Practicing like the pros

wjc skills

Thanks to sharing a rink, young players got to see the World Juniors up close

(ISN) – Toronto – Most of the attention the past few days has been on the players competing in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto, Ont., and Montreal, Que. But some future stars were able to show off their skills at the MasterCard Centre in the west end of Toronto.

Boys and girls playing Novice to Peewee hockey took part in Hockey Canada skills development camps on Dec. 27 and 28, which combined both on- and off-ice components to help hone the talents of the next Connor McDavid or Robby Fabbri. Over the two days, 145 kids took to the ice at the same practice facility the teams playing in the World Juniors are using.

Ryan Hurley, the manager of Hockey Canada’s Ontario regional centre, believes the classroom component of the camp is important in helping minor hockey players develop.

“Our head scout for Hockey Canada has given us permission to use this PowerPoint that talks about what the ideal Team Canada player is,” he says. “We talk not only about the on-ice skills – the stick handling, the shooting, the skating – but also the drive, the passion and being a good person on and off the ice.”

What’s unique to this World Juniors is that the minor hockey committee is a part of the host committee. Holding the camps at the players’ practice facility in Toronto has created a memorable experience for the participants, says Tony Foresi, the chair of the hockey development committee.

“You have the kids who are playing in the World Juniors practicing here (at the MasterCard Centre) and (when) these little guys see them, they light up like it’s Christmas Day,” he says. “They’ve had some interactions with them, and it’s been great.”

The reaction to the camp was overwhelmingly positive, with players already registering for future Hockey Canada camps.

“The parents have had nothing but praise for Ryan and the organization and the experience their kids are having,” says Foresi. “The best part of this whole thing is watching their faces as they come out of here. They’ve got nothing but smiles.”

“I got an email the other day,” adds Hurley, “[from] a mom saying, ‘I just wanted to let you know one of my boys said this was one of the best days of his life.’ That’s our goal, right there.”