The Gare Hockey Camp wrapped up its first year on the big ice in Vernon Friday, Sept. 2.
The camp normally skates on the smaller Okanagan Training Rink, but for its 2022 sessions the U15 and U18 kids made use of the home of the Vernon Vipers, Kal Tire Place.
Head instructor Grady Gare said the big rink gave kids the space to work on their power skating as well as learning the body contact aspect of the game.
The week-long camp culminated in a scrimmage Friday morning.
“We’ve been going over all the skills really and then it’s also a conditioning camp,” said Gare, taking a breather from the scrimmage. “So we’ve been making sure that it’s high pace and that they’re getting their reps and breathing in and that they’re ready for the season, whether it be tryouts or their regular seasons.”
Skills training aside, the number one goal of the camp is to have fun.
“There’s a lot of laughs, a lot of joking around, and now that the kids are older they get more of my jokes.”
The 16 skaters and two goalies received training tips from former National Hockey League players earlier in the week, including Vernon’s own Jerred Smithson and Revelstoke’s Aaron Volpatti.
Volpatti played games in six NHL seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and the Washington Capitals. At the Gare Hockey Camp, he helped kids develop the mental aspect of the game with “mindset” training sessions.
“He looks at the whole mindset preparation as an athlete, what it takes to set goals and achieve them and get to the next level,” Gare explained. “He talks to the guys about what it takes, the mindset you need to be in when you’re doing your training, when you’re looking at nutrition throughout the season, and then the mindset of preparing yourself for practices and games.”
Volpatti’s own mental fortitude was strengthened by significant challenges. He suffered serious burns to 40 per cent of his body when he was 19, which threatened to end his career before it even began.
“(They thought) that his hockey career was done when he was 19, and then he came back as a 20-year-old and earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and then just kept getting better from there.”
The non-profit camp offers an affordable rate for families looking to get their kids in good conditioning ahead of the hockey season. Gare thanked all the volunteer coaches who donated their time and expertise, and the sponsors who ensured each kid left with a bag of goodies and swag.