By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye
The first Black Elk Hockey Camp right here in Ponoka in 1984.
“This is a family business,” says Richard Jones, one of the co-founders of the camp. “And word of mouth is how we have grown.”
Jones, a retired teacher who grew up in Ponoka, is now one of the head instructors of the camp.
The success of the hockey camp is largely due to the teachers they hire more than paying for celebrity names to the camp, Jones said. One of their instructors, Brad Burns, is a teacher from Camrose.
Burns, a father of twin girls, grew up in Penticton, B.C. and played hockey a “little late,” at age seven and worked his way up to junior A, then some college hockey.
He had much help along the way in his hockey career so he likes to give back to hockey. It seems to work. Many of the kids come back year after year to expand their hockey skill and knowledge and Burns can see their skills expand year after year.
“We don’t tell the kids this, but it’s (the camp) like school,” says Jones.
Black Elk offers more than just hockey time, there are other classes such as a chalk talk, dry land training and ice skills lessons to further the growth of the students. Camp attendees are awarded certificates at the end of the training week, highlighting the skills learned.
Depending on the age group the camp focuses on different skill sets. Goalies are trained on their handling and flexibility, and other methods to stop the puck. Players will learn handling skills to assist them with passing, shooting and the art of the “deke,” where a player uses a feint to get past an opponent or to get past the goalie.
Camps run for one or two weeks and there are camps for girls and boys. Jones said the first camp had 205 students for two weeks.