L.A. Kings come to Park City, with goal of keeping players engaged | ParkRecord.com

L.A. Kings come to Park City, with goal of keeping players engaged

The Los Angeles Kings hockey team's development camp traveled to Park City for a three-day mini-camp last weekend. The camp, led by Kings alumnus Derek Armstrong, who spent more than 15 years in the National Hockey League, focused on helping young players hone their stick handling, shooting and passing skills, as well as close-quarters coordination.

Cody von Rueden, hockey development coordinator with the Kings, said the camp is fun because they get to work with young players who are not yet set in their ways, particularly at the mite and squirt ages (under 8 and 10, respectively).

"They are still so raw, so open to new ideas, so we are able to help them develop good habits," von Rueden said. "Sometimes those peewee/bantams have already developed habits that are tough to break, but the kids out here are just awesome."

More than 50 peewee, mite, squirt and bantam players attended the camp at the Park City Ice Arena. While Armstrong said developing skills is ostensibly the goal of the camp, it's more important to foster a love for the game.

"When they come to the rink, I think there's too much structure in place," Armstrong said of most day-to-day practices. "But kids are creative people, and the world needs creative people. That's what makes the world (of hockey) so awesome and so popular. If we take creativity away from kids and drill them, our world won't grow as much."

Armstrong said he struggled with burnout after 17 years in the NHL, and after seeing so many kids who played at a high level go through the same thing, he knew he wanted to focus on making the game a fun experience.

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"It's just a game," he said. "My parents put me in (hockey) to burn energy. They never would have thought in a million years I would play in the NHL. It's to burn energy, form relationships and have a good time doing it. So that's what we want out of this camp."

At noon, the groups of kids in black Kings jerseys skated off the ice, did some conditioning, then sat down around lunch tables for pizza.

Tommy Jacobson, who plays on an Ice Miners team, said the camp was something he had been looking forward to, and though it was not what he had expected (it was much bigger), it was what he had hoped for.

"It's kind of shocking," he said. "You see (the coaches) and it's not that big of a deal, but then you hear that they're from the NHL and it makes the whole thing brighter and better."

He said his favorite part was "Just working with the team and having fun — with the drills, with the coaches — just being out there and playing hockey."