|Defenceman Matt Carkner was one of several Senators players helping teammate Mike Fisher at his annual summer hockey camp, which ran for three weeks at the Ray Friel Recreation Centre in Orleans.
With a little help from his friends, Mike Fisher made some special summer memories for a veritable horde of hockey-loving youngsters.
Some 380 aspiring players from as far away as Europe arrived at the Ray Friel Recreation Complex in Ottawa's east end (Orleans) over the last three weeks to take part in the Senators centre's annual hockey camp.
"The kids have fun. That's the main thing," Fisher said as the third edition of his camp wound down to a close. "Lots of kids have been here three years in a row. Some years, they come back and you hardly recognize them. They're bigger and stronger and better."
But it's not just about hockey, and that's precisely the way Fisher always wanted it. The camp is also a non-profit affair, with all proceeds after expenses being donated to charity through the Mike Fisher Foundation, which supports Roger's House and Make-A-Wish Canada. More than $80,000 was raised to support those causes in the camp's first two years.
"(Campers) learn life skills, how to be a good teammate, athlete and person," Fisher said in describing some of his camp's goals. "There are a lot of different things they can take away from this camp."
While Fisher's name is on the camp — and the popular centre is clearly the big attraction — it is anything but a one-man production. A camp staff led by brothers Scott and Shannon McNevan, along with Kim Lambert, take care of many of the little of the details. Fisher's father, Jim, is a familiar figure every day and lends a hand in every way possible, as does the McNevans' dad, Gord. Fisher's younger brother, Bud, is part of the instructional staff.
"I have nothing to worry about here," Fisher said of his support team. "I don't have to do everything. I can be as involved as I want to be. They all have experience and they work well with kids, which is really important."
All of that proved especially vital during the camp's first week, when Fisher was honeymooning with his new wife, Carrie Underwood. While camp director Scott McNevan said Fisher "texted and called us" to keep tabs on the camp while he was away, he knew matters were in very capable hands.
"There's a solid confidence (in us)," said McNevan. "He trusts us but it's his camp, his name on it and he wants to make sure it runs smoothly. But there is a real strong trust between him and his camp administrators."
"Most people in the east end appreciate him putting his name on the camp and making the effort to come back. We're all just thrilled he's still committed to this, that he still wants to do this for the community." - Scott McNevan
Fisher usually makes two on-ice appearances (two hours each in length) at his camp each week but when that couldn't happen in Week 1, he turned to some of his Senators teammates to lend a hand. Good friend Chris Neil
answered the call, along with Jesse Winchester
, Chris Kelly and Nick Foligno
, who also brought along his younger brother Marcus, a Buffalo Sabres draft pick.
"This is our third summer and it's the only time he's missed a camp week," said McNevan. "Because of his schedule, with him and Carrie, there was no way around it. But we made sure we had a pro here every day the first week. We felt it was the least we could do to compensate for Mike not being here ... a lot of parents wanted to see him, but they understood.
"Most people in the east end appreciate him putting his name on the camp and making the effort to come back. We're all just thrilled he's still committed to this, that he still wants to do this for the community."
But the doors have opened well beyond the community, with campers this year arriving from Britain, Germany, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and northern Ontario.
"They heard about us one way or another," said McNevan.
No doubt many of them will be back again and are already eagerly awaiting the summer of 2011. All of which brings a satisfied smile to Fisher's face.
"I always love hearing that the parents are happy and the kids want to come back," he said..