The famous Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp is celebrating 45 years this summer.
Every summer since 1975 kids have come from all over the world to attend the camp that has seen dozens of kids go on to become pros.
The formation of the camp was the result of an investment made by a group of Red Deer businessmen who believed in Sylvan Lake’s potential.
They gave the Town $90,000 to put artificial ice and new dressing rooms into the old arena so the hockey school could run, and once it got going it was the only hockey school in Alberta.
The involvement of the Sutter Brother’s put the camp on the map and built its credibility early on.
Graham Parsons, Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp founder and president, says a researcher found that if you go north of Edmonton, south of Calgary, east of Coronation, and west of Rocky Mountain House anywhere in the world, seven of 10 people will know about Sylvan Lake because of the long-running hockey camp.
Parsons credits the camp’s success to Brian Sutter and his brothers, as well as to the camp’s accessibility to the lake.
“Hockey has changed a lot, so we used to be the elite and now we’re not the elite,” Parsons said, adding now they attract “the ordinary kid,” but they do still see lots of talent walk through their doors.
“They want to come because it’s part of their summer and they’ve been coming since they were little guys,” Parsons explained. “They want to come back to Sylvan Lake and they love the hockey camp and it’s a part of their summer.”
In recent years the summer camp has had to change its model to a more education-based system.
The camp is an experience that builds memories, friendships and confidence, while being hard work, fun and anti-bullying, said Parsons.
As part of the revamp the camp teamed up with Hockey Alberta and Hockey Canada to incorporate the “long term player development” initiative, which focuses on age and skill appropriate training.
Over the past 45 years over 50,000 players have attended the Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp.
“I remember 35 [years], I remember 25, I remember five, and hopefully I’m here for 55,” Parsons said of the milestone.
He says the camp averages around 1,000 kids a week with the program being about 95 per cent full. The registration consists of lots of repeats as well as lots of new names.
The Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp program features six weeks of regular all skills sessions, one all girls session, two goaltender sessions and one all skills session in Jasper.
“We’re pretty proud,” said Parsons, “and we’re really happy with what we’re doing now.”
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