Sep 2, 2013
Notre Dame, Ind. - For the second year in a row, the final week of August became old home week for former members of the Notre Dame hockey program as they returned to campus for the Notre Dame Pro Hockey Camp at Compton Family Ice Arena from August 26-30.
The group of 16 former Irish players and five other pros included a mix of players who have played in a variety of pro leagues from Europe to the National Hockey League and all stops in between.
It seems like only yesterday that the elder statesman of the group - Brett Lebda `04 - was helping the Irish to their first NCAA Tournament appearance while others like Nick Larson `13, Patrick Gaul `12 and Riley Sheahan have actually seen playing time at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
"This camp is very beneficial for all of us because it is so close to training camp," says Ian Cole, a member of the St. Louis Blues.
"It's a week before our camp starts in St. Louis, so its great to be able to get out with a group of such high caliber players and get some quality workouts in."
Cole's former teammate Erik Condra `09, a member of the Ottawa Senators says the camp helps him get ready for the rigors of the pro training camp.
"You can't show up at an NHL camp or any pro camp out of shape. This is a tune-up for us; it helps us get our skills back on the ice and gets us back in shape. We skate twice a day and work out together. Plus, it's great to get back and see everyone again," said Condra.
The Notre Dame Pro Hockey Camp gave the former Irish players, as well as several other area pros, a chance to get back on the ice for the first time in organized practice activities for the first time since their seasons ended last April and May.
Each day, the skaters hit the ice at 9:00 am for a one-hour practice that was directed by former Irish players who are now coaching. Leading the workouts each day were former Irish players Brock Sheahan `08, Kevin Deeth `10, Mike McNeill `88 and current Irish associate coach Andy Slaggert `89.
The coaching group put the players through various skating and shooting drills, upping the tempo each day. Following the practice, the pro players moved on to the Compton Family Ice Arena weight room where they had access to the weights and cardio equipment to do their own personal workouts as set up by their current teams.
From there, the players were off for lunch before returning to the rink for an afternoon scrimmage on three of the four days. Thursday afternoon the group moved to Notre Dame's Warren Golf Course for a break in the hockey for 18 holes of golf and fun among former teammates.
Following Monday's scrimmage against the current Irish team, the pros were treated to a barbeque dinner in O'Briens by the Notre Dame Monogram Club. At that dinner, current Irish head coach Jeff Jackson was honored with an honorary monogram and had a chance to greet his former players.
The Pro Camp started a year ago through the efforts of Hockey Equipment Specialist Dave Gilbert who serves as the camp's director. With assistance from Condra and Brock Sheahan in putting together ideas for the camp last year, it has been a success in each of the first two seasons as former Irish players and other local pros have taken advantage of the chance to get a head start on preparing for their coming hockey seasons.
"This camp has been great for me," said Christiaan Minella `10 who will go to training camp with the American Hockey League's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He missed last year's camp while rehabbing from postseason surgery.
"It's been a really tough camp but it's been fun to get back and see some of the guys. This kind of camp really helps me get my conditioning back and work on my timing and skills. It's great to get to scrimmage each day and get as close to actual game situations as possible. It's been a great week."
For goaltenders, a pro camp can be invaluable as it gives them a chance to see quite a bit of rubber in a short period of time. Irish All-American goaltender David Brown `07 made his first appearance at the camp in 2013 and made the most of his week.
"The camp has been great," said Brown who will play this season for the Arizona Sun Dogs in the Central Hockey League.
"It's a great opportunity for all the pro guys to come back and get on the ice and get ready for the season. From a goaltender's perspective this camp is great. You get to see a lot of different types of shots from different shooters. You get a chance to work on your movements and it helps with your conditioning, facing all the shots that you get. I think that the scrimmages help too as it gets you ready for various game situations."
Anyone who didn't think that the players take this preseason camp seriously just needed to attend the scrimmage on Wednesday, Aug. 28 against the current Irish team. Trailing 4-0 at one point, the pros rallied to take a 7-6 win with Lebda getting the winning goal with less than 30 seconds left.
Besides, Cole, Condra, Lebda, Minella and Brown, the roster of former Irish players in attendance included: Teddy Ruth'09 (Springfield - AHL), Joe Lavin `10 (Springfield - AHL), Patrick Gaul `12 (South Carolina - ECHL), Riley Sheahan (Detroit - NHL), Christian Hanson `09 (St. Louis - NHL), Evan Rankin `07 (Rochester - AHL), Mark Van Guilder `08 (Nashville - NHL), Nick Larson `12, Michael Bartlett `07 (Innsbruck - Austria) and Brad Phillips `12.
The list of non-Irish players that attended the Notre Dame Pro Camp included Jared Nightingale (Michigan State `06 and Chicago - AHL), Brett Wysopal (Ferris State `12), Joe Tolles (Brock University and Wheeling - ECHL), Jim Slater (Michigan State `05 and Winnipeg - NHL) and Pat Nagle (Ferris State `11 and Florida - ECHL).