By John Robert
Last month Trenton’s new Downriver Hockey Academy held an open house, inviting players and parents to experience a taste of the school, and decide if they would want to participate in one of the sessions.
The rink was busy, as Kirk Gurney, the founder, had filled every registration spot available. Those who were able to come were all busy with some task, whether it was stick-handling drills, strength and conditioning, on-ice work, or trying the skating treadmill. The small groups that the skaters were sorted into allowed for more personal training.
Gurney is very direct when he says that the school “is not a babysitter. Kids are expected to be prepared to work hard.” By teaching and enforcing this discipline, he hopes to make the lessons lasting and even more valuable.
By the day’s end, both parents and the trainers walked away with a positive impression. Mike Potter, one of the parents in attendance, said his kid “enjoyed it,” and thought “it should be a good thing, they seem to have it together.” The Trenton Hockey Association agreed, as president Jim Bazner informed said the organization always supports any effort to improve local youth hockey, with these types of schools being no exception.
The Academy was created by Gurney, a local entrepreneur who has played hockey himself for 38 years. He has two kids in the game as well, one of which played for Trenton. “I found myself frustrated with driving 45 minutes to go to different programs,” he said, explaining why he decided to start his own hockey school.
Thanks to this frustration, the Kennedy Recreation Center now hosts another hockey school, making it a destination for youth players who want to improve their game. Gurney is happy to host it there: “That is where my heart is.”
The Downriver Hockey Academy is intended to be a well-rounded school, and so each two-week session (though players are invited to attend more than one if they wish) includes six hours on the ice with Eurotech trainer and founder Maxim Starchenko, a professional Russian league player whose “unique and unorthodox methods of training have been recognized by many.”
Another four hours are spent on strength and conditioning with BodySpecs president Edwin “Skip” Bunton, who was voted one of the “Top 100 Trainers in America” by Men’s Journal for two consecutive years. Gurney is proud of the “good, quality, professionals” he has been able to bring on board, and their credentials vouch for them.
However, probably the most unique training the school will offer is time on the skating treadmill, a machine with polyethylene slats which can be skated on. The treadmill’s increased friction allows for changes in stride to be made on the fly, as the skaters face themselves in a full length mirror. By all accounts, this is certainly the only machine of its type Downriver, and may be the only one within a 45-minute drive.
The Academy begins June 18, and has already taken quite a few registrations. For more information, parents can go to www.downriverhockey.com, or contact Gurney at email@example.com.