EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) – They gather in Edina now, ready to start focusing on what is around the corner – training camp for hockey.

It seems early, but this group is dedicated and determined. It is a who’s who of Minnesota talent.

“A lot of little things go on out here that you learn. You see guys like Thomas Vanek, some of the tricks he’s got. I don’t know that I could pull them off in a game like he does. But it’s just fun to watch. A lot of good players and a lot of skill,” player Nick Bjugstad said.

The veterans are pacing themselves. They are aware of what is ahead and being diligent about how to get there.

“I think there’s probably a couple more days off. I think this year I started a little bit later with skating that I have in the past. Just trying to make sure I feel good when I get into it and I’m ready to go,” player Keith Ballard said. “I’ve skated a little bit less each year to save on the body a bit. I think that that’s pretty common for most guys.”

Ben Hankinson from Octogan runs it and observes it. What he sees is the same.

Everyone has a reason to get better, and this game is a big  business that also happens to be fun.

“They’re all fighting for spots. The fourth liners what to be third liners. Zach Parise is who he is because that’s the only way he’s driven. Every day – to be the best, and be an all-star, and be an Olympian and be captain and everything else. And the minor league guys want to make it to the NHL and take their spots. So it’s a dog eat dog world,” Hankinson said.

Zach Parise helped set the standard.

Like in the regular season he is known for his work ethic, and he is making sure that when he gets to camp he is the leader by example.

“For me, you just try and get yourself ready to go. Try to get yourself into game shape. There’s only so much you can do off the ice, dry land. You got to get yourself into game shape, skating shape. The only way to do that is get out here and play a little bit. So that’s what these next three – four weeks are all about,” Parise said.

T.J. Oshie, the player who became famous overnight for his shoot out flurry in the Olympics, attends the camp as well.

It has changed his hockey life, and a new daughter has changed everything in his life.

“It’s changed quite a bit as far as opportunities that I’ve had this summer and things that I’ve taken advantage of. A little more notoriety around town, around different towns especially. But, as far as everything at home, it’s all the same. Just got a little baby girl there. And just enjoying our time with her,” Oshie said.

In the midst of the camp, they bond. A bit of a reunion for the elite in the area. They come out to connect in the world where they are now making a living.

“It’s fun. It’s always fun to do this camp. The hockey camp puts on a good sakte,” Kyle Okposo said. “Most of the guys from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area come down so it’s definitely good to get together with the guys that I kind of grew up playing with.”

Mike Max