, including Danny DeKeyser and Daniel Cleary, and former Red Wing Patrick Eaves, are expected to skate at some point this week.
Players skate from 10 a.m. to noon each day, and the camp is free and open to spectators.