WESTLOCK – For the first time in months the Rotary Spirit Centre ice was alive with the cracking of pucks and grinding of skates while, parents filled the stands watching their children receive guidance from a hometown hockey hero.
After a year on the shelf due to COVID-19, the Bellz Edge Elite Hockey Camp returned to Westlock Aug. 15-21. Young skaters got to train and receive hockey instruction from Gordon Bell, a Westlock-born hockey player who has played professionally with the Oklahoma City Blazers and Tulsa Oilers.
Bell was joined by instructors Brett Wold, who played alongside him with the Westlock Senior ‘AA’ Warriors, Ivan Bondarenko of the Columbus River Dragons, Mike Towle, who's previously tended the twine for the Westlock Warriors, and Shelby Pratt.
“It’s incredible,” said Bell, happy to be back with the young skaters. “I feel so good to be back home and seeing these kids, some of them have grown several inches and it’s crazy to see the difference and just how much they’ve grown. It’s my hometown, this is something I take a lot of pride in and something my family takes a lot of pride in and it’s just an honour to be back and to be with the kids again.”
Bell says that around 65 kids, from pre-novice to midget, signed up for the camp which is below what they normally see. The five-day camp had dryland training, ice time, and even educational classroom sessions where skaters were shown training videos and listened to guest speakers.
“This year is our smallest year, we’ve had the lowest number of kids we’ve ever had and we’re running a week later than we normally do which is conflicting with Barrhead’s hockey camp, which is something I’ve never wanted to happen because there are kids that want to do both and I want them to have the option to do both, but we’re going to do our best next year to get our camp to where it was before so the kids can go to both Barrhead and Westlock.”
But even with the scheduling complications and lower-than-average turnout, Bell says he is looking forward to next year.
“To be honest, being gone last year this number of kids here is the perfect number for us to get back into it and get ready for next year,” said Bell.