Camp Spotlight: Shelton, CT

 

Shelton, Connecticut LocationWhere is Shelton, Connecticut?  What made you decide to do a camp there? Why Shelton?  These are common questions I get regarding this camp in a small town that most people have never heard of.  So let’s start with the where.  Shelton is located in southwestern Connecticut, approximately halfway between New York City and Hartford.  If you’re flying in, it’s just a little over an hour from LaGuardia or JFK airports, and there is a shuttle that will take you from either airport to our hotel for about $70 each way.  You don’t even need to rent a car.  As far as what made us decide to do a camp in this town, it’s really quite simple… they asked.  One day back in 2012 I received a call from the rink manager.  She had heard of our program, and said she was very interested in having us come to The Rinks at Shelton.  The rest is history.  We have been coming back every year since.  The rink staff is so friendly and accommodating.  This not only makes my life easier, but it makes your experience as a player that much better.  It’s the little things they do.  First and foremost, they provide a large locker room where we can dress and store gear in all The Rinks at Shelton is part of The Sports Center of Connecticutweekend.  That’s awesome, as it means no lugging gear to and from the rink.  And no keeping your gear in your hotel room!  We also get a very nice, spacious meeting room for all of our off ice activities.  Further, when nobody is on the ice after us, we can extend our session for those that want to spend a little more time practicing the skills they just learned.  By the way, it’s a very unique rink in that it’s a double decker, with one sheet on the ground floor, and another directly above it.  Pretty cool!

I love the town of Shelton.  It is a very quaint, picturesque New England town with rolling hills, winding tree-lined streets, and it’s located right on the Housatonic River.  After our first skate, we hold our Thursday evening “Break the Ice” social at The Pub on Howe, a local watering hole frequented by hockey players, where we have a small buffet of food to fill your belly.  Some players have even been known to wash it down with a beer or two.  It’s NHL playoff season, so on Friday night we like to find a place with plenty of TVs for an informal gathering.  On Saturday night we have our Camp Banquet at Vazzy’s of Shelton, an Italian restaurant with wonderful food.  We typically get the private room, with it’s own private bar.  Vazzy’s puts out quite a buffet, and nobody goes home hungry.  In fact, we typically send some of the local players home with some pretty serious doggy bags.

Our hotel is the Hampton Inn Shelton.  It’s clean, with spacious rooms and a solid hot breakfast buffet to get you fueled up before the morning skate.  It also has a nice pool and even a waterslide in case you bring the kids along.  The hotel is located within walking distance of a number of shops and restaurants, including Vazzy’s.  This means nobody staying at the hotel needs to drive after over-imbibing at the banquet.

One of my favorite things about this camp is the cast of characters that come year after year.  It’s a fun bunch, who never get tired of razzing me to provide them with free beer in the locker room.  But it usually seems to work the other way around.  They keep multiple coolers in the locker room stuffed with a variety of beers, and it’s hard to set foot in there without someone throwing you a cold one.  And 45 minutes or more after the Friday and Saturday afternoon skates, not only are most guys still in the locker room, but some of them have not yet bothered to remove their skates.  I’m guessing because that would require them to set their beer down.

Shelton is by no means a wild party town, yet due to the fun people and intimate social gatherings, this ends up being one of the more fun camps of the year.  If this sounds like an enjoyable hockey weekend to you, then I hope to see you in Shelton, CT!

Below are some pictures from our Shelton camp.

 

Camp Spotlight: Pittsburgh

Our camp in Pittsburgh is the first on our schedule, and as such, provides us with some added fun and excitement, as my staff and I are always pumped for the first camp of the year.  The NHL playoffs are just underway at this point which means that there are multiple playoff games on TV each night.  It is hard not to enjoy the playoff atmosphere, especially given that the Penguins are perennial playoff participants (say that 3 times fast).

Our camp is held at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.  This is a truly fantastic rink, and extremely well managed.  Everything about this place is first rate, which is not a big surprise.  Do you really think Mario would put his name on a building that wasn’t world class?  The rink takes great care of us.  Our off ice video review and chalk talks take place in the same room as the Penguins’ press conferences.  And the rink lets us use the “Penguins’ Elite Locker Room” (pictured here) for the entire weekend.  No, this is not the locker room that the Penguins use, but it’s probably nicer than any locker room you’ve dressed in before.  And since we get to keep it all weekend, there is no need to lug your gear home, or worse yet, have to dry it in your hotel room.  The rink also has really good food. And no, I’m not talking about nachos and “roller dogs”.  The menu at this place is created by the Penguins’ chef, and is simultaneously healthy, delicious and affordable.

The rink itself is situated in Cranberry Township, a short drive north of the city of Pittsburgh, and approximately 30 minutes from Pittsburgh International Airport.  It is very easy to reach by car from anywhere in the region, as it is located at the intersection of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) and Interstate 79.  The area offers just about every amenity you could want, including lodging, restaurants and hockey equipment stores.

Our hotel is the Hyatt Place Pittsburgh/Cranberry, which is just around the corner from the rink.  With rooms for just $80/night, you might have some pretty low expectations.  But this place is really nice.  The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable, and the delicious hot breakfast buffet is included.  It’s a great way to start your day before heading to the rink for the morning skate.

Let Them Eat CakeOur Thursday evening “Break the Ice” social takes place at the Sports Grille Cranberry.  It’s a great place to grab a bite and a beer after the first ice session, socialize with the coaches and other campers, and take in all the playoff games on their multitude of TVs.  On Friday night we usually pick another nearby watering hole for an informal gathering where we have some dinner and a beer or three, while watching playoff hockey, talking hockey and just generally being immersed in…you guessed it, hockey!  Then on Saturday night we have our camp banquet at Houlihan’s, where we enjoy a tasty meal, the wonderful company of our new found hockey friends, and just have a general good time.  Last year we were treated to one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, as one of our Warriors took down an unsuspecting waiter in a cake eating contest.  Exactly what was that young waiter thinking when he dared to take on one of our Warriors?!

