DETROIT – With sleep in their eyes, over 100 campers streamed into Joe Louis Arena at 7 a.m. Wednesday for the Red Wings’ youth hockey camp.
But as quick as they received their brand new camp jerseys, their excitement to play in the Wings’ home took over. There were laughs, yells and hellos as the campers dragged equipment bags as big as themselves into the locker rooms that were theirs for the next three days.
Then it was time to get to work.
Some campers jumped on the ice while others walked up the flights of stairs to the concourse for dryland training. The 9- and 10-year-olds went upstairs first. A trainer greeted them and ran them through a circuit of agility drills to warm-up muscles for the next few hours.
“It was fun and hard,” one camper, named Blake, said of the dryland training. “The best ones were probably the ladder things. We had to do two-foot jumps in the ladder sideways.”
After the two-minute circuit training, it was time for the infamous wall sits. More than 40 campers shared the concourse’s numerous walls and pillars to test leg strength.
“My legs started shaking,” said Eden, another youngster, who is participating in the three-day camp that concludes Friday.
“Yeah it hurt,” Blake said. “I’d rather sit on a chair next to the wall instead of having my back on the wall sitting there.”
Eden couldn’t agree more.
“I gave up after the first few seconds,” she said.
Then it was time for the real fun to begin. The campers wound their way back downstairs and waited patiently outside the Wings’ locker room. Once inside, they would be able to take picture next to their favorite player’s jersey or locker. As long as they walked around the winged wheel on the locker room’s floor, they were free to stand beside Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard or Johan Franzen’s jerseys that hung in the lockers.
After a quick snack, the campers were more than happy to get their first taste of the ice. Counselors tied skates, buttoned helmets and chauffeured the youngsters onto the ice for over an hour of on-ice training.
“We did stickhandling and skating on our inside edges,” Blake said.
Eden enthusiastically added: “And we got to shoot on the goalies.”
The campers had guidance from a few old and current faces of the Wings’ franchise. Howard, center Cory Emmerton, and former forward Kirk Maltby instructed the campers through drills and scrimmages.
It was all in a day’s work. And they still have two more to go. But that’s perfectly fine with them.
“I can’t wait to come back tomorrow,” Blake said.
After an exciting first day of camp, they’re more than ready to see what Thursday has in store.