While the current Penguins are busy working hard in training camp to improve their skills, two former players spent the past couple of days helping a group of adult Penguins fans improve their own hockey skills.
|Former Penguins forward Troy Loney help run the Penguins Adult Hockey Skill Clinic Friday night. |
The Penguins held their annual Adult Hockey Skills Clinic on Thursday and Friday at the Iceoplex at Southpointe. Former Penguins forwards Phil Bourque and Troy Loney, both of whom were members of the 1991 and ’92 Stanley Cup-winning teams, served as the featured guest instructors.
This year’s adult clinic featured 23 skaters and four goalies – including four women – taking part in the camp.
Paul Castro plays for an amateur adult league team in Indiana, Pa. He said that the clinic was an exciting experience.
“I recommend it to anybody who plays or has an interest in hockey,” he said. “It’s a unique resource. I don’t know how many NHL teams actually do stuff like this with the community outreach like the Penguins do, but I think it’s a great thing.”
One fan flew in all the way from Germany just to be a part of the camp. Tim Powala, who grew up in Pittsburgh, has lived in Dachau, Germany for 11 years. He came to the Penguins’ fantasy camp last February and when he heard about the skills clinic, he planned another trip.
He coaches the Woodpeckers, a youth team in Dachau, so he enjoyed learning from Phil Bourque on Thursday night. RELATED ARTICLE: Adult Skills Camp Participant Debuts Helmet Cam
“The power skating drills were a lot of fun,” he said. “We did some really good passing drills breaking in on the goalie, so there was a lot of thinking involved and not just shooting the puck.”
Steve Taylor, a Penguins fan from outside Philadelphia, participated in the camp for the third year in a row. He said that Bourque worked the participants hard.
“I’ve never done power skating before, so I’m pretty worn down,” Taylor said.
On Friday night, Loney took over for Bourque because the latter had to travel to Columbus to broadcast the Penguins and Blue Jackets exhibition contest at Nationwide Arena.
“I’m happy to fill in for Phil. I did that a lot when we played, too,” Loney joked.
He planned on teaching the participants how to be aware of their positioning on the ice.
“My philosophy in coaching is that your game gets better at any level knowing where you are in relationship to everyone on the ice,” he said.
Then he took suggestions from the participants to find out exactly what they wanted to learn.
“These folks want to learn the game better, so they’re obviously hockey fans to begin with,” Loney said. “I think that they are just trying to pick up a couple tips so they can take it to their adult league games and be a little bit better and have a little bragging rights.”
Loney has coached the game at all different levels, from mites up to adults, but he said that this was special because many of these participants were hockey fans back when he was winning Stanley Cups with the Penguins.
“Hockey fans are special fans,” he said. “They like getting out there and learning more about the game. We have some people out there who have just picked it up in the last five years as an adult, but they find it fun and they are just trying to relive a little of the history of the things that we did when we won the Cup.”
Val Chouinard, event coordinator for the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, was one of the assistant instructors. She said that this is a rare chance for Penguins fans to learn hockey from some former players.
“It’s a great experience because they all love the Penguins,” she said.
She added that it is always great to improve and expand the game of hockey.
“You want hockey to grow, even with adults,” Chouinard said. “So it’s awesome to see that they want to get out there and improve their skill to have fun, because the game is so much fun. If they can have better passes or better plays to score some goals, that’s why they’re here.
“And it’s great for the Penguins.”
In addition to the hockey lessons, each participant received two tickets to Saturday’s preseason game against Columbus, the second-ever game at CONSOL Energy Center.
Powala said he is looking forward to seeing the new arena and some of the new players.
“Being that it’s preseason, I understand that a lot of the young guys are hungry,” he said. “So it’s going to be fun to see how those guys perform.”