In the pause between the games against SKA and CSKA in Zurich, Dinamo Riga did not limit to resting and practicing. Within the KHL World Games project, the Latvian club players held a masterclass for the kids of the local hockey academy.
The Ochsner Academy is the biggest of its kind in Europe and last year, from early February to late August, about 1,800 players of different ages. The Academy is now five years old and opens its door to either amateur who are at their first steps in hockey to professionals willing to use the facilities to prepare for the season.
Today, a few dozens of local players aged 9-13 flooded the Hallenstadion Arena to meet Dinamo Riga players. Better yet, not only meet but also practice. The kids were incredibly happy to practice with Lauris Darzins, Mathew Maione, Colton Gillies, Mikelis Redlihs, Brandon McMillan, Kristers Gudlevskis, and Andris Dzerins. Dinamo Riga head coach Girts Ankipans ran the practice.
Most of the practice had as a focus skating, puckhandling, and shooting. The training featured six stages, where the players tried to teach the young players different elements of the game. The session finished with a fun contest, where skaters attempted to score a shootout on Kristers Gudlevskis, while goalies tried to stop attempts from Dinamo Riga’s players. After the practice, some of the participants shared their feelings.
Girts Ankipans, Dinamo Riga head coach:
- Many of our players organize similar camps on summers, therefore agreed to have such an experience also here in Switzerland. The players showed what they could do, and the kids were happy. Working with kids is always a pleasure. You can see the joy in their eyes, we try to transmit something useful to them, and we get positive emotions in return. This practice will help us in sight of tomorrow’s game.
Matthew Maione, Dinamo Riga defenseman:
- It was truly fun! Getting on the ice with kids is always great. I already tried something similar as I was a coach during some summer camp. For me, the most important thing is to work and enjoy hockey, to improve further and become an even better player!
The participating kids were not the only happy faces after the practice. Their parents were enthusiastic as well.
- It was incredible! It was great to organize such an experience – said Sandra Kammermann, the mother of one of the kids. – My son already skated in a Russian camp this fall, so he already knows how to skate pretty well, but this practice was very intense. The drills were utterly different. It was incredible; you should get back and organize it again!
Kids of this age aren’t used to getting attention and requests for interviews, so most of them were too shy to talk. All the kids’ enthusiasm faded away as soon as they started seeing cameras and microphones. But their expressions and emotions after the practice can describe their feelings better than any word would do. You don’t get a chance to practice side to side with KHL players every day.
- It was great; it was fun. What I liked the most was shooting on goal, - Luca Kammermann young players managed to say after the practice, winning his shyness.
The director of the Academy, Sebastian Schumacher, summed up the session:
- For our kids, such a master class is a great chance to meet KHL players, as they don’t see players of this level very often. The kids were delighted today. We had a lot of applications for this practice. Today we had kids aged 9-13, even two girls – a goalie and a skater. I enjoyed the event. The organization was perfect in all aspects; the players enjoyed the moment, and the kids were always smiling!