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Mike Thomas brings hockey school to the Lake

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BAKER LAKE - The Mike Thomas Professional Hockey School was brought to Baker Lake for the first time this past month.

The visit was organized by the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA) and funded by the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre through the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Thomas said everything went smoothly during his visit and the Baker kids really enjoyed taking part.

He said the young players were attentive to the instructors and eager to try each and every drill they were shown at the school.

"There were some parents who came to watch and help out with the kids, especially in the atoms bracket, and that's always nice to see," said Thomas.

"We also had a couple of their local coaches out on the ice for a few sessions so they could learn some of the drills we were using.

"Hopefully, they will help the kids develop by continuing to use those drills long after we've left the community.

"I encouraged the coaches to come out, even if they didn't actually go on the ice, to watch our drills for exactly that reason."

Thomas said consistency is one of the bigger keys to Baker continuing to develop its minor hockey program, and he hopes to bring his school back for the next few years to help with that development.

He said he'd like to see the kids take the skills they learned during his first visit, practise them throughout the year and then have him return to build upon that skill set.

"We've been going to Rankin Inlet for the past four years, and when we compare the difference in the player skills in the fourth year to what they were in the first year, we notice a big difference in the three years in between.

"Consistency plays a huge role in skill development and not just when you're talking about a hockey school.

"I encourage the kids to keep practising the drills we teach at every opportunity, because they have to take some responsibility for their own development.

"In Baker, I pointed out to the young goalies that not all of their coaches are actually goalie coaches, so it's up to them to make sure they continue the drills on their own during their practices."

Thomas said anyone can throw a puck on the ice and tell two groups of kids to scrimmage.

He said that approach alone does little to develop skills, and there are more teaching resources available to coaches now than any time in the past.

"You can go on the Internet and pick up a number of different drills, learn those skills on your computer and then take them on the ice to help run your practice.

"There are resources available now that weren't out there even 10 years ago, and there's no substitute for kids continuously working on the basic skills of this game.

"In hockey, you need to learn how to skate, handle and shoot the puck before you can accomplish anything.

"These skills are universal, no matter what coach you have or hockey school you go to, and you need to be able to do them in order to become a better player."

Jeff Seeteenak is the vice-president of the Baker Lake Minor Hockey Association (BLMHA) and coaches at the peewee level.

He said the sessions at the hockey school were very high tempo and the kids really enjoyed participating.

"Everyone with the hockey school had a lot of energy and our guys fed off that energy," said Seeteenak.

"The players really enjoyed the drills because they were almost all new to them.

"Some of the coaches are continuing to use the drills they learned from Mike (Thomas), so we do have some continuity now in that regard."

Seeteenak said the BLMHA was happy to have the opportunity of hosting the hockey school presented to it by the KIA.

He said because the school had been held in Rankin for the past four years, the KIA wanted to bring it to a new community.

"We were told the KIA had heard we have a solid minor hockey program in Baker, with strong registration numbers, so they offered the school to us.

"When that opportunity came along, I gladly took it because I had actually been working on getting something like that to our community for a while.

"We have about 100 kids registered in minor hockey and the school was open to every age group except novice, initiation and junior.

"I'd say we had about 70 to 80 kids in the atom, peewee, bantam and midget age groups participate in the school, which represents the vast majority of every player registered in those categories."