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AHL hockey season

It's official: AHL hockey season is back!

SPRINGFIELD Hockey season is back! After five months of planning and anticipating a very exciting 2006-07 season, the first step to officially begin the 2006-07 campaign started in Traverse City, Michigan on Friday, Sept. 8 when the Tampa Bay Lightning prospects take part in the 2006 Rookie Tournament.

The Bolts team was led by Falcons head coach Steve Stirling and assistant coach Darren Rumble and the overall tournament lasts five days of games and practices leading up to the Lightning training camp in Tampa.

"This is great event and a nice way to start the new season," said Stirling. "Since the press conference in May, I have looked forward to getting started and working with the Lightning prospects. It's been a great summer meeting the fans at the Falcons Summer Cookout, I think everyone is excited to get this year going."

The Lightning Rookie Team competes against prospects from the Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. A total of 15 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies fulfill the Tampa Bay roster in Traverse City and a selected few will be asked to attend the Lightning's main training camp, which opens on Sept. 14.

"This is a great opportunity for these young players to come in and make an impression," said Stirling, who attended a Lightning rookie camp in July. "I am excited to be working with Darren (Rumble) and we are expecting these young players to play with a lot of energy."

Some of the notable players participating in this year's Prospect Camp will be first-year pros Maxim Boisclair, Blair Jones, Justin Keller, Stanislav Lascek, Radek Smolenak, Andy Rogers, Matt Smaby and Karri Ramo. Forwards Marek Kvapil and Zbynek Hrdel both saw quality time with the Falcons last year and are competing in Traverse City.

"Obviously being new to the organization, this is a great way for me to view and work with the prospects before the season starts in October," said Stirling. "We have a lot of work to do until the season starts in about a month, but we all can't wait to get started."

In Traverse City, Michigan, the first step of preparing for a new season begins. At the MassMutual Center in Springfield, the ice will be in Sept. 11. It's official, hockey season has arrived!