PORT McNEILL—Hockey camp instructor Lou Lemire has not only decades of experience in hockey, but a master’s degree in education.
Which comes in handy when convincing a bunch of young hockey players his conditioning and skills development is fun.
“The focus is definitely on skills development,” Lemire said Friday at Chilton Regional Arena, where his weeklong Summer Hockey Skills camp wrapped up with a scrimmage and short party. “But we disguise it so they’re having fun while learning. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and you learn a few tricks in that time.”
Not that the students were complaining. In five days of dryland training to jump-start their offseason conditioning and fast-paced, on-ice sessions, campers in both the youth clinic and a separate evening clinic for beginner and novice adults had little time to reflect on their effort. When they did, it was largely positive.
“In the dry land (training) they worked us a lot, so when we got to the ice it wasn’t so bad,” said Carson Strang, who skated last season for the North Island Eagles peewee team. “There was no slacking off at all, which I like.”
This was the sixth straight year Lemire has come to Port McNeill during the brief summer ice window at Chilton Regional Arena, and he’s already looking forward to season number seven next year.
“It’s been a great week,” he said. “Not only with the kids, but we’ve got about 12-15 regulars in the adult camp back again, because they get so much from it.”
The youth skaters came from Port McNeill, Port Alice and Port Hardy and ranged in age from peanut Kyle Rushton to midget Jaidyn Staniforth. Teams were mixed for Friday’s closing scrimmage, with lines matched by similar skill levels. Afterward, each player was treated to a sandwich, drink and cookie from Subway while Lemire and his staff arrayed a selection of shirts, hats, towels and other items from the camp store.
Asked her favourite part of the camp, Laci MacGregor of Port McNeill said, “Learning new skills.”
Her friend, Chelsea Noel, was rather less specific.
“The best part was the whole week,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The Chilton ice has been busy since the ice went in at the start of July. Lemire’s camp followed the debut Excell Hockey Camp, headed by Port McNeill-raised pro Benn Olson. This week, the North Island Eagles have held their annual camp for players registered with Tri-Port Minor Hockey clubs.
Meanwhile, the Port McNeill Figure Skating Club held its summer Canskate sessions for young skaters the first two weeks of July, and junior-senior skaters continue through July 23.