A premier hockey development camp has returned to Port Alberni for the summer.
West Coast Hockey Prep Camp kicked off at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on July 12. The four-week program takes place in Port Alberni each year and offers high performance hockey development and exposure camps for hundreds of young athletes.
Due to ever-evolving COVID-19 restrictions, West Coast Prep Camp will be keeping the same schedule as last summer. This means it will be a day camp with no overnight dorming. Out-of-town athletes will stay at local hotels and Airbnbs. However—unlike last year—the athletes will be able to play games.
“So many kids have been training all year and haven’t been able to play games,” said camp director Nate Leslie. “They’ve just been itching to get out there and play.”
The Alberni Valley Multiplex is also open to spectators, which wasn’t the case last summer.
Each group of athletes will spend four to five hours each day on the ice or working out at the Bob Dailey Stadium and Glenwood Centre. The camp hosts athletes from the age groups of U12 to U20. Week 1 was the Elite Female Camp, which had more than 200 girls participating. The fourth week will feature a sold-out referee development camp, coached by former NHL official Brad Lazarowich and current AHL referee Troy Paterson.
This year, for the first time, West Coast Prep Camp will also be holding a camp for ages 9-10.
“We’re starting with one week and we’ll see how it goes,” said Leslie.
This is the 13th year that West Coast Prep Camp has hosted the camp in Port Alberni. The team is currently in the middle of a five-year contract with the City of Port Alberni. The 2019 camp drew nearly 1,000 athletes to Port Alberni. Last year’s camp, due to COVID-19, only had 420 participants. This year, the number is more than 600.
The majority of players are from B.C., although there are a few out-of-province athletes attending. No one from outside of Canada is able to attend the camp this year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The development camp usually features a number of “celebrity” guest coaches, respresenting different hockey leagues and universities. Like the players themselves, all coaches this year are Canadian, said Leslie. Guest coaches this year include Andrew Shaw—the head coach of the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs—and Port Alberni’s Dom DiRocco, who is back after a year of coaching professional hockey in Sweden.
“We kind of built our team around people we were sure could be here,” said Leslie. “But we look forward to inviting more international players next year.”