|Campers get a sense of what it means to be part of the Rangers with full use of the Madison Square Garden Training Center. |
The third annual Rangers Youth Hockey Camp kicked off with the first of two sessions on Monday. The weeklong camp brought 103 campers face to face with their heroes at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in Westchester.
Skating on the same ice that Jaromir Jagr and Henrik Lundqvist
call home, these lucky youngsters are learning what it takes to be successful both on and off the ice.
Instructors for the first week have included current Rangers forward Colton Orr, 2006 first-round draft choice Bobby Sanguinetti, goaltending prospect Chris Holt, Blueshirt legends Adam Graves, Brian Mullen and Nick Fotiu and Hartford Wolfpack assistant coach J.J. Daigneault.
"It's great for the kids," said Orr. "They come here to have a lot of fun, and it's a lot of fun for us too because we have a great time doing it, seeing the smiles on kids' faces. Hockey is fun, so it's a great time."
Divided into three separate age groups, the campers, who range in age from 6-15, alternate on-ice sessions with classes led by the Rangers Head Trainer Jim Ramsey and Strength and Conditioning Coach Reg Grant. This year, the Rangers have also brought in a world-class nutrionalist to instruct the youngsters on the importance of hydrating themselves and keeping their bodies in the best shape possible.
"The kids do a lot of work with basic skills on the ice," explains Holt, "learning how to skate properly, shoot properly and pass properly. I go out there and help them with that. They also have other instructors who take them off ice and do a variety of strength building activities and really fun team building activities. It's a fun camp for kids. It's a lot of work, but the Rangers keep it fun."
"I love to come here and practice with the Rangers," said Chris, a 15-year-old who has attended the camp each year since it began. "My favorite part is the on-ice sessions and meeting people like Colton Orr and Adam Graves."
In addition to hockey, campers compete in a variety of games such as soccer, lacrosse and basketball. Members from the Brooklyn Knights soccer team, New York Titans professional lacrosse team, and the United Spinal Rangers Sled Hockey team have all come by to lend a hand.
"It's really good for the kids," said Sanguinetti, who grew up in New Jersey. "It's great to see them working hard, but they are also having a lot of fun. It is a great facility, and they must be having fun because we are having fun just watching them. It's been really good.
"I had camps as a kid but they were nothing like this. Every camp should be like this. The kids are out here to have a good time, and they are really enjoying themselves and learning a lot in the meantime."
While most campers come from the Tri-State area, the access these kids have to the same amenities as the Rangers has made the camp an international event. This year's campers come from as far away as California and Canada, and there are even two youngsters from Singapore.
Orr, who also instructed kids at last year's camp, was so impressed by it the experience that he brought his 10-year old nephew, Kruz, all the way from Winnipeg to soak in the Rangers experience.
"Last month my uncle called me," Kruz recalled, "and he said 'Guess what? You are in the New York Rangers camp! You are going all the way to New York!"
Orr said he felt it was important to invite his nephew.
"Seeing the looks on the kids faces made me want to do it again and bring my nephew along." says Orr. "I never went to camps like this as a kid, so it's really nice to see. The kids learn skills, but they are also here to have fun. And I think that is the most important thing."
The second session runs from Aug. 6-10, and will feature even more guest instructors including Rangers goaltender Stephen Valiquette. The second session is already completely filled, but information will soon be available on newyorkrangers.com regarding pre-registration for next year's camp.