Hockey lovers aged eight to 14 are getting some of the best hockey training available in northern B.C. for the next two weeks at the Cariboo Elite Hockey Training School.
Originally started five years ago by Matt Kolle, Shane Thon and Richard Gauthier as a three-on-three camp held once the season had wrapped up in spring, it quickly sling-shotted into a full-blown two-week summer camp.
Thanks to Kolle’s connections in Kamloops, the organizers were able to acquire the services of former NHLers Chris Murray and Ed Patterson. They committed to one week and have been coming back every year since.
“In addition to being NHL alumni, [the pair] have extensive coaching experience both in minor hockey and in major midget and junior hockey with the [Thompson] Blazers and the Kamloops Storm, so to have these two individuals up here working with our kids is really special,” says Thon.
While the level of coaching is elite, hence the name of the program, the participants do not have to be to get a lot out of the coaching. A simple love of the game and a will to improve is all that is required.
“If your child is just in initiation, bring them on down and these guys will help them with edge control and turning and stopping and getting the fundamentals to start and then get better and better as those skills progress,” says Thon. “Even if they are going to be in a perennial house player and they play hockey for the sheer enjoyment and it’s not about the competitive side of it, then this is still a great camp because these guys will engage you whether you’re a 10 or a three in skill level.
“Their idea is to make you better than you are and to help you enjoy the game.”
That being said, higher skilled players will certainly get a lot our of the program too.
“We have had multiple kids that have come through our program that have gone on to higher levels and played in Junior B in the KIJHL or they’ve played Major Midget,” says Thon.
Local player Yewta Plamendon is helping Murray and Patterson out this week.
The 17-year-old played for Patterson for two years on the Kamloops Storm and would often spend his summer travelling down to Salmon Arm or Kelowna for camps.
“There wasn’t a lot around in the north at the time, so I would always have to go down south,” he says.
He says having this level of training in Quesnel is important to building up the minor hockey program in the city.
“It’s crucial,” he says. “With Ed and Chris, they’ve had experience, so they know how to improve younger kids, and to get good, you’ve got to start training at a high level at the youngest age you can.”
Plamendon is taking a lot from the experience.
“It’s awesome. I’m already seeing kids improve on the first day. It’s really mind blowing.”
The second week of the clinic will be power skating taught by AK Performance Hockey out of Kelowna.
There is still time to sign up for that full week and even an opportunity to get in a few days with Patterson and Murray.
Thon recommends interested parents call Quesnel Leisure Services at the Recreation Centre at 250-992-8200. Pro rata rates are available for the skills clinic, and spots are still available for power skating.