Earlier this month, the LA Kings, in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy and the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation, hosted a three day ice hockey camp in Mexico City.
"Programs like this one highlight the U.S. government's efforts of social inclusion and economic development in Mexico, and promote mutual understanding between the United States and Mexico through sports," said Alejandro Barron, Cultural Affairs Specialist, U.S. Embassy-Mexico.
The camp was held at the La Pista Interlomas ice rink and hosted over 100 youth ice hockey players ranging from 10-18 years old. The state-sponsored Sports Diplomacy program is focused on youth empowerment and coach development for ice hockey in Mexico.
"We were fortunate enough to work with some really talented young players, including the Under-18 Women's National team," said Courtney Ports, Manager of Hockey Development for the Kings.
LA Kings alumni Steve Heinze and John Tripp led instruction on and off the ice for players and coaches. The pair ran multiple off-ice seminars for the coaches and parents that focused on organization, creating a support staff, and managing expectations for these young players.
"I was very impressed with the skill level and knowledge of the game," said Heinze. "Not only the players, but the coaching staff too."
Over the duration of the camp, players were trained on many different areas of the game, including edgework, stickhandling, shooting, passing, positional play, and most importantly, every on-ice session included a fun scrimmage.
"We put a heavy emphasis on the American Development Model training philosophy. It allows for more puck touches and less standing around for the players. It's important to keep the players engaged throughout the entire practice," said Heinze.
Each session focused on one particular skill, and therefore, the drills were thoughtfully planned to focus heavily on that one area of the game. Plus, every drill was designed to be fun and lighthearted to keep players engaged.
"You see the kids skating around smiling, laughing, but they just spent the last 10 minutes working on their edges," said Tripp. "It doesn't necessarily sound like fun when you explain that we will be working on a certain skill but these drills are designed to make it fun, yet very educational."
The players received four on-ice sessions, a photo and autograph opportunity, as well as a Q&A with the alumni.
"I believe it exceeded everyone's expectations. The players at the clinics were absolutely engaged, their parents were very happy that their children were part of the camp, and the coaches were very appreciative of the time and disposition of the Kings' envoys," said Barron.
Joaquin Del la Garma, CEO of the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation, was kind enough to give each of the Alumni and Kings staff authentic game used jerseys from their Men's National team, while the Kings left behind a 2012 Stanley Cup Championship banner to be raised to the rink's rafters.
"We were thrilled with the opportunity to teach our great game to the youth of Mexico. The fundamentals of hockey are important skills for both physical and mental development and we were excited by the attendance and greatly encouraged by the level of talent that exists within Mexico's youth hockey community," said Kings President, Luc Robitaille.
"We are already planning our next visit and the chance to expose even more kids to the game of hockey."