Youth hockey players in need of ice time to train during the COVID-19 pandemic can get NHL-expertise thanks to a former pro-hockey player’s generosity.
Former New Jersey Devil and Buffalo Sabre Jan Ludvig — who spent a year in the early 1980s as a Kamloops Junior Oiler — is offering free training clinics to players on his outdoor, backyard rink using makeshift materials.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented gap in training, with many leagues on hold. Ludvig has 20 acres of space to work with at his home near Logan Lake and figured he could use it to help fill that void.
“Hockey gave me everything I have, so I’d like to put something back to it,” said Ludvig, who currently works as a scout for the Boston Bruins.
The father of five, who’s hosted hockey camps all over the world, has been building outdoor rinks for 30 years and put this one up in early December, initially, to give his son John — a Florida Panthers prospect who captained the Portland Winterhawks last year — a place to train.
Rather than have the rink sit empty now that his son is at training camp with Florida’s AHL affiliate, Ludvig is hosting the free clinics with help from Stride Performance, which runs an off-ice component out of a barn on the property.
Ludvig also shovelled out an oval on a nearby frozen lake for speed skating.
“I was thinking if I was a young hockey player hoping to be drafted or trying to get better and there’s no ice, no coaching, everything is on hold, that could be do or die for somebody who needs the development,” Ludvig said.
Ludvig’s most recent guests were a group of second-year peewees who stopped in last Saturday.
Due to the pandemic requirement to maintain three-metres of distance on the 45-foot wide by 80-foot long rink, scrimmages aren’t allowed. On-ice sessions consist of conditioning and skill development drills using makeshift materials such as tires and two-by-fours in stickhandling and shooting exercises.
It’s an experience, Ludvig described like a step back in time — a stark contrast to the modern-day indoor rink camps with all the bells and whistles of a game that has become more and more expensive over the years.
“Hard work and dedication and paying your dues are never going to change and we can get it done here,” Ludvig said.
He said it’s eye-opening to see the amount of work players can get done training with just the basics on an outdoor rink.
“Just putting the time and work in because talent, as we are learning in pro sports, is highly overrated. Yes there’s a high level of talent, but besides the superstars … for the majority of the players it’s probably 70 per cent had work and maybe 30 per cent talent,” Ludvig said.
Anyone interested in the training can contact Jan Ludvig at email@example.com.