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Battle Born Hockey School Pt. 5: One Time(r) at Hockey Camp…

By Phillip Goodman

August 9, 2023

Reno Ice Raiders’ play-by-play broadcaster and team writer Phillip Goodman takes a deep dive into the Battle Born Hockey School in this six-part series. Part Five is Phillip's firsthand account of his camp experience.

To better understand what I got out of attending the four-day Battle Born Hockey School, you should first know what I went in with.

Hockey skates never found my feet until I was 26 years old in my junior year at Long Beach State Univ. in 2003. Prior to that my sports life was consumed by softball and basketball. After one semester as the public address announcer for ACHA DII Beach Hockey, I was encouraged to lace up and learn to play.

My first and only true hockey coach was a former New York Islanders' defenseman prospect, John. Instead of sniping goals on ice, John joined the Marines and was sniping bad guys in Bosnia and Serbia during the turbulent 1990s. John's annual introductory locker room speech was equal parts chilling and motivating as he showed us his military medals for elite sharpshooting and other accolades. His tenets about discipline, teamwork, and life are still embedded in the fiber of my hockey being today.

It took a few years for my skills to develop and I never made it into an LBSU/ACHA game (I dressed once at Arizona State Univ. but never saw a shift). Later I managed to get on a bronze-level adult league team that had three of our top scorers from the Beach. I held my own, winning many faceoffs to set up the defense for goals and even scored a few beauties myself. We lost in the championship game and the team disbanded. Between 2008 and 2012, I bounced around a couple of teams never winning it all (mostly because they all lacked the fundamentals covered at BBHS!). From 2012 to 2017, I hardly got on the ice for even stick time or pickup because of time, money, and job commitments. Moving to Reno from the LA area in 2017 was an incredibly difficult choice because there was no rink yet, only talks and plans of one. The best thing to come out of 2020 was the finalization of Reno Ice.

The old adage "use it or lose it" never felt more true until I put my gear on for the first time again in 2020. My hands and feet were bricks while my hockey brain was still operating at a high gear. Time and money again became challenges and I haven't been able to get on a quality adult league team since. So why take a four-day adult development camp?

First, I genuinely like and admire all the Ice Raiders players, especially those coaching Battle Born Hockey School. They've been excellent communicators and post-game interviewees over the last two seasons which made me comfortable going into the camp knowing I would get legitimate direction. Second, it's four days of air-conditioned exercise in the heat of August. Third, it's the best exercise ever. Don't ever ask me to run to the gym with you. Or run. No thanks. Activities like biking and kayaking rev my motor before I'll consider standing around pumping iron. Thus, let's go to camp and talk meat and potatoes.

BBHS was well-structured from day one beginning with some basic skating and balance drills, to fundamentals of shooting and passing, then incorporating easy breakouts, cycles, and line rushes. There was a clear and natural progression of learning layers so that by Sunday's final game, everything came together without too much overthinking.

The camp gave me a chance to try being a defensemen. If you've thought about moving up to forward or dropping back to D here's your chance to test those waters. Turns out I'm not that bad on the left point. Playing the blue lines means knowing how to read and react, when to pinch and when to cover. BBHS reinforced my education on those techniques. Best of all because BBHS only enrolls 20 or so participants while there are six or more coaches, I was able to go to Adam Barba, Andrew Peterson, or Weston Nash and ask, "What could I have done better on that play?" From them I got clear, concise answers that left me feeling positive about my game and not frustrated or upset about the mistakes. Having approachable, game-experienced coaches is a huge value-add to BBHS.

Simon LeBleu was awesome about teaching faceoff techniques and body positioning. My backhand draws have always been pretty good (thanks to watching Jarret Stoll for years) but my tie-ups and stick lifts were subpar. Simon helped change that with a slowed-down step-by-step approach and instruction.

If you have never watched Mickey Lang in Ice Raiders games weave through the offensive zone making defenders look like traffic cones, then where have you been?! Having his talents and instruction there to correct all the bad things I do with my feet will be a huge benefit for my skating future.

Stretching with Bobby Baum and easy body care with the foam roller is another aspect of camp that deserves high praise. Real talk - this camp was a butt-kicker so an hour of stretching and massaging on Friday and Saturday really helped loosen up the overworked quads and hammies. Shame on me though for not following Ryan Drizen's advice in Part 3 about physically preparing for the weekend to the level I should have. By Sunday I was feeling the burn pretty hard and that impacted my effort in the final game. Don't be like me - get your strength and conditioning up to par before BBHS.

Lastly, my favorite part of the camp was the camaraderie of the entire group. When you get a group of coaches that have been playing together for years like these Ice Raiders guys, you'll witness how easily they flow together in rushes and regroups yet more so how much fun ice hockey can be. This camp had 17 players ranging from 18 to 50+ years old with beginners to near A-level skill. Every single person contributed to the betterment of the group without hostility, showboating, or unnecessary aggression. Of course there was competitive contact during the scrimmages and each physical play was always followed with, "You good? Yeah, clean play," then stick taps on the pads.

The day Reno Ice has a second sheet of ice can't come soon enough so that I can re-enlist in adult league games. While I don't see myself on a regular team anytime soon, having attended BBHS will make me a better play-by-play announcer for the Ice Raiders and a better referee once I earn my badge and whistle this summer. Both roles will benefit from knowing and understanding player positioning, anticipating plays, and deeply respecting the level of skill and effort being put forth by all that play. Announcing and refereeing come with equal parts of educating the game to others, and BBHS has taught me new ways to educate others.

Getting ready for my referee seminar and the upcoming Ice Raiders' season, I found this line in the Preface of the USA Hockey Rule Book: "To play the game is great, to love the game is greater." You'll love hockey even more like me after Battle Born Hockey School.

In Part 6, Phillip will talk with four other BBHS participants about their experience and takeaways.

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