The lights flick on in Troy Ward’s office at 4 a.m., and the symbolism is not lost on the Abbotsford Heat coach. It’s in the early hours that he has those light-bulb moments, where a master’s degree in sports administration, coupled with 22 years of coaching experience in six leagues, help map out the AHL day.

“It’s deep thinking,” Ward said Tuesday. “Prep time to get honed in on what’s coming into my rink that day and what buttons we have to push.”

As the Heat prepares to open training camp Friday, there’s opportunity to build on a franchise-record 42 wins last season and a second-round playoff appearance. The NHL lockout has provided the perfect platform for the Heat to reverse a disturbing trend — slipping from 3,897, to 3,807 and 3,545 in average game attendance the past three seasons — and quell ongoing rumours that the parent Calgary Flames may eventually seek another location for their top affiliate.

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