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Show goes on for youth hockey camp


June 5, 2020

Jana Peterson

Cole Ketola talks to participants in a Northland Hockey Development Academy session this week. Mites, squirts, peewees and bantams are getting ice time at Cloquet's Northwoods Credit Union Arena.

It must have seemed like Christmas to the youth hockey players Monday when Northwoods Credit Union Arena opened on a limited basis for hockey camp.

"I am having a great day because I am looking out my office window and seeing kids skating again," said Cloquet Area Hockey Association director Justin Harriman, who also acts as facilities manager for both the Northwoods and Pine Valley ice arenas. "We opened with precautions from a social distancing aspect."

With the closing of the locker rooms as one precaution, players are required to arrive in full gear, using chairs placed at least 7 feet apart in the hallway to put on their skates. They must also have their own water bottles, which cannot be shared, and may arrive only 15 minutes prior to the start of ice time and must leave within 15 minutes of the end of their ice time. Following each camp session, the chairs, door handles and other surfaces will be wiped down by arena staff.

Northland Hockey Development Academy, the group putting on the camps, is currently providing sessions for the mites, squirts, peewees and bantams.

"We worked out a plan of safe strategies, and the rink did a great job of helping us as well as providing extra staff," said Westin Michaud of NHDA. "We are impressed with our numbers, and all the kids were very good at the early sessions so far in making sure they are following all of our guidelines to keep everyone safe."

Among safety precautions set forth by the governor is limiting the number of players and coaches on the ice at any given time, and that has had a positive effect.

"With numbers being restricted, it's given us a chance to give more individual instruction," Michaud said. "These are skill development camps, and our hope is to help get the kids outside their bubble and working on things to improve their skill level."

Michaud - a former CEC player who played college hockey at Colorado College and North Dakota and is currently with the Winnipeg Jets organization - will be the main instructor at the camp. Joining Michaud on the hockey staff at the camp will be another former CEC player, Koby Bender, who is currently playing for the UMD Bulldogs, and Michaud said there's also a chance that current Boston Bruin player Karson Kuhlman will also swing by to help out. Recent CHS grad Cole Ketola was there Tuesday morning helping out with small-group instruction.

"It is just great to see kids back out doing something after being stuck at home," said Michaud, founder of NHDA. "The kids seem to be totally focused right now, so we couldn't be happier."

Jana Peterson

Mites, squirts, peewees and bantams are getting ice time at Cloquet's Northwoods Credit Union Arena.

Harriman also mentioned that the walking track has not yet opened at the Northwoods arena, and there are some other restrictions as well.

"We needed to get the rink ready first, and now that we have that completed, we will focus on figuring out how we will allow people to use the walking track," said Harriman. "There also is no open skating, no games and no dryland training allowed, and that will not change until the governor tells us we can allow more things to happen and more people in the building."

Perhaps the most impressive thing that Harriman has noticed after opening the rink is the kids' awareness of social distancing guidelines.

"It's just amazing to see how the kids have been trained to social-distance," said Harriman. "We sent out guidelines to Westin and he made sure each kid and parent had the guidelines, and that has made a huge difference."


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