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!

Going Away to Hockey Camp – Why It’s Better Than Going Local

IMG_8983As we get ready to hit the road for the start of our 15th season, I just wanted to share a few thoughts regarding the experience of going away to hockey camp.  I get a ton of inquiries from players wanting us to bring a camp to their hometown, and we are always looking at new locations.  But while having a camp at your local rink may sound ideal, for many of us, getting away to camp is a far better experience.  Look, having a camp at your local rink is certainly convenient, and is also the most economical way to gain all of the benefits of an intense weekend of learning and training with our knowledgeable and passionate staff.  But if you can swing it, getting away offers quite a number of advantages.

1) No Distractions.  When you attend camp locally, there are so many potential distractions that can prevent you from gaining the full benefit of the Weekend Warriors experience.  For some it’s the job.  For others, it’s the family or the dog.  The fact is, you haven’t really extracted yourself from everyday life.  Now this doesn’t apply to everyone.  There are those who attend at their home rink, and fully participate in all aspects of the camp.  Similarly, there are those that go away to camp, but get distracted by work or family matters.  You have to know yourself, and your personal situation.  I’m merely suggesting that you think about your situation, and if that extra buffer of going away to camp might be a better option for you. If you do attend camp locally, then consider setting some boundaries with work and family.  Maybe even tell the boss that you’re going away to hockey camp.  No need to let them know you’re still in town and tempt them any more than necessary.  Some local players have even been known to book a hotel room one or 2 nights, rather than commute home every night.

2) Total Immersion.  Players who go away to camp are, in general, more immersed in the experience.  This includes not just the on ice sessions, but all of the off ice portions of the camp as well, including chalk talks, video reviews and social events.  This total immersion yields a more enjoyable and satisfying experience.  Again, even if you’re local, try to experience this total immersion to get the most of your camp experience.  Think of the camp as an investment in yourself and your game.  In order to get the most return on your investment, you’ll want to participate in all aspects of the camp.

“Getting away for a weekend of nothing but hockey is great, and unlike playing in tournaments this weekend actually made me a better hockey player.” – Omni Adams

3) Camaraderie – “Camaraderie, Shamaraderie…That’s a bunch of BS.  I’m just here for the drills.”, you say.  Well I could not disagree more.  While the learning experience is the most compelling reason to attend hockey camp, do not underestimate the power of the people.  And as people, hockey players, particularly Weekend Warriors, are some of the best on this planet. We have a passion for this game, and when we get together to learn, play and talk about this game, there is a special energy that is pretty hard to duplicate.  Players come to camp and forge friendships with fellow payers, coaches and yours truly…friendships that will last for many years to come, if not a lifetime.  In my opinion, the camaraderie is the “special sauce” that makes the experience so memorable.

“Even after 25 years of playing, I learned so much that will definitely improve my game going forward. Also, it was a lot of fun. Great camaraderie with the coaches and other “campers”. Everyone is very supportive no matter the skill level. The whole experience is very well run and delivered as promised.” – Tom Kramer

4) It’s a Vacation – Make no mistake, you’re not going to be lying on the beach getting a tan (except maybe in Tahoe).  You’re going away to play a sport you love, and learn to play it better.  It’s hard work.  When you get back, your body might not feel like it was on vacation, but your mind and spirit will be recharged after such an exhilarating experience.

“WW was the ideal 4-day vacation.  I left camp with a smile on my face, feeling better about myself and my playing ability than I ever have in my entire life.  No matter what your skill level is, you leave WW camp better.  And the friendships you develop off the ice are for a lifetime.” – Pat Mauceri

Some Common Excuses Debunked

I would like to address some common reasons people use to not go away to hockey camp.

It’s Too Expensive – I’m not going to mislead you.  Going away to camp is definitely more expensive than attending at your local rink.  But assuming there is no flying involved, it’s not as expensive as you may think. It can be a nice little road trip.  Gas is cheap these days, and you don’t need to eat prime rib every night. We even provide dinner on Saturday, and many of our hotels include breakfast. The biggest additional expense is the hotel, and we do our best to negotiate a good deal for our players at each location.  But the best way to minimize your hotel expense is to split the cost of a room.  So bring a buddy along, and if that’s not an option, then send us an e-mail and ask us to help connect you with a roommate.  We’ll do our best to help you out.

I Can’t Fly with My Hockey Gear – Many people assume that since the airlines and TSA have made flying less fun than a colonoscopy, that it would be prohibitively expensive to fly with hockey gear.  Well, the truth is, it’s not as bad as you may think.  Most airlines have policies that treat sports bags with a special set of rules.  So even though it’s a bigger bag, you can check it for the cost of a regular bag.  And get this, your sticks count as part of the bag.  And if you fly Southwest, your bags fly free.  Also consider that you don’t need to pack your tux, as our camp social events are totally casual.  You can even stick your clothes in your hockey bag or your carry on so you don’t need to check 2 bags.  For more details, see our page on Flying with Hockey Gear.  We have a lot of fun destinations, so don’t limit yourself to driving distance if there’s a more distant camp that intrigues you.

I Don’t Have Anyone To Go With Me – You want to go, but you can’t talk any of your hockey buddies into going with you?  That’s pretty common.  Don’t be deterred.  Weekend Warriors are fun and friendly people, and the atmosphere at our camps is so conducive to making friends.  Before we take the ice on Thursday, at our orientation meeting, we all get acquainted as we introduce ourselves to one another.  Then immediately after the first ice session, we head out for a beer and a bite to eat in our “Break the Ice” Social.  By the time you get to the locker room on Friday morning, your new friends will be waiting to chirp you in the locker room.

“The combination of 12 hours of ice time, superior coaching, skill progressions, video analysis, and social events was outstanding. I didn’t know how it would be attending the camp on my own, but everyone made me feel welcome and I learned more than I have at any other camp. The coaching staff was knowledgeable and professional.” – Lynda Ransdell

Going away to hockey camp is not for everyone.  For many it’s just a matter of budget.  If your budget allows, then I would highly recommend taking your game on the road.  It will be a vacation you won’t soon forget.  But if getting away is out of reach for financial or other reasons, then of course we want you to attend locally if there is a location within commuting distance of your home.  Just remember to avoid distractions and immerse yourself in the camp in order to maximize your learning and enjoyment.