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Learning On the Ice and Off at the Bruins Summer Camp

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins - One of the best ways to develop your hockey skills is learning from one of the game’s best. Recently, at the Yokids Boston Bruins Summer Camp in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Rick “Nifty” Middleton came and shared his experiences with the Bruins while helping the participants aged 6 to 15 with their on ice skills.

Middleton, who played for the New York Rangers and the Bruins in the 1980s and notched 448 goals and 540 assists in his career, fielded questions from the campers who were curious and eager to learn about his playing career.

One such question came from a camper who wanted to know what he wanted to achieve playing hockey. Middleton smiled and said he simply wanted to become the best player he can be. He said he kept progressing until he was able to make it to the NHL level.

“I think it’s great for the kids to learn the history of the game and I like to tell them a little bit of my history,” said Middleton after talking to the campers and signing autographs.

“We’ve had some great guests throughout the camps,” added Tom Songin, one of the directors of the Bruins Summer Camps and former Bruins player. “We’ve had one in West Roxbury, Franklin, Plymouth. Each day we’ve had somebody new and for Rick to come, a former teammate. He was one heck of a player. I sat there and watched him.”

“He was one of the reasons I didn’t play that much I guess. Named the “Nifty” one and it’s appropriate. He was one heck of a player. For the kids to recognize him and to hear his side of the story, it’s awful important to him.”

The parents of the campers also appreciate what it means to have current or former players visit the camp every day for their kids. Their on and off ice instruction is valuable for young players learning to develop their skills.

“I think it was great,” said Frank Brachanow who came out to support his ten year old son Frankie.

“Rick [Middleton] was on the ice with them today and they really look up to him. I know they get a lot out of it.”

“It really boosts them up to get to meet these players,” admired Doreen Dutton of Andover, Massachusetts. Her son Zach is in his third Bruins summer camp.

“I think it’s terrific. Not many camps have players that come. Former and present players that come and do autographs and talk to the kids. It really brings [up] their hopes and their dreams of going professional. It is really good.”

For Middleton, the most important thing that this camp teaches is an invaluable skill for all aspiring professional players.

“There are four fundamentals in hockey: skating, shooting, stick handling, and passing,” said Middleton. “Skating being the most important because if you can’t skate well in hockey, you can’t really do the other three.

“So skating I think you really have to focus on more than the other three, but once you get the skating down, in order to play the game you have to learn how to stickhandle and pass. Shooting comes in handy if you want to score. Those three, but skating being the most important.”

Brachanow agreed about the value of the camp for his son saying, “It’s a fantastic camp for developing your battle skills, the one on one drills. It does an incredible amount for their confidence and their skill level.”

Both Brachanow and Dutton want their kids to participate in the camps next year because it really develops their games.

“This is his third year and he loves it,” smiled Dutton. “He doesn’t mind getting up at 6:30 in the morning and coming.”

The Bruins will continue hosting these summer camps because of how much it increases the participant’s skills and overall love for hockey.

“I’ve loved it. For the last six years now, I’ve worked with the kids putting clinics on all over New England,” said Songin about why he coaches the campers every year.

“I love working with the kids. I’ve really enjoyed it. I love to see the progress and the most important part is to let them know the Boston Bruins are aware and we do care what’s going on in the community. That’s deep in my heart. That’s something special to me.”

---Written by John Morton for

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