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Adult Skills Clinic Offers A Chance to Skate Where Legends Have

09/13/2017, 6:30am MDT
By Greg Bates

Hosted at USA Hockey Arena, the clinic gives adults of all abilities an elite lesson

After a one-year hiatus, USA Hockey’s popular adult hockey skills clinic is back.

In 2015, USA Hockey held its annual sessions in its newly-purchased USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. After several upgrades to the arena, adult players will be able to skate in the state-of-the-art facility.

The clinic is open to men and women 21 years of age and older and is designed to teach novice players about basic hockey skills, mainly focusing on skating, shooting and passing.

“It’s just an opportunity for beginner players who didn’t get coached as youth, who didn’t get that classic practice time and who might have just jumped into men’s league,” said Katie Holmgren, manager of adult hockey for USA Hockey, who will also be one of the clinic’s instructors. “They get the opportunity to hone their skills and get a little bit more hands-on teaching of specific skills vs. just showing up to one of their games as a beginner and trying to pick up the game that way.”

The clinic has just 40 spots, which are filling up quickly. Holmgren stressed there are still openings available. Players will get three on-ice sessions: one on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 23, one in the afternoon, and a morning session the next day before the clinic wraps up. There is also a reception on Saturday night where participants can mingle with the other clinic-goers and also ask questions of the instructors.

“We work on the same things you would in a youth clinic like edge work and stick handling and shooting,” Holmgren said. “But then they also have the opportunity to ask things like, ‘Where’s the best place to take a faceoff?’ And how to deke or something. Things that we take advantage of when we were kids that adults just don’t get the opportunity necessarily to do.”

David Ford participated in the clinic in 2015, and signed up this year with his wife. Hockey has become a family affair with their 11-year-old son also playing.

“My wife and I coach 12U hockey, and I want to have more confidence on the ice,” said Ford, who lives nearby in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Ford, who was self-taught and had only been skating for two years when he took the clinic the first time around, learned plenty of valuable tools at the clinic. The biggest thing for him was learning to get on his edges better.

“It was important for me to learn that learning and doing hockey skills are not as easy as the pros make it look,” said Ford, 40. “After taking the clinic, I found I understood what new, young skaters go through learning.”

This time around at the clinic, Ford is hoping to sharpen his skills and continue growing as a complete hockey player.

Holmgren noted about half the participants who have signed up for this year’s skills clinic have competed in past years. Holmgren and fellow clinic coach Pat Knowlton tend to receive a lot of constructive feedback on the clinic.

“They love all the ice time they get and they love the little extra perks about getting to ask questions,” Holmgren said. “They’re all tired, and they like it. It’s a little more work than they usually get. You go to a men’s league game, and you’re just fighting for ice time. It’s all about honing your skills, so everybody’s moving the whole time.”

In the past, participants have come from a wide range of ages from early 20s to mid-50s. The class is usually split between men and women.

Holmgren is hoping the players take away plenty from the clinic and enjoy themselves at the same time.

“I know a lot of people go back to their home rink and ask for a similar program, just so that they can keep learning,” Holmgren said. “I think the biggest thing, too, is just encouraging people to continue to work on it and that you can get better. It’s never too late to work on those skills.”

A major plus in having the adult hockey skills clinic held at USA Hockey Arena is participants get to play in the same facility the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) trains and competes in for its home games. It’s also the same arena where the U.S. National Women’s Team won gold in the IIHF World Championships this past April.

USA Hockey is working to grow the game in its own arena.

“I think it’s really important for us to have that home ice feel, so it feels like something even bigger,” Holmgren said. “We’re all going to be in our USA gear. I think it’s just a neat, little extra perk they get to play where a lot of our national teams will play. Our women just won gold there and there will be plenty of men’s events as well.”

It’s extremely special for Ford to be able to skate on the same ice where future NHL players are honing their skills.

“It’s a thrill to skate in Plymouth where the NTDP call home,” Ford said. “To go out where ‘USA Hockey’ is at center ice is a neat experience. It’s cool to look up at the seats and all the upgrades done to the arena. Really feels like a step up from adult league rinks — big step up.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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