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|A.J. was one of the goalies who participated in Blues Youth Hockey Camp. He got a unique opportunity to learn from Blues prospect Ben Bishop throughout the week.
It was Day Four at summer camp.
Already tired from three days of intense activity, 12-year-old Nick Potter laced up his skates and slipped his Blues Youth Hockey Camp jersey over his shoulder pads. He tightened the strap around his chin to secure his helmet in place and grabbed his hockey stick before walking towards the ice Thursday at St. Louis Mills.
Shortly after skating a few laps around the rink to warmup, he heard a loud clank as the door to the bench opened. Looking across the rink, he saw T.J. Oshie
and Patrik Berglund
step onto the ice.
And his jaw nearly hit the floor.
“Wow” was all he could muster.
“I came to hockey camp here last year,” Nick said later that afternoon. “You never know what’s going to happen and you always have so much fun. It’s a great experience for you to learn. I think I can learn a lot from (Oshie and Berglund). I want to be like them.”
Nick was one of 77 children participating in the Blues Youth Hockey Camp, which was held at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Mills from July 19-23. The camp featured on-ice and off-ice training exercises designed to improve hockey skills for children ages 5-13.
They also learned the value of teamwork through various team building exercises.
On the ice, campers worked on their skating, shooting and passing. Off the ice, they worked on their agility and strength as they raced through obstacle courses.
Berglund remembers going to hockey camps while growing up in Vasteras, Sweden.
“We didn’t have anything like this, we just had the trainers and coaches teach us to skate. It was nothing special,” he said. “I think it’s a lot better here, where the kids can get inspired. I think it’s inspiring for them to be out there with us and maybe work a little harder and want to start playing for a career. Hopefully we’re doing something good out there.”
Blues goalie prospect Ben Bishop, who grew up in St. Louis, skated with the kids frequently and spent time working with the goalies, including 6-year-old Jacob, who said Bishop showed him the ready position and the butterfly.
“We’re just helping out the kids. They run this camp every summer so it’s fun to give back,” Bishop said. “They never had this when I was a kid, I certainly wish they did. We’re just putting a smile on their faces, they’re all having a blast, and we’re having just as much fun as the kids are.”
Each day of the week-long camp featured 2.5 hours of ice time and also included chances to win autographed Blues items during classroom activities with camp counselors.
But the best part about camp may have been getting the unique opportunity to share the ice with Blues players Oshie, Berglund, Bishop, Cam Janssen and Tyson Strachan.
“If it was me and I was a kid out there, obviously playing in the NHL is your dream and to skate with someone who is there would be kind of special,” Oshie said. “All the drills they’re doing out there are the same that we were doing when we were younger.
“Anything I can do to give back to the younger kids here playing hockey is good for me.”
It’s good for kids like nine-year-old Justin, too, who said he learned something very important at Blues Youth Hockey Camp this year.
“The Blues taught me that hard work is one of the only ways you can get to the NHL,” he said.