This past week, the Pittsburgh Penguins held their first annual Battle Camp for hockey players to come out and get a chance to learn different strategies of the game. Formerly known as the Penguins Checking Clinic, the newly introduced Battle Camp was designed to correlate with USA Hockey’s recent rule change to withhold body checking until the Bantam level. Participants at the camp learned new techniques along with improving their existing skills.
The camp consisted of three different groups, Squirt, Pee Wee and Bantam-Midget.
Throughout the on-ice sessions, the camp consisted of different contact drills for the players, allowing them to learn proper strategies and techniques they can use in a game.
Squirt and Pee Wee players learned how to gain the advantage through taking the proper angle on one’s opponent, using leverage and gaining the advantage through proper body positioning. All of these skills help players adjust to the new emphasis in USA Hockey on increased body contact in the squirt and Pee Wee age groups. These same skills come into play later, at the Bantam level, when it comes time to introduce full body checking into the game. So, participants had the opportunity to learn skills that will benefit them now and also assist their transition, in a seamless manner within a few seasons, into the world of checking as bantam players.
Bantam and Midget age players worked on these same skills with additional instruction in the proper techniques regarding full body checking. They learned how to deliver a check cleanly and within the rules of the game. They also learned strategies for avoiding checks while still playing aggressively and how to take a check safely.
The three-day camp featured former Penguins defenseman, Dennis Owchar. Owchar was a hard-hitting defenseman whose checking technique was the marvel of his peers and has been admired by many players since. Pittsburgh Sports Broadcast Legend, Stan Savran says that Owchar is “one of the best open ice hitters in the history of the Penguins franchise.”
Owchar instilled to the players the importance of playing with confidence while still maintaining a clean and safe form of play. The techniques that were learned will provide the players at all three age levels with the tools to increase the physical aspects of their game and maximize their skills. Additionally they learned to protect themselves and to respect the safety of their opponent through proper technique and knowing and playing by the rules of the game. And they were able to learn this from a player who embodied all of these traits as a NHL player!