The R1 RINKS hockey camp in Kelowna is working towards getting players to the next level, and for former NHLer Byron Ritchie, having the opportunity to coach at the camp has been a full circle experience.
“You know there’s a big difference between coaching and playing, so it was an adjustment at the beginning, and I’ve been at it for probably five years now since I retired, and it’s something that I really enjoy,” said Ritchie.”It’s trying to have a positive influence on the players here and their development in helping them get to where they want to be, and leaning back on past experiences and things that I’ve been through to try and help them along.”
The camp, which is partially owned by three-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Keane, focuses on giving the players a competitive edge when they immerse back into hockey season. They do so by skating three times a week and training in the gym five days a week.
Jack Finley was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020, and he says the camp has been a big help before he heads off to his second pro camp.
“I’m just looking forward to playing. It’s obviously been a weird past year or two for everybody, and especially sports players, so you know I’m just excited to get in there and play some games, and this camp has been really beneficial to me,” said Finley.
Entering his fourth season with the Kelowna Rockets, Alex Swetlikoff says having so many competitive players in the camp is what he feels will be the biggest help heading into next season.
“There’s a lot of players looking to up their game and everyone wants to get better so it’s very competitive, and just our schedule too. Being on the ice mostly every day and then the gym, that’s a lot on your body so that makes it hard as well,” said Swetlikoff. We’re working hard and it’s gonna put us in good shape for next season.”
The camp began on July 5 and will run until August 20. Coach Ritchie says all players at the camp have been a joy to work with, and that they have all been very receptive to coaching.