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Final day of kids' camp is bittersweet

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – “I’m going to miss being here,” Ashley said as she set down her equipment bag for the last time.

“Me too,” Erika G. agreed.

It was the final day they would be at Joe Louis Arena for the Red Wings youth hockey camp. And the campers weren’t looking forward to saying goodbye.

The morning and afternoon sessions followed similar routines as the first two days of camp. After arriving, it was time to check-in with the counselors and get dressed for dryland training. But today the campers combined the exercises they learned in the first days to create the ultimate dryland session.

Lunges, pushups, squats, ladder drills and plenty of running took place on the concourse level. By the time they were finished with dryland, the campers’ three-day trainer had given them plenty of drills to take home and practice. When trainer Justin said his last few words of encouragement, it was the first of many goodbyes for the day.

Dryland training had been followed by an activity in the Wings’ locker room the first two days of camp, but today the campers received a different surprise. They filed into the arena’s CC Olympia Club and found their parents waiting patiently for their arrival.

Then the radio voice of the Wings, Ken Kal, arrived to share some advice and stories, and hand each of the campers a certificate of achievement for their participation. Anyone who wanted a picture with the “he shoots, he SCORES” legend lined up after the ceremony for one extra perk of the three-day camp.

The campers engulfed their food after receiving their certificates, eager to get back on the ice. It was an exciting but bittersweet moment as they pulled their jerseys over their heads, tied their skates and snapped their helmets into place for the final time.

The on-ice coaches pushed the young skaters hard on their last day. Skaters and goaltenders went through drill after drill, perfecting their techniques and soaking up any extra knowledge they could.

But the camp wasn’t all about practicing and improving hockey skills. Carter picked up on the friendship aspect of it right away.

“Probably meeting Jimmy,” he said of his favorite part of the camp. “New friends, new numbers.”

After a quick picture at center ice, the campers took pictures with Kirk Maltby and raced to the locker room to get the former Wing’s autograph. Then it was time to pack.

“I’m not excited,” Ashley said. “I just want to stay.”

Two days ago, these wide-eyed boys and girls entered their designated locker rooms without knowing many of their teammates. But after experiencing the camp together, the kids couldn’t stop chattering about anything and everything.

There were hundreds of goodbyes as the campers were reunited with their parents and ushered to their cars. It was goodbye for now, but not forever. There’s always next year.

After all, no one was disappointed with the three-day Wings’ camp.

“This is one of the best camps I’ve ever been to,” Aiden said.

The fun has just begun.

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