BROSSARD – Summer school is usually the last place a kid wants to be in July – unless of course it happens to be the Habs’ Hockey School in Brossard.
A summertime staple at the Bell Sports Complex for the better half of a decade, the Canadiens Hockey School is in full swing once again, providing hundreds of kids with the ideal environment to hit the ice, hone their skills and most importantly, have fun.
“This is our seventh year. We started in 2007 and this year we have about 604 kids, with 164 coming in this week,” shared the Canadiens manager of youth hockey development, Stephane Verret, who along with coordinator Angelo Ruffalo is currently running the latest edition of the camp. “It’s great to see kids coming from all over to attend the camp. This week alone, we have kids from the Dominican Republic, the U.S., from Europe, even a couple from Hong Kong and of course a lot from across the province of Quebec.”
In addition to running drills and enjoying a slew of off-ice activities, kids in attendance also get the chance to skate alongside and meet their Canadiens idols who are more than happy to drop in for a visit and spend some time with the superstars of tomorrow.
“We always get comments on how much the kids love all the on-ice and off-ice activities. Then the surprise of the day is always the special guest appearance of our players,” said Verret, pointing out that you never know who might show up on a given day. “We had a lot come in this week and we try to get a nice mix from alumni, to future prospects to players on the current roster.”
After appearances by Francis Bouillon, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov, Habs 2013 first-round pick Michael McCarron and even GM Marc Bergevin, it was Alex Galchenyuk’s turn to pay a visit on Friday morning.
“It’s great. They all seem really excited to be here, it’s been a lot of fun meeting the kids. They all seem really happy, so it makes me happy that they’re enjoying themselves,” said the incoming Canadiens sophomore, after spending some time running a few drills with the kids. “I remember myself when I was playing at this age and it’s all about going out there and having fun, so this is obviously a great experience for them.”
Following the on-ice session, Galchenyuk hit the team’s dressing room in Brossard, taking the time to meet each of the 164 kids in attendance individually, pose for pictures and sign cards. While more than a few seemed a little awestruck at meeting one of their idols, the 19-year-old never hesitated to give an extra high-five to campers that happened to be wearing number 27.
“For sure, they all seem a bit shy,” he laughed. “But when I was their age, I was pretty shy too – especially if I was getting the chance to meet a player. I just hope they enjoyed the experience.”
From the size of the grins on the campers’ faces as they left the room, it’s safe to say that they probably did.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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