BostonBruins.com - Although the Bruins' Development Camp recently wrapped up, the Bruins still work to develop talent in Boston’s local communities throughout the summer with their youth hockey camps.
And these camps draw more than just local players - you can really see how far the Bruins' fan base actually extends.
The Yokids Boston Bruins Summer Camp is in its fourth year and offers hockey players from ages six to 15 the chance to hone their hockey skills during daily on-ice sessions, as well as meet Bruins past and present. The first of four camps this summer kicked off this week in West Roxbury and will be in Franklin, Plymouth, and Haverhill in the coming weeks.
The Bruins have joined with Pro Ambitions Hockey, Inc. for the past four years and director Jeff Serowik marveled at the success of the program in recent summers.
“It’s going great,” said Serowik on the camp’s progress. “Really excited here. We got a great showing and it seems like we’re building momentum each year. We’re getting more and more kids involved. Obviously, the Bruins success has a lot to do with it, but the camp’s been a lot of fun. The kids are working hard and word’s getting out.”
That word has spread to more than just the local community - participants this year have come all the way from Austria, and even as far away as Shanghai.
Horst, whose son Aidan is a participant this week, brought his son to Massachusetts from Austria for the camp.
“My son, he’s a huge Bruins fan," smiled Horst. "We just browsed on the website and found the youth hockey section. Then I also just got some information about the cooperation with Pro Ambitions. We found it great. So that’s why we decided to come over here.”
One of the Bruins' alums that had the opportunity to meet the campers on Thursday is current Bruins Assistant General Manager and former blueliner, Don Sweeney.
The dedication to come all the way from Austria and Shanghai just to participate left an impression on Sweeney, who led the campers through drills, signed autographs and answer questions.
“That’s pretty incredible,” said Sweeney. “I mean sometimes you have people visiting families and such, but the two girls from Shanghai actually sought [us] out through the Internet. They’re Bruins fans and decided to make the trip over here.”
“That’s an incredible commitment to continue to play hockey. I think it’s great. I hope they have a wonderful experience. You never know they’re both pretty good little players.”
What draws players from all over the community and the world to come to the Bruins youth camps is the quality of on ice instruction that the camp offers.
“The battle camps are all game situational drills so the kids get a lot of skill work in, but they’re also learning how to compete, how to handle the corners, and how to win loose pucks,” said Serowik.
“That’s pretty much the whole game now and so we keep the kids moving in small area games and let them compete and by the end of the week I think you see a big, big improvement in their game.”
“I think the coaches in general are very good,” added Horst. “They really look at each player on the ice and what their skill set is. If you’re in a group which is too difficult for you or too easy for you, they will put you in a different group. I like that. I like that a lot.”
In addition to developing their on-ice skills, the Bruins' youth programs offer the chance to develop a love for the game.
A New England native, Serowik grew his own love for the game following the Bruins since his youth. He then had the chance to suit up in the spoked-B for one NHL game in 1994-95, and played 78 games with the Providence Bruins that season as well.
“Being a lifetime Bruins fan and playing for the Bruins, now doing the camps for them, has really been a dream and an honor," said Serowik, on his work with Pro Ambitions and their partnership with the B's.
As a former Bruin and current member of their management staff, Sweeney feels honor in being able to help out as well.
“Anytime you have exposure to a lot of different players or with people involved in the game as lifelong coaches and experience-wise, I think you continue to pass it along,” said Sweeney.
“As I said, these guys are the lifeline of hockey continuing to grow in New England. It’s so great to see in the middle of July here with a heat index of 96, to have this many kids out and dedicated and wanting to play hockey. That’s the beauty of the sport.”
The dedication and love for the game makes any trip to the Bruins youth camp worth it, even if you come from as far away as Austria or Shanghai.
“Yeah it was definitely worth it,” said Horst. “We definitely want to come back next year. That’s for sure.”
---Written by John Morton for BostonBruins.com