DETROIT — The BELFOR Training Center inside Little Caesars Arena is typically quiet during the summer months. But for the past three days, it was filled with smiles and laughs from the next generation of hockey players.
On Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings concluded their annual Youth Hockey Camp at the state-of-the-art practice facility, with more than 70 energetic boys and girls, ages 6-10, receiving specialized hockey instruction from former Red Wings forward and four -time Stanley Cup champion Kirk Maltby along with current Red Wings coaches.
All participants received 75 minutes of on-ice training and 35 minutes of dryland training each day, as well as an official Youth Hockey Camp jersey, a certificate of participation and two tickets to a 2022-23 Red Wings game.
Maltby, who currently serves as a pro scout with Detroit, believes the campers experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“As a kid, if I could put myself in their shoes to have the opportunity to come to a facility like this and see the Red Wings prospects skating on the ice before them, this would be a dream come true,” Maltby said. “I don’t know if they can really grasp and understand how lucky they are.”
This year’s camp was divided into three sessions. Monday’s session focused on individual skills like power skating, edgework, agility, puck-handling and shooting. Tuesday’s session emphasized team skills in addition to one-on-one and two-on-two drills, while Wednesday’s session put campers’ skills to the test in games and scrimmages.
“We only have them for a little bit over the course of three days, so we’re a little limited on what we’re able to teach,” Maltby said. “That’s why we’re going out there, working on some stuff and having fun.”
Despite limited time with the young athletes, Maltby enjoyed serving as a mentor.
“Whether it’s something like they complete a drill and they don’t fall down or they score a goal, you can talk to them and know they’re having fun,” Maltby said. “It’s not about being 100 times better than when you came here on the first day, it’s about enjoying all three days.”
Participants also engaged in daily off-ice exercises and training routines. According to Maltby, the camp is designed to help kids of all ages and abilities build a solid foundation for the sport.
“It’s about giving everyone an opportunity,” Maltby said. “Boy or girl, it’s just having everyone go out there and play.”
Phil Pierce, manager of community impact for sport participation and growth, said there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure the camp runs smoothly. But he emphasized that “seeing the kids happy” makes the coordinated effort worthwhile.
“There’s some cute stories between the kids here,” Pierce said. “It’s cool to see the kids interact in different ways. Little pieces like that are very unique and make this camp special.”
And while camp instructors focused on development, Pierce hopes participants understand the main purpose of the annual event.
“The No. 1 goal is to have fun,” Pierce said. “It’s been an all-around great experience for the kids and coaches.”