University of Toledo hockey player Angelo Procaccini, left, a graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School, works with campers as they practice during the Toledo Walleye Youth Hockey Camp at the Huntington Center. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
More than 75 young hockey players shot pucks and went through skating drills at the Huntington Center on Wednesday as part of the Walleye's annual youth summer camp.
The budding forwards, defensemen, and goalies worked with Walleye players Shane Berschbach and A.J. Jenks in the third day of a week-long camp at the downtown arena.
PHOTO GALLERY: Aspiring hockey stars train with Walleye
The players, ages 7 to 13, also received instruction from Walleye coach Dan Watson and assistant coach Andy Delmore at the camp, which runs daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The campers get to use the same locker rooms and facilities that the Walleye players utilize during the season.
Alexa Urbanyi, a 10-year-old from Northwood, beamed with excitement while participating in the drills. She also took in one-on-one instruction from Berschbach, the organization’s all-time leader in points (216) and assists (159), during the morning session.
“I really like working with the Walleye players. My favorite player is Shane Berschbach. We’re both No. 10,” she said. “It’s been really fun.”
Alexa said she has really enjoyed the off-ice activities that include exercises tailored to young athletes and team-building games.
Alexa plays for a youth team based at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania. Her older brother Logan, 14, also attended the Walleye camp in past summers.
She said she has learned several new skills from the players and coaches.
“I think I’ve gotten better with my backhand shot and with my crossovers,” Alexa said. “I love being on the ice here. It’s fun. But they’re still strict with us. They don’t let us just goof off.”
Camp instruction features power skating drills, flow drills, shooting and passing drills, and stick handling drills, as well as individual work. Each camper receives a Walleye camp jersey, two tickets to Friday’s Mud Hens game, and a ticket to a Walleye game.
The annual camp, which costs $325, continues to grow each year.
Berschbach said volunteering at the camp affords him an opportunity to interact with the young fans.
“It’s a good chance to give back to the community,” Berschbach said.
“I’m sure a lot of these kids come to our games. They support us all year. So it’s nice to give back.”
Six players from the University of Toledo hockey team also are helping out at the camp.
St. Francis de Sales graduate Angelo Procaccini, who will be a sophomore at UT, worked with a group of older children at the camp.
“They look up to us,” Procaccini said. “I hope I’m making an impact.”
Procaccini, a defenseman, said he attended a similar camp at Joe Louis Arena when he was a youngster.
“It gives me a sense of appreciation,” he said.
Watson called the five-day camp a good week for the organization and the community.
“It’s great for the kids to skate with the likes of Bersch and Jenks this week. They get to meet Andy. It’s good to give back to local, youth hockey,” Watson said. “They get to be in our locker room. For them to see what our guys do and sit in their lockers of their favorite players is a special time for them. We want to let them know hockey is a fun sport and you can make a lot of friendships.”
But Watson said the camp also is a chance to instill principals and a work ethic.
“There are a lot of life lessons to come out of hockey,” he said. “Skills are a huge part of it. We want to make sure they understand what the game is about.”
Alexa said she started playing hockey when she was 6.
“I love being on a team and being able to skate and have fun with everyone,” she said.
Watson said the camp is well organized, with the players split into two age groups.
“We want things to run smoothly. We take a lot of time to put in our thoughts and what we want to teach them to enable them to further their careers. We want to make hockey a part of their lives,” Watson said.
Berschbach said the young players represent the future of the sport.
“It’s a good feeling to hear from these young kids,” he said.
Watson said this year’s camp was the biggest yet.
“It’s growing. Now they’re bringing their friends or siblings,” Watson said. “It’s been awesome.”
TICKETS: Single-game tickets for all of the Walleye’s upcoming home games will go on sale on Friday at 9 a.m. The home opener is Saturday, Oct. 21, against Quad City. Game plans are currently on sale. For more info call 419-725-WALL or go to toledowalleye.com.