Champions Hockey School highlights local talent

The ice is in and Champions Hockey School starts on Saturday

With a persistent and pro-longed heat wave, a little ice-time may just be what the doctor ordered.

The eighth season of the Champions Hockey School (CHS) hits the ice on Saturday at the Trail Memorial Centre for a week-long camp, with about 150 skaters participating in an intensive but fun week of hockey and off-ice training.

“The hockey school has been awesome,” said CHS instructor and recent New York Islanders signee, Connor Jones. “We have a few spots open, but basically the midget camp and every other camp is full so it’s been kind of crazy honestly, but we’re excited to get going.”

Led by Montrose twins Connor and Kellen Jones, who play for the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the ‘school’ includes Mini-camps for age 5-7, age 8-10 Group A, 11-12 Group B, 13-14 Bantam Prep, and a Junior-College Prep, while the age 15-16 Midget Prep camp runs Aug. 21-25.

Joining Kellen and Connor as instructors are Beaver Valley Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones, Trail Smoke Eaters coach and GM Cam Keith and assistant Jessie Leung, as well as Kevin Kraus, assistant coach of the Vernon Vipers. Greater Trail instructors include the twins’ Sound Tigers teammate Travis St. Denis, Craig Martin and Scott Davidson of Quinnipiac University, the Selkirk College Saints Dallas Calvin, Michigan Tech Husky Jake Lucchini, and former Smoke Eater goalie Paul Barclay tending to the netminders.

“Our instructors and group leaders do a fantastic job,” said Connor. “From the professional to junior levels, they bring a high level of enthusiasm and expertise to a camp that teaches early stage fundamentals, and also, what is most important, enjoying the game of hockey and bringing the love for the game back to Trail.”

In addition, SAIT commit Kendra Waterstreet, former Vipers captain and Royal Military College commit Riley Brandt, Red Deer College student/player Arie Postmus and a number of current Smoke Eaters with Trail ties will be helping out at the CHS.

Having 20-year Nitehawks coach, Terry, as your dad and mentor doesn’t hurt either, and after eight years of instructing at CHS, Connor and Kellen especially enjoy watching talented young players grow and develop.

“The local guys are awesome, and they all participate in the camp,” said Connor. “But it’s been cool to see guys like Karsten Jang who started in Group C and now he’s in Junior Prep trying out for the Smoke Eaters, so it’s fun to see everybody grow up.”

The younger players will go through an educational on-ice session, followed by a fun game of floor hockey, video instruction, and dryland training, while the Bantam, Midget, and Junior Prep will feature off-ice training, video, and practice, topped off by an end-of-the-day scrimmage.

CHS also employs the latest technological innovations, using the Hudl App which analyses each players’ skating and shooting skills, and is emailed to the parents shortly after the camp ends.

The Junior Prep/College camp goes in the evenings and is known for its high-calibre play with current Smoke Eaters, Selkirk College players, Nitehawks, and other Junior, NCAA, college and professional players preparing for the upcoming season.

“We probably have the best talent I’ve seen in Junior Prep,” said Connor. “We have a few Smokie guys like (NHL draft pick) Kale Howarth and (Smoke Eater captain) Troy Ring will be there. So it’s going to be fun to watch.”

The Bantam scrimmage hits the ice from 5:15-6:30 p.m. and the Junior-College Prep scrimmage goes from 9-10 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

“That will be the one to come to watch, it’ll be a lot of fun, and we have a lot of really, really good players.”