Learning tips of the trade from local hockey icons, approximately 40 youths participated in a hockey development camp during the past nine weeks.
On Thursday, players divided into two groups, under-16 and under-18, at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex to take part in the final day of the camp, where they heard from former NHLers Mike Foligno and Craig Duncanson.
“I saw improvement in everything that they did,” Foligno told Sudbury.com following his morning instruction. “They’re like sponges. They just want the proper information so they can channel it into their game.”
Foligno, whose storied hockey career included a stint with the Sudbury Wolves in the 1970s before moving on to play for NHL teams Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers, said he tried to impart key skills in the youths he instructed.
“You try to elevate their mentality, elevate their game, elevate their skills, elevate their knowledge of the team play.”
Players only get so much out of the game on their own, he said, adding that while individual skills are important, “it’s also how they work as a team and read plays and read situations and react. … It’s a reactionary game and if you stop and think all of a sudden you’re going to look slower out there.”
The social aspect is an integral part of the game that has been missing during much of the pandemic, which inspired the Greater Sudbury Cubs Jr. A hockey club to host the camp, team GM and associate coach Dave Clancy said.
“At the end of the season, a lot of these players, with COVID going on the last couple of years, missed out on a lot of their development, so we’ve decided we’ll offer a development camp for these players,” he said. “They were shut down for almost a year at one point when the pandemic first hit, so they almost missed a full year of hockey.”
The hockey club hosted a two-week camp last year, which they were able to expand this year due to a greater certainty that COVID-related restrictions wouldn’t rain on their parade.
Although hockey is the focal point, he clarified that the camp has been about much more than that. As Clancy spoke with Sudbury.com, Duncanson was delivering a speech to youths about leadership.
“Hockey’s just a part of moving up in anything you do in life,” Clancy said, adding that it ties directly into leadership, teamwork and other skills integral to life.
“Not every one of these (youths) is going to be an NHL player, but hopefully we’re giving them good advice to move on in life.”
Hockey, Foligno said, is the perfect sport to teach kids.
“Hockey’s the greatest game, and we want to make sure we’ve got as many players playing as possible.”
By giving kids early instruction, Clancy said he hopes to see some of the youths they’ve been working with for the past several weeks continue up the ranks and into the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, or wherever their aspirations might take them.
“We hope they get a good experience,” he said. “I think the players really get a good feeling on what it means to move to the next level.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.