What: Junior hockey exhibition game
Who: Belleville Bulls vs. Kingston Frontenacs
Logistics: 7 p.m., K-Rock Centre
Kingston: 19-41-8 last year, last in the Eastern Conference
Belleville: Coming off a 35-32-1 campaign, seventh in the conference
Anxious to see: Debuts tonight of first-round picks Sam Bennett and Roland McKeown; defenceman Dylan Di Perna; Finns Mikko Vainonen and Henri Ikonen and overage goaltender Mike Morrison
Reunion: Belleville forwards Niki Petti, Michael Cramarossa and Daniel DeSousa were teammates of Bennett and McKeown in the Toronto Marlboros minor system; all are products of the first three rounds of April's draft
It's not apparent that Todd Gill the hockey player would have appreciated Todd Gill the coach.
"As a player, I hated practice," Gill said, but as a coach he's convinced loading his team's training camp with practice time is much more beneficial than playing a raft of exhibition games.
"I like it this way," said Gill, whose Kingston Frontenacs play the first of only three preseason games — and the only one at home — tonight against the Belleville Bulls.
"It allows me to teach."
Not long ago, junior hockey teams would play half a dozen or more preseason matches, in the name of getting in shape for the season, determining who would make the team or identifying potential problems.
Gill is happy those days are gone.
"Before, teams would carry a lot more players," he said. "This year we've got our numbers almost right down to where we want them to be, so it gives us a real good opportunity to play everyone we're going to have around this year.
"We've got a lot of new faces so we've got a lot of teaching to do. I'll be changing my systems a little bit from last year. We have more talent that we can do more things with the puck in certain areas."
The Frontenacs have 24 players remaining in camp, two goaltenders, eight defencemen and 14 forwards. Two will have to be dispatched to get to the opening-night roster limit.
Meanwhile, Gill likes the pace at which camp will play itself out: four days of practice between intrasquad games and the first two exhibition games — the Frontenacs and Bulls will play Saturday night in Belleville — a week between those games and the last exhibition — with Ottawa, in Brockville — and then three days between that game and the season opener Sept. 21.
"We can play two games (this weekend), get video of it, and it's a great teaching tool to say, 'OK, this is what we're trying to do, this is what we did.' Then we have Sunday to Sunday to work on what we did wrong in those games and get ready for the final exhibition game."
One favourable aspect of having the team virtually set so soon, Gill believes, is that it gives players a chance to get comfortable with new teammates.
"If you had six exhibition games, and you have have guys coming in and out (of the lineup), nobody gets any trust in who they're playing with because they're playing with different people all the time."
That doesn't mean that after two days of scrimmages and four days of practice, the coach isn't eager to see what this group of players has to offer in a game.
"Last year, it was what it was. The kids that came in gave me 100 per cent but we had trouble scoring. It was a trying year that way but I was proud of the way they gave me the effort.
"This year with the addition of the draft picks, the two Finns, the trades for (Billy) Jenkins and (Ryan) Kujawinski and (Trevor) Morbeck, talent-wise we feel we're way ahead of the game. Hopefully we can take that talent and put that hard work the team gave me last year and win hockey games."
Tonight, Gill said he expects things typical of first exhibition games — forwards perhaps a little selfish, "trying to score goals," defensive breakdowns and who knows what.
"We get an opportunity to see two new goalies. We get an opportunity to see a lot of new faces up front and what they're capable of doing."
At this point in time, even the odd dreadful play wouldn't be unwelcome
"It allows me to show them where they're going wrong and hopefully by the third game everybody's in synch and doing the right thing and doing it together, playing the system we're trying to teach."
Still, Gill would like to win the hockey game, and he said he hopes to win it "the right way."
"That's by doing what we've been teaching over the last week," he said. "I'm looking for guys to show that swagger and confidence of coming into their second and third year.
"It's a big game for us. Last year was a long year, not only for the players and the coaching staff but for the fans. We've improved from last year, as far as the talent. Now it's up to us to go out and prove to our fans we're better.
"I love a challenge."