Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo and two-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Bourque will be the lead instructors at the Pittsburgh Penguins Youth Hockey School, which will be held in two one-week sessions: July 17-21 at the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon and August 21-25 at the RMU/Island Sports Center on Neville Island.
Campers will be on the ice for three hours a day, 15 hours a week, and also will receive one our of class time each day with Yeo and Bourque. In addition, each camper will view video analysis of skating, shooting and stickhandling.
Youngsters ages 6-17 are eligible to participate. The camps will be broken into four groups: mites/squirts, pee wees, bantams and midgets.
Cost of the camps is $350 per week ($200 for goaltenders) and there are discounts for siblings.
Yeo believes the Penguins Youth Hockey School gives young hockey players the ideal opportunity to work on individual skills.
“Skill development is the main thing. Obviously, the foundation for any good hockey player is the skills that they have,” he said. “Along with that, a lot of kids have coaching with teams they are on, but a lot of that time is spent on team stuff. So, this camp is a good chance to work the individual skills.”
Bourque, who has taught at this school the past three years, believes the instruction provided is unmatched in the area.
“It’s hard to condense it all into just a few words on how valuable this camp is and how serious the people who put this camp on take it that kids leave this camp and feel like it’s the best experience they have ever had,” he said. “We try to do a lot of off-ice classroom work that teaches kids not only about hockey, work ethic and dedication, but about life lessons. How you can learn a lot of things through hockey that are going to benefit you for years and years to come even if you don’t become an NHL hockey player. Whatever business you go into, you can always reference back to the things you learned at hockey school.”
Yeo, who was a guest instructor last year, is excited for this year’s sessions. He’s tweaking the format, too, to teach youngsters in a progressive manner. Instead of working just one skill set per day – the players will work on a multitude of skills every day, improving gradually throughout the school.
“In the past, the camp was one day they would work one skill set such as stickhandling the one day and passing the next day and shooting the next day. The way I have learned to teach is through progression. So, every day we’ll do a little bit of everything,” he said. “As the week goes on, it gets progressively harder and with that repetition, the kids not only spend more time working on skill, but it gives them every day to work on them and the ability to progress at the rate they are supposed to.
“The skills are like taking a kid to school and you’re going to teach them math – you’re not going to go and teach them algebra the first day. You have to make sure the foundation is there to build their skills properly and teach them the right way. From there, things will get more complex.
“I have had a lot of experience working hockey schools. The format we’re going with from Day 1 until the last day of camp, you can see the progress the kids have made. It’s nice to see them having fun, but at the same time really improving as a player.”
Bourque knows those in attendance will work hard.
“It gets pretty intense. We try to have a balance, in a short period of time, teaching as much as possible, but also letting them have fun, too,” he said. “What’s unique about this school is that you have Mike Yeo, an assistant head coach in the NHL, and myself, a former NHL player. Growing up in the Boston area, there were lots of hockey schools, but none of them had NHL guys. It’s just a unique thing the Penguins have done here to make sure that they get the highest level of teaching possible so that these kids learn as much as they can in one week.”
While the camp will be intense, it will be fun and entertaining as well.
“For me, it has to be fun. I think that’s a big part of youth hockey,” Yeo said. “That’s why the kids play. I think the kids get a lot more out of it if it’s fun. If you can create an environment where you’re having a lot of fun and improving at the same time, everybody is happy.”
“That’s very, very important. Mike Yeo and I have talked about that quite a bit. We will make it intense and the kids are going to work very, very hard, but we’ll try to leave them at the end of the day with some fun drills and have them laughing because, at this age level, it has to be fun,” he said. “I know, growing up, 10, 12 or 13 years old, I was pushed very hard and it wasn’t always fun for me. I remember that, first and foremost, you’ve got to have fun and, secondly, take the game very seriously.”
Both Yeo and Bourque are looking forward to passing on their knowledge of the game.
“Absolutely. I love coaching. I love being a professional coach, but I got my start and figured out I wanted to be a hockey coach through things like this,” Yeo said. “When you’re out there and have the opportunity to help someone and make it fun, it’s a great feeling.”
“What’s so great about this camp is that most of the kids are local kids and most their parents caught on to Penguins fever with the two Stanley Cup championships,” Bourque said. “Now, their kids have finally come to the age where they are ready to go to hockey schools. It’s awesome to be able to get on the ice with these kids and teach them all the things that I learned as a hockey player.”
In addition to hockey skills, those in attendance will work on power skating with top instructors Marianne Watkins, Besa Tsintsadze and Paul DeFazio in the 15 hours of ice time allotted each week.
Assistant instructors include Dan Hestin, Pete Katsafanas, Bucky Gallagher and DeFazio, the Penguins’ assistant equipment manager.
(To register or for more information, please call Mark Shuttleworth, the Penguins’ director of amateur hockey, at (412) 642-1329, or log on to www.pittsburghpenguins.com/youthhockey.)