A man who coaches hockey skills to some of the best players on the planet is in Chilliwack this week, running a youth camp at Twin Rinks.
Scott Jones works for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, traveling around North America to work with the National Hockey League team’s pro players and prospects.
His visit to Chilliwack is courtesy netdrivehockey.ca and old family friend Clarke Wismer, who was on the ice with him for the first two nights (Wednesday and Thursday) of the four-night camp.
“When you get a guy who’s an NHL coach, the details are huge,” Wismer said, taking a breather during drills. “Things like where your hands should be on the stick or whether your weight’s on the balls of your feet or your toes — really small details make a big difference difference when it comes to skills.
“As a coach, it helps me learn how to teach. The turns the kids are working on today, I know what they are, but seeing how Scott breaks it down piece by piece makes it easier for the kids to understand.”
It’s a different world for Jones when he steps on the ice with kids.
The guys he works with in the pro ranks are paid to listen and learn. He has to work harder with the young ones to keep them engaged in what he’s saying, but he’s amazed at what they already know.
“The things I’m teaching here are very similar to what I teach the pros,” Jones said. “Some of the things that kids are learning now, man, I was in my 20s before I learned to do a lot of this stuff. They’re really at an advantage learning these things at such a young age. Obviously the pros can do it at a higher pace, but these kids are lucky to have coaches like Wiz (Wismer) and Dodzy (Jeff Dods) who are able to share this stuff with them.”
Sixty-six kids between the ages of 2007 and 2001 born are attending the camp.
The last session each night includes Chilliwack native and Salmon Arm Silverback Jonathan Krahn and several members Abbotsford’s Yale Hockey Academy, including players who were recently drafted by Western Hockey League teams.
No matter the age group, Jones said there’s plenty to be learned.
“You’d be amazed how much improvement can come in a short time,” Jones said. “Last night we did forward skating in a 15 minute session and we saw huge improvements because we’re forcing them to think about it. We’re explaining what we want them to do, we’re isolating single movements and forcing them to do it properly.
“The problem is, when they come back tomorrow they’ve forgotten a lot it. So you can make big improvements in a short period of time, but can you make it stick?”
To that end, one of the more interesting features of this camp is the use of video. Wismer had an iPad on the ice Thursday, taking vid of players going through a skating drill.
“With skating, I want to make sure all the mechanics are proper, and if they can do it proper technically then the speed will come naturally,” Jones explained. “After this camp, the kids will get a video of their forward skating with my voice over explaining what they’re doing wrong. I slow it down, blow it up and draw lines so they can get a really good look at the mistakes they’re making.
“They have bad habits. So as much as I say, ‘You’re kicking your heel,’ in their mind they’re saying, ‘No, it’s fine. It feels normal.’
“Then they see it on video and then it’s, ‘Oh. I see what he was talking about now.”
It can be frustrating for a coach who is used to coaching high end players to deal with skaters who can’t do what his usual students do, but Jones enjoys every moment at the rink.
This is the second time he’s come to Chilliwack (first time last August) and it almost certainly won’t be the last.
“When I can come out and see a whole new group of kids, share what I have and see them improve, maybe one day I see them playing on our Golden Knights team,” Jones said. “It’s pretty special for me.”