Aspiring hockey players from across Western Canada have been flowing into Invermere for Columbia Valley Hockey School, which finished its second week today (Friday, August 7th).
The school is owned and coached by Chris Bruton, Brett Ponich and Kevin Noble, all of whom are current professional hockey players in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Mr. Bruton said one thing that sets his camp apart is the hands-on approach the owners have taken.
We wanted to be right on the ice, teaching things that we know are valued in the game at this age and beyond, Mr. Bruton said.
As professional hockey players, the owners have many friends in the game who have offered to lend their expertise to the camp. Among them, NHL veterans Adam Cracknell, Mason Raymond and Brennan Evans have appeared as special guests.
I know all the owners personally and we are all great friends, Mr. Cracknell said. It is always nice to come out here and see kids who want to play hockey and learn the game.
One hundred and thirty hockey players, some as young as five years old, have registered for the camp. Mr. Bruton said he was thrilled to learn the final week of the camp, which runs from August 10th to 14th, is now fully booked.
Right from the get-go, we had a lot of enthusiasm from the kids, from the instructors and from the parents, Mr. Bruton said. It could not have started any better.
When the three owners were granted a two-year lease to run the school, which used to be called Hockey in the Rockies, they wanted to transform it into a destination camp for young hockey players and their families.
We put together a program that we think brings a lot of value to the community and to the kids on the ice, said Mr. Bruton, adding he hopes the hockey school has helped drive customers to local businesses and golf courses. We have tried to create a camp where the kids can have fun and the parents can enjoy the valley.
Mr. Cracknell, who played WHL hockey in Cranbrook with the Kootenay Ice, said a big reason for his interest in the Columbia Valley Hockey School was its location in Invermere.
You get to know the people here, Mr. Cracknell said. You can tell the town loves hockey and anytime you can pass along information that you have learned, it is fun.
Going forward, Mr. Bruton said the camp is hoping to expand to hosting 180 attendees next year. He would also like to see more partnerships with local businesses, so that the camp can be fully integrated in the community.
We are bringing our product, our brand and what we believe the game is, Mr. Bruton said. We have really worked hard to make things efficient and run smoothly, and honestly, it has been unbelievable.