Even as temperatures soared and many Oceanside residents were reaching for the sunscreen this week, the Howie Meeker Arena echoed with the sound of slapshots and whistles as the Young Guns Hockey School began preparing players for the upcoming hockey season.
Young Guns owner and head coach Rick Hannibal said the second annual camp took to the ice Monday, with 102 young players lacing up their skates.
“It’s a rep prep and conditioning hockey school,” Hannibal said. “We have the Top Gun group, two Young Guns groups and a Mini Guns, so we have kids anywhere from six to 11 years old.”
Although he quietly hopes to train at least one of tomorrow’s Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby, all he really asks of his young pupils is that they give their all once they get on the ice.
“These kids are a great group of kids. They work hard and we told them you have to do your best and you never know who’s watching you,” he said. “We say if you go out there and do your best that’s all we can ask. You can’t pay your parents back for the cost of going to hockey school, so the way you can pay them back is to go out there and do your best and pay attention to the instructors and learn something.”
The camp, he said, started out with a group of coaches who got together and wanted to provide a little extra instruction to get young skaters ready.
However, demand for what they were offering exploded.
“We started out with 32 kids and now we are sitting at 102 this summer and this past spring we had close to 180,” Hannibal said. “They come from Oceanside as well as from as far away as Kerry Park to Campbell River, from Powell River as well.”