One question I get all the time about this camp is if the Penguins will be practicing, and if so, can we watch.  The answers are Yes and No respectively.  Yes, this is the practice facility for the Penguins, but when the playoffs begin, the practices are no longer open to the public.  I have, however, caught a few glimpses of the top secret practices.  It’s quite likely that they will be holding a press conference in OUR meeting room after said practice.  So you might very well run into some of the players and staff.

Our ice time is generally split with half of our sessions on each of the facility’s two great NHL sheets.  This of course means that you are practicing on the same ice as the Penguins, sometimes right after they get off.

I hope this gives you a better idea of what the Pittsburgh camp location is like.  If this sounds like the camp for you, then I hope to see you there!

How to Get the Most from Hockey Camp

Our camp season kicks off next week, and we are so excited to hit the road and spend time with our Warrior faithful, one city at a time.  We love putting these camps on, primarily because we get to hang out with so many great hockey people, who have have such an incredible passion for this game.  My staff and I get immense satisfaction from watching players progress from Thursday evening through Sunday morning.  The level of improvement can be dramatic.  We especially love it when a player has a “light bulb moment”, suddenly getting something he or she never did before.  And we can’t help but smile when we see our players having more fun than an adult should be allowed to have, while getting progressively better at this great game.  In order to facilitate this learning process, we have put together a few suggestions to ensure that you get the most from your camp experience.  These suggestions come from our staff as well as many of our players over the years.

1) Get yourself physically prepared for camp.  I don’t say this to scare anyone.  You don’t need to be in triathlon shape to attend camp.  Truth is, we have plenty of players show up in “marshmallow” shape, and still learn a lot at camp.  But your level of physical conditioning will affect your ability to give your full effort in every drill over the course of the weekend.  If you play 3 or 4 times per week or work out daily, you’re going to be in pretty good shape for the weekend.  But if you play once a week, and your other form of exercise involves the TV remote control, then you may want to up your exercise regimen in the weeks leading up to camp.  As coach Rob likes to say, our weekend of 12 hours on the ice is like an entire season of your beer league.  So get yourself off the couch and into the gym, and you’ll be better prepared to push yourself harder and experience greater improvement.

2) Set some goals.  On the Warrior Profile, we ask players about their learning goals for the weekend.  Some players leave it completely blank, while others make a list of 10 or more things they want to learn.  Our suggestion is that you think about 1 or 2 or possibly 3 things that you really want to improve.  Make these your focus.  Some may be covered as part of our regular curriculum.  However, you may have a goal that is not on the curriculum.  If this is the case, be sure to talk to a coach about your goal.  In some cases, these are things that you can get help with off the ice.  If so, there are lots of opportunities over the course of the weekend to discuss these matters with members of our staff.  But often they are things that need to be learned on the ice.  If this is the case, then arrange for a few minutes on the ice with one of the coaches.  The coach will find a few minutes to help you out on the ice when there is an opportunity.

Fall_13) Get out of your comfort zone.  Our coaches are going to ask you to try some things on your skates that are not going to be easy.  Whether it’s committing to that outside edge or learning a new pivot, you are going to be challenged to try some things that push your current limits of balance.  But you’re here to get better, and you’re wearing a small fortune in protective gear.  So push yourself.  See how far you can commit to that edge.  If you fall, your gear will protect your body, and your ego will heal quickly, as you realize that many others are in the same situation.  Or maybe you can do something really well in one direction (e.g. stopping), but struggle in the other direction.  Use camp as an opportunity to improve the skill on your weak side.  The main idea is to push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone in order to maximize your level of improvement.

Fall_44) Don’t take yourself too seriously.  You’re going to fall, you’re going to miss a shot; simply put you’re going to struggle in some areas that aren’t comfortable to you. That is why you came to camp. It will be natural to get frustrated, however use that frustration to keep trying. Frustration can hinder your learning experience if you let it. Whatever you do, don’t hang your head.  Laugh it off, focus and get back to it. After all, we’re all in the same boat.

5)Fall_3 Come with an open mind –   While we don’t ask you to forget everything you’ve learned, it would be beneficial to come with an open mind. For many of us, a lot of our hockey knowledge comes from the “expert” on our local league team. By expert we mean the one that yells the loudest about how much they know about the game. While some of these things may be correct, often we pick up bad habits from these folks that actually hinder our game.  Our coaches have vast experience.  Is everything they say gospel?  Of course not.  There are different ways of doing things.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of trying things a different way.  Just because you’ve always done something a certain way does not mean it is the best way to do it.  So be open to new ideas.  You’d be surprised at how many people struggle to get something one way, but then are able to do it when a coach suggests an alternative way of doing essentially the same thing.

Fall_26) Go slow at first.  Speed does not equal effort.  Hockey is a fast game, and that is part of what makes it so exciting.  We all want to be able to duplicate what we see the pros do on TV.  But remember, those guys have been doing that almost every day since they were mini-mites.  We see too many players come to camp, learn a new skill, and try to execute it too fast.  It takes a while to train your brain to do it right.  So while the ultimate goal may be to do it fast, the most important thing is to do it right.  So whether it is a new stick handling move or a new skating stride, do it slowly and with good technique.  Once you get the proper technique down, the increased speed will come with repetition.

I hope you’ll keep these tips in mind when you come to camp.  We want to see you get the absolute most possible from your camp experience.  We will surround you with coaches who are knowledgeable, experienced and passionate about teaching you to be a better player.  Your job is to be the best sponge you can be, and take your game to the next level!