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Larkin Hockey School is a true family affair

Dylan, brother Colin, cousins Adam and Ryan joined by younger cousins last week

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

WATERFORD, Mich. -- For Dylan Larkin, his brother Colin and cousins Adam and Ryan, the Larkin Hockey School is not only a way to give back to the community, it's a chance for them to spend time together doing something they love.

Dylan, who turns 22 on July 30, is about to enter his fourth season with the Detroit Red Wings.

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Colin, 24, signed a contract with the Edmonton Oilers in March and expects to be with their AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, this season.

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Adam, a 23-year-old defenseman, just graduated from Yale University and has signed with the Reading Royals, the ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

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Ryan, 21, the only goaltender of the group, is currently playing at Miami University of Ohio.

The Larkins all grew up like brothers but now that they're adults, they are all in separate places pursuing their hockey dreams.

For the third straight summer, they have joined with some of their hockey-playing friends to host the Larkin Hockey School.

"It's everything to me," Dylan said. "I think it's why we do it. It's special. Just to be around all of our buddies and have this time here together. Working out with them in the morning and taking care of our business, then we come out here and it's just fun for us to enjoy these kids. They're funny, there are a lot of personalities. It's funny how current they are, I guess, with all the dance moves and all the technology and them talking about whatever it may be. It's fun to be around them."

Adam Larkin says his favorite part of the Larkin Hockey School is interacting with all the kids.

"Once you get to talking to them, as you can imagine, they can say some funny things," he said. "Sometimes you'll ask them what their favorite drill is and things that you thought went best are not the things that they liked and then the opposite, the things that you thought were just (something you) came up with in the moment, they thought that was the greatest thing ever. They're funny and it's good to see the personality of each of the kids."

Along with some of their friends, the Larkins work out in the morning before coming to Waterford's Lakeland Ice Arena to coach the campers.

"It's really nice that we get to do this and kind of put our summers on hold and get to work with the kids and come back to our local rink," Colin said. "Just to see the development of some of the kids, even the three years that we've done it, it's really exciting for us. Just to meet kids that we were like and to see where they're at is really cool."

Getting to work and play together is something all four Larkins cherish.

"It's great," Adam said. "Just that, to be able to come together. We spend a ton of time together in the summer. We still stay in contact but it is difficult when I'll be on the east coast and Colin's on the west coast, so we're all over the map. It's great that this brings us together. We're together for a long time every day. We definitely get to log our hours together in the summer. It's special. We hope that all our campers enjoy it because we definitely enjoy putting it on as well."

To make it even more of a family affair, the Larkins had two of their cousins, one from Toronto and one from Milwaukee, participating in their hockey school.

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"We have two younger cousins, one's seven and one's 10 and they're in the camp, which is really cool," Colin said. "They came from Milwaukee and Toronto to be in the camp with us this week so that's really cool to see where they're at and get to hang out with them for a week. We're so busy during the season so it's really nice to be able to spend time with them in the summer."

The format of the Larkin Hockey School changed a little this year so that Dylan Larkin would be able to participate in all the on-ice sessions.

"It was important," he said. "After doing even a couple days here now with being on the ice all day with the kids, you get to know them a little bit more personally I feel. The past two years it was awesome to see their excitement when I would show up in the afternoon. But they would come and get my autograph at the end and I would try and give them some tips and pay attention to them as much as I could and really relate with them and get to know them.

"This year I feel it's been way better doing that and been able to get to know the kids and areas that they could improve on and when I see them as they're leaving, I can tell them a few pointers and feel like the parents and even the kids really appreciate that more."

With the vast experience from college and pro hockey, the Larkins have been able to take some of the things they've learned and pass them along to the young players.

"I think we've had comments from parents and even kids that they've done drills and learned things that they've never been taught, which is pretty cool," Dylan said. "If you look at all of our counselors, they're pretty experienced college players and now with my brother's experience at the American League level and signing an NHL contract, my cousin Adam plays in the East Coast League. It's pretty qualified instructors and in our coaches' room, we're all coming up with ideas and different ways to have the drills we do and put different touches on them where it's a little more simplified. Not easier but maybe less passing where the kids are skating more with the puck or getting their touches in so definitely things that we're trying to focus on and incorporate what we learn and try and teach it to the kids."

One of the best things for the Larkins is having players who are repeat campers at the Larkin Hockey School, like Zachary Brennan, who has attended all three years and has seen his game improve.

"Skating, my shooting. I got a lot of stuff improved because of the Larkin camp," said Brennan, who turned 9 on July 15. "Just great to be a part of it. My dad told my mom to get right into the Larkin camp right when it opened. So my mom was on the computer. The camp opened and she entered in as fast as she could so I could get in the third year."

The Larkins also enjoy seeing the same kids year after year.

"We love that," Dylan said. "For us now, we know them by name. It's awesome seeing them, awesome to see how they've progressed. This week we have some kids that were in our youngest group now moved on to the elite group that's a couple years older. We hope that they're all the way through 'till they're 14 and we don't have an age group for them. It is pretty special. It's cool we have a relationship with them, a relationship with the parents. It's pretty special."

The Larkins definitely want to see more hockey players emerging from their home rink just as they did.

"I think that's one of the cooler parts about it is you get to know the kids and you see how they get better at hockey and it's just exciting because you know the kids from Lakeland are improving and they're developing at hockey and hopefully some guys make it as far as the guys in this room have," Colin said.

Even if the kids at the Larkin Hockey School don't reach the NHL, AHL, ECHL or college hockey, they are enjoying an experience that they will always remember.

"It's just a really fun camp," Brennan said. "You can have a lot of fun. Coach Dylan and coach Colin, they're really nice. All the cousins come. I love it. You can skate, they have off-ice and skating on the ice. They have a scrimmage sometimes.

"What matters is to have fun and at the Larkin camp you can have fun. It's a lot of fun for me."

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