Now that Treadwell Arena is open for business again following the summer months, it's time to play some hockey in the capital city.
The Rocky Mountain Hockey School is back in Juneau this week for the third straight year, and it's just the first of three hockey camps available to Juneau youths over the next month.
Recently appointed Juneau-Douglas Ice Association President Dennis Weston said the camps are an excellent opportunity for the kids to develop their hockey skills through professional coaching.
He also said the city's Youth Activities Grant has allowed the JDIA to organize these events at a lesser cost.
"All of these camps are a cooperation between the city, JDIA and the camps themselves," he said. "The city has the Youth Activities Grant, which allows associations to apply for assistance to bring some of these top-level coaches and top-level camps into town.
"That grant provided us with some assistance, JDIA provided some assistance and they were able to help us with some tuition reductions for the actual costs."
With the reduction of tuition, Weston said families around Juneau have the opportunity to cover the costs for all three camps for roughly $500. Normally, each camp runs between $350 and $450 apiece.
Rocky Mountain Hockey School, which is currently in session through Friday, is a camp that focuses on hockey strategy, passing and shooting for all kids up to age 18. Bryan Smith, RMHS President and Director of Hockey Operations, said the camp has been a success so far.
"This is the third year and we've basically doubled our numbers from last year, and we've also had a ton of support from the community. So it's been awesome so far," he said. "It's been a pleasure working with these kids. They are fun to work with, they work hard, they listen and they're attentive."
Smith said the goal of his camps is to develop skills and goals for the kids, as well as train them to become stronger all-around athletes.
"We want to keep it fun, but keep it serious," he said. "We want to teach them that discipline is important from an athlete's standpoint, and that they have to be disciplined to play this game."
For 11-year-old Quin Gist, it doesn't get much better than this.
"It's one of the best camps I've ever done and they've worked us really hard," he said. "We've worked on stickhandling, we're working our legs and we're doing a lot of skating."
But the big hit among campers thus far has been a game that doesn't involve a puck at all.
"We've played a lot of ball hockey," said 11-year-old Jack Harvey. "We basically play with a ball of tape out on the ice, and we try to get it in the goal. Then they add up all the goals at the end of camp to see who wins.
"It's really nice to be out there before the season starts."
For Kasey Watts, 10, the upcoming season is his No. 1 priority.
"The drills have been fun," he said. "But now I'm looking forward to going to state and traveling with my friends."
While the RMHS is an overall developmental camp, the two upcoming camps will be more specialized.
The Can't Skate, Can't Play, Inc., camp, coached by Kim Muir, an eight-year competitor with the United States Figure Skating Association, will run Aug. 23-27 and will offer skating instruction as well as a few other components. Muir, who has spent 21 years as a power-skating instructor, has more than 50 former students playing in the NHL and 50-plus more playing in the minors.
The third camp, which runs Sept. 8-12, is the Turcotte Hockey School. This camp specializes in the professional, certified instruction of stickhandling and shooting, and both camps are open to adults as well.
"(Muir) provides that basic skating skill, but she also has a shooting and stickhandling component," Weston said. "And the Turcotte Hockey School is a specialized stickhandling and shooting school.
"So you've got a full range of skill development there spread out over the course of about a month."
The JDIA hockey season begins in September, and Weston said the timing of these camps couldn't be better for those interested in playing hockey this year.
Visit the Juneau-Douglas Ice Association website at www.usahockey.com/juneaudouglasice for more information.
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