|Rask with a camper. (Photo by Meg Komarek) |
The campers, aged 7-14 years old, will spend this week at the Haverhill Valley Forum sharpening more than just their skates. During their training sessions, the boys and girls were divided into groups for position and age-appropriate technical instruction. The players also work on their on and off ice skills alongside the staffers from Pro Ambitions.
The skaters also receive instruction from local college hockey players like Woburn native Colleen Martin, a former Providence College standout, former Northeastern Husky Lori DiGiacomo, as well as former NHL players like former Boston Bruins Tommy Songin, Bob Beers and Bob Sweeney.
Visits from former B’s superstars like Ray Bourque and Rick Middleton as well as current Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask
also highlight the week.
“I heard it’s our first year we’re having this camp, so I think it’s important for the kids to see an actual [Bruins] player,” said Rask when asked why he wanted to attend the camp as a guest instructor.
Rask explained that the camp reminded him of similar experiences he had as a young hockey player.
“I went to a couple camps and we had some pretty big stars in Finland and they did the exact same thing [with us],” the 23-year-old said. “You see that they’re just regular guys when you talk to them, so it’s good for kids to see players and former players [at camps].”
Bourque also remembered his early days of participating in summer hockey camps when he first got his start on skates.
“This is where it all starts for us when we start playing hockey at camps in the summer,” said Bourque. “Hopefully the kids are going out there paying attention and having fun and working hard.
"By doing that, they’ll get better.”
Bruins No. 77 also recalled coaching young players at his own summer camps during his playing days.
“Both, being in camp and running camps,” he said when asked if seeing the young skaters brought back memories. “Both sides of it was a lot of fun.”
“Teaching kids, seeing them at the beginning of the week and at the end of the week and seeing some progress or just getting to know some of the kids was a lot of fun.”
Before Rask arrived to the rink, the campers got a little history lesson on the Bruins and old time hockey from Beers, Bourque and Songin.
Clearly, the former B’s stars enjoyed speaking with the kids about the fundamentals of hockey and the winning ways of the Black & Gold. And, of course, the kids were curious about the playing days of their guest speakers and, despite their young age, had interesting questions for the B's alumni.
When asked about the memorable moment when Bourque shed is original No. 7 sweater to revel his new No. 77 to honor Phil Esposito during his number retirement ceremony, Bourque joked about the Bruins legend’s notoriously gregarious nature.
“Well if you know anything about Phil Esposito, who was a great, great player for the Bruins and a great guy, but he would never stop talking,” Bourque offered, laughing along with the room. “I think that was the only time I had ever seen him speechless.
"It was a wonderful moment.”
Beers, the radio voice of the Bruins games on 98.5 The Sports Hub, also enjoyed his time away from the booth and the chance to interact with the young fans.
“I think it’s great to be around the kids,” he said when asked about his experience at the camp. “I do some hockey schools myself in the summer…I went to hockey schools when I was younger and I think it’s great.”
Beers also had plenty of advice to offer the youngsters who have NHL aspirations.
“I told the kids to do well in school…and go watch some good college hockey,” he said. “[But] this is where it all starts.”
With so many Bruins fans in one building, it was easy to sense the excitement of the upcoming season. Beers commented on how he could already feel the buzz preceding the 2010-2011 campaign.
“Everywhere I go right now people are very excited about the Bruins,” he said. “The way that they finished last year, the things that they have done in the offseason are positive.
"I’m pretty optimistic and the people you run into are starting to think hockey and people are starting to get pretty excited about this team.”---Brian Smith