YOUNGSTERS have had their ice hockey skills put to the test by internationally acclaimed coaches.
Juniors from Deeside Dragons ice hockey team were joined by players from across the country as they took part in a five-day camp with coaches from the United States and Canada at Deeside Leisure Centre in Queensferry.
The camp is part of a long standing association between the Dragons’ junior outfit and Endeavour Sports Group in Canada.
Mike Pilon is president and CEO of Endeavour and has travelled over with the group to get involved with the coaching.
He said: “We’ve brought over coaches from Boston, Maine and Pittsburgh and I have some family in Wales so I have a connection to the country.
“Hockey players are the same anywhere you go and there’s a great group here as they are dedicated to learning.
“You have to be really passionate about this and there’s a great number of players here. Every year we get kids developing an interest in coming over to America to develop their skills.”
During the camp, the players aged between four and 16 start their day at 6am either on the ice or in the classroom and will work through a series of programmes until 1pm.
As part of the ice sessions, players have been working on team based training and individual skills such as shooting.
Deeside Dragons junior head coach, Mike Clancy, 40, from Broughton, said it was massive for the club to host the camp.
“It’s a huge opportunity to get the kids quality training from these guys who are as good as it gets.
“It also gives us a chance to stage something like this. We’re run completely by volunteers and we’re hoping to get the numbers up to about 100 from the 60 we have now.”
Endeavour coach Mike was joined by his colleagues Sean Walsh, University of Massachusetts Boston coach, Jamie Dumont, Bowdoin College, Maine coach and Mike Kadar, Stanley Cup winning coach with NHL side Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kadar, who is strength and conditioning coach with the Penguins, said: “It’s my first time over here and the draw was to come and see what ice hockey was like outside of North America.
“The set up over here is very similar to how I grew up in to ice hockey.”
The Dragons currently boast a host of top local talent.
Ross Kennedy, 16, from Connah’s Quay, made his debut appearance for the Dragons’ senior team earlier this season and managed to assist a goal.
“I’ve really enjoyed the experience, I’ve learned a lot and it’s been fun too.
“I’ve been involved for 10 years, my dad and brother played before me. We get lots of young kids coming through and we want to inspire them.”
James Shaw, 12, from Mold has been playing since he was just four-years-old.
“When I first started, I couldn’t skate at all and it was quite scary but now it’s a great experience to do it and how far I’ve come.
“I’ve learned so much and it’s good to see the coaches coming back over.”
See full story in the Leader