If you remember anything from elementary school, chances are you remember something about a spring time classic; the track and field meet. Students participated in a variety of different events, ribbons were handed out and sometimes the winners moved on to the city or district meet.
Take that concept into the Hockey Canada Skills Academy and you can picture a bit of what it looked like. Recently, two skills camps were held on Professional Development days in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
Two-hundred players, coaches and parents descended on Abbotsford’s Centre Ice Arena looking to test the skills the players have been working on since September at the second annual MEI Hockey Academy Skills Day.
Students from Carihi Secondary School in Campbell River traveled to Port Alberni to join students from Alberni District Secondary School at Weyerhauser and Coulson Arenas.
Each day started with the main skills portion of the camp. SportTesting digital testing equipment was set up at five to seven stations around the rink and players were broken into groups to compete in hardest shot, shooting accuracy, fastest skater (forward and backwards), stickhandling and multi-direction challenges. The results were posted for all to see and the players’ competitive nature had them fired up and going against their best friends.
“What was great to see was that not only was school pride on the line, but athletes cheered for each other and made new friends while waiting in line with the athletes from other schools,” said MEI Skills Camp organizer Peter Hay. “As the scores rolled in, they were displayed on the giant screens allowing parents and coaches to see how their athletes were stacking up with the competition.”
As the skills portion of the day wound down, lunch was prepared and participants enjoyed it while they recovered for the 3-on-3 tournament to soon follow. Athletes at the MEI Skills Camp were inspired over lunch by local hockey icon Ryan Walter, who shared his own journey to the National Hockey League and the many lessons learned along the way. In Port Alberni, students heard from Tom McEvay, an educational advisor who currently works with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the B.C. Hockey League.
Following lunch, it was time for the exciting 3-on-3 tournament, which featured games with side-to-side or end-to-end action, changing on the fly, and no need for referees, just lots of pucks and water! (Port Alberni played cross-ice games, while MEI used full ice.)
Students from different schools were combined to form a team, coming together, brainstorming new ideas and learning from each other. The 3-on-3 tournament was an opportunity for players to work on their skills again, but now in real time.
“What I really like about the Skills Day concept is that the players are focused on individual skill development. They are competing against the clock for personal bests and not concerned about winning or losing,” said Port Alberni organizer Rick Schievink. “When it came time to play the 3-on-3 mini games, it was a lot more like old fashioned pond hockey. No referees, no coaches; just play and have fun.”
In the end, skills camps provide an inspiring day of hockey competition that the athletes love. They were excited to “compete” for their school, make new friendships and work on their skills all in the celebration of the great game of hockey.