Throughout their history, the Pittsburgh Penguins organization regularly hosts youth hockey camps and clinics each year; however, for the first time in the team’s 42-year history, in 2008, they hosted an Adult Hockey Skills Camp.
I attend the camp along with 40 others, most residents of Pennsylvania (suburbs of Pittsburgh), while some traveled as far as North Carolina, Maryland, and southern Ontario, Canada.
As we gathered for our first off-ice meeting, Mark Shuttleworth (Penguins director of amateur hockey) explained that the Penguins wanted to host an affordable, three-day camp for adults. The adult camp would service the unsung heroes who regularly support the many kids who play league hockey and attend their camps. This leaves adults with little time themselves to play hockey. Shuttleworth and the Penguins understand that most adults play in leagues, which do not make time for practice.
Mike Yeo (Penguins assistant coach) and Phil Bourque (Penguins radio color commentator and two-time Stanley Cup champion) taught the clinic, which accommodated the working guy and gal’s busy schedule (weekdays after 5 p.m. and Saturday after 10 a.m.).
We started each day breaking down NHL game film, with the coaches answering our questions. No question was off limits and I was impressed by Yeo and Bourque’s hockey knowledge and their candid answers to questions both personal and professional. The concepts identified during game-film analysis were further illustrated using NHL-type on-ice drills. Each day we finished up with a 60-minute scrimmage.
While I gained valuable experience through the drills, I was most impressed by the generosity and humor of the coaching staff, which inspired camaraderie among us. For example, Yeo was healing from a severed tendon in his wrist; he ignored doctor’s orders by leading drills from center ice (on his blackboard) and coaching one of the teams.
On a personal note, I was one of the older attendees, nearly 20-years older than the other three goaltenders. My nervousness faded when I posted a shutout in the first scrimmage. Afterwards, Bourque went out of his way to pat me on the back saying, “way to show ‘em how to play stand-up, Hunter”. I’ll never forget it.
Yeo and Bourque personally said goodbye to each of us as we packed up to head for home. While the NHL-style drills and instruction had us all feeling like Penguins for a day, the generosity of the organization kindled a sense of belonging in me that continues today.
Hunter Carrick, State College, Pa.