Summer school isn’t something most kids look forward to, but for nearly 1,000 kids who attended this year’s Edmonton Oilers Hockey School, the past four weeks offered a welcome dose of sticks, pucks, ice time, and autographs.
Starting July 20th, over 250 boys and girls ages 8-16 filtered through Servus Credit Union Place in St. Albert each week. Each session included on- and off-ice training, strengthening exercises, and seminars – as well as a meet-and-green with an Oilers player or two.
Centre Kyle Brodziak dropped by to visit the final group Thursday, August 14th, offering words of encouragement and an autograph or two for each eager student of the sport.
“Growing up, at least one week out of every summer I’d be spending it at a hockey school, so it’s definitely familiar territory,” Brodziak recalled. “I came by here last year, and it’s always great to meet the kids and see what they’re up to.”
According to Blake Wesley, Director of Oilers Hockey School, player visits are among the first questions asked by the kids when they show up on their first day.
“They start asking you on day one: Who’s going to be here? When are they going to be here? So at the end of the week, it’s a lot of fun for them because this is the highlight of their whole camp,” Blake said.
“Kyle is very generous. And with Erik Cole, Fernando Pisani, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner stopping by, and many of the executive who have been here to help out, the support the Oilers provide is tremendous. These kids don’t realize the benefits they get versus any other hockey school.”
With players from the Springfield Falcons (AHL) and Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) contributing their expertise as coaches, the Oilers Hockey School offers unbeatable development opportunities for the sport’s youngest players and fans.
Oilers second-round draft pick in 2006 Theo Peckham was one of the biggest “big kids” on the ice.
“You get here about half an hour before your session starts, come on the ice, get all the drills set up, and just work with the kids and be their friend for the week,” Peckham said between drills. “I’ve coached in more hockey schools than participated in them, and if I could have done something like this when I was a kid, it would have made my life,” he added with a smile.
Like the youngsters who spent a fun-filled week dodging pylons and slapping pucks, Peckham and Brodziak now have their sights set on September and the true start of hockey season.
“It feels like summer’s starting to wind down, so I’m excited to get back at it,” Brodziak said.
For Peckham, summer officially ends September 12th with medicals and testing prior to the Oil Country Rookie Tournament in Camrose September 14-16.“Over the next month, I’m just going to try to get myself into the best shape and get myself ready for camp,” Peckham said. “And like everybody going into camp, I’m just trying to secure a spot with the Edmonton Oilers.”