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Hockey camp cools down Silver Bay

Stella LaPointe practices her skating skills during the Silver Bay Blue Line Club hockey School Tuesday at Rukavina Arena. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)1 / 3
Kole Anderson of Grand Marais works on passing skills Tuesday during the hockey camp held this week in Silver Bay. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)2 / 3
Brett Bartlam (black) skates past Justin Paron during pee wee practice Tuesday at the Silver Bay Blue Line Club Hockey School at Rukavina Arena. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb)3 / 3

It's late July, but Rukavina Arena in Silver Bay has all the sounds of the mid-winter including the hit of skates on ice and the pop of pucks hitting the boards.

This week the arena hosted the 34th annual Silver Bay Blue Line Club Summer Hockey School for kids at the mite level to high school players looking to fine tune their game before the upcoming season. The camp is one of the only times all summer ice is available at rinks on the North Shore and students from Two Harbors to Grand Marais and some even further away made their way to Silver Bay to take advantage of the opportunity to work on skills with college and high school players and coaches.

"We're kind of a dinosaur," Silver Bay parks and recreation department head Mike Guzzo said. "Most kids are playing in AAA or AA leagues in the summer."

Instead of general hockey schools or camps, Guzzo said many kids are playing in leagues in Duluth or Cloquet that have ice year round, but for many kids in Silver Bay and Cook County an hour or more drive to play hockey every day is difficult. What's more, Minnesota Duluth assistant Laura Bellamy, St. Scholastica coaches Mark Wick and Shawn Bartlette and University of Wisconsin-River Falls coach Bob Ritzer are all on hand to provide guidance and instruction to campers. Other counselors at the camp included former players from Northern Michigan, Bethel University, St. Thomas and St. Scholastica as well as Iron Range Goalie Academy coach Derek Peterson.

Guzzo also said that most camps that are still out there, most are position specific focusing on fundamentals of defensemen or goalies.

During the camp, the players come in and practice drills or skating fundamentals for a hour and then, after a short break scrimmage for another hour or so. Players take shifts on the ice with mites moving to the outside rink at Rukavina to make room for the peewees or bantams. Outside the rink, North Shore Storm players Cora Carter and Brooke McMillen run the kids through drills that don't require ice. Some of the older kids will even go over to the Silver Bay recreation building and do some class time going over the "Xs and Os" of Hockey, Guzzo said. In the evening, high school players come in and repeat the process with an hour of practice followed by an hour of games each night of the camp.

Peewee player Kole Anderson of Grand Marais plays his winter hockey in Thunder Bay, but jumped at the chance to make his way to Silver Bay to get on some real ice for the week. Anderson said he's been playing hockey since he was three years old, but in the summer it's tough.

"It gives me a chance to play hockey," he said. "I go down in my basement or in my backyard and shoot pucks all the time, but it's different than being on the ice."

Unlike the Heritage Center in Duluth or Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet, none of the rinks on the North Shore have permanent ice throughout the summer. Guzzo and the Silver Bay crew spent last week putting down a fresh sheet of ice for the campers to use. The cooler temperature helped keep fog and condensation down in the arena, but unlike winter ice, the cost is significant to keep the arena cool enough to maintain the ice. Guzzo said he budgets around $7,000 for the camp just to keep ice on the floor.

However, Guzzo said the Blue Line Club and the city actually make money on the camp, which cost between $125 and $225 per person and is open to both boys and girls. Plus, Guzzo said, it gives him another opportunity he wouldn't otherwise have.

"As the boys' high school coach," Guzzo said, "It's great for me to see the kids in summer."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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