Capitals Players Coach a Hockey Clinic: One Mother’s Experience

Brooks Laich with Josh

Joshua poses with Brooks Laich (Photo credit: Cheryl Nichols of Caps News Network)

Editor’s note: After two friends won an auction at Caps Care Casino Night, RMNB reader Julie Roemele was presented with the opportunity of a life-time: to learn hockey from some of her favorite NHL pros. This past Sunday, Kettler Capitals Iceplex hosted a Capitals hockey clinic featuring workshops from Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks, Semyon Varlamov, Mike Green and Assistant Coach Bob Woods. Below, Julie describes her and her son Joshua’s experience.

Julie's all smiles as she skates at on the fresh sheet of ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. (Photo credit: Cheryl Nichols)

Julie's all smiles as she skates at on the fresh sheet of ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. (Photo credit: Cheryl Nichols)

When someone gives you the chance to learn from the best, you don’t pass it up. So when my friends Mark and John called to invite me to a hockey clinic with the Capitals that they’d won at the Caps Care Casino Night, I couldn’t feign disinterest because I was a little afraid I’d be unsteady on the ice. Admittedly I’m more hockey mom than hockey player, even though I’ve been taking lessons for a year now.

Once at Kettler, the participants (there were about 20 of us) were split into five groups of four to work at five different drill stations. First up, defense with Caps Assistant Coach, Bob Woods. He’d pass each of us the puck and instruct us to circle as if trying to lose an opposing player. He would then dump a puck into the end boards while we skated after. To be honest, I suck at this and I was glad when the ten minutes were up, but it’s a skill I need to improve if I’m going to be a better player. I’ll definitely keep practicing it.

Then it was on to a lesson on screening the goalie with Brooks Laich. The ideal screening position looks a lot like a tripod, with your ass (his words, not mine) right in front of the goalie and your stick acting as a third leg, keeping you steady against any nefarious defensemen bent on checking you from behind. From there, we took turns alternating tipping in and batting down the shots Brooks took on net.

A soft-spoken Semyon Varlamov teaches the group how to properly stop shots. (Photo credit: Lisa Gasparott)

A soft-spoken Semyon Varlamov teaches the group how to properly stop shots. (Photo credit: Lisa Gasparott)

Next, Semyon Varlamov taught us how to take shots on the goalie. I know what you’re thinking, “Varly speaks English?” Yes, very well. He was soft-spoken and polite, introducing himself to everyone and spending extra time going over technique with the goalie in our group. I was the last to shoot and Varly even lined my five pucks up. At the end of the session, I said, “Spasiba” [Thank you] to which Varly responded, “You’re welcome.” I couldn’t stop myself from giggling a little because he was so unexpectedly sweet.

After Varly, I was running late to Matt Hendricks’ mini clinic and got subsequently called out for it.

“Hi, I’m Matt,” Hendricks said.

“Yeah, I know” I responded, jokingly sarcastic. Hendricks just laughed and smiled before starting in on the lesson. He had us working in the corners on both offense and defense. This involved taking turns either guarding the puck with our stick, trying to create a turnover or positioning ourselves between the offense and the goalie. While the drill was fun and physical, I have a better appreciation of how exhausting board battles can be.

Mike Green smiles as Julie takes the puck out of the corner. (Photo credit: Lisa Gasparott)

Mike Green smiles as Julie takes the puck out of the corner. (Photo credit: Lisa Gasparott)

Finally, Mike Green worked with us on passing and shooting. My passes are rarely tape-to-tape. I think there might be a hole in my blade, so when Green was able to pass to me, I was amazed. Not everyone can say they took a pass from Mike Green. More than just the pointers from Greenie, the slower pace of these drills gave me a chance to actually chat with the blue-liner, mostly about how tired Hendy’s session had left us.

When the clinic was over, everyone got the chance to participate in a shootout. I opted out; I wanted to get my son and show Green the sign he’d had made him a year earlier (with Emily Karol’s help). After group pictures and some autograph signing, the afternoon was done and we were left with an unforgettable experience.

Even though I learned some pointers from some of my favorite players, exchanged jokes with Matt Hendricks and heard the seemingly straight-laced Brooks Laich curse, the best part of the clinic was watching my seven year-old autistic son, also a hockey player with the NOVA Cool Cats, impress both Mike Green with his skillful Autobot impression and Hendricks with his knowledge of Minnesota. I got more from that than I did anything I learned on the ice that day.

Bonus Photos via Cheryl Nichols. Click to englarge!

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Editing by Meredith Jones. Additional reporting by Ian Oland.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian

    So the story behind the Autobots poster… Julie told me that Josh was really into Transformers. When he would watch Caps games, he would keep referring to the Caps as Autobots and every other team Decepticons. Awww. Mike Green is his favorite player so Julie and Emily decided to mix Josh’s love and make it into a sign.

    I’m so glad we got to tell this story. Thanks for all the help putting it all together Meredith, Cheryl and Lisa!!

  • http://twitter.com/chris_gordon Chris Gordon

    I second what Mr. Oland said!

  • http://camarowrx.blogspot.com Karen

    I can’t tell you how awesome this experience was. Julie was kind enough to recommend to those in “charge” of the event that I be invited to. Last Sunday, I woke up at 4AM, and I am NOT a morning person, but this was essentially like a Christmas morning. :)

  • Maureen Kentoff

    God I love hockey… and this story. Thanks for posting – made my day.

  • Em

    Love love love this! That Joshua is the cutest little boy I’ve ever seen. What a great story!!

    Additionally, IMO, while Mike Green *is* a shade of awesome, he’s nowhere NEAR Optimus Prime. Not even close. Autobots, roll out.

  • http://RockTheRed.net Krafty

    Holy wow, this is awesome. Thanks to all involved for sharing the experience!

    Related note, where can I nab one of these sweaters?

  • Chris

    @Krafty – The sweaters were custom made for the event. The two guys who put this together got them done, sponsored by Union Jack pub. They are every bit as awesome as they look.

    - Chris (one of the lucky participants)

  • Dominic k

    Everyone should read this, hockey fan or not. This was amazing. Thank you- Dominic.

  • Mary K

    These kinds of stories are one of the many things that make RMNB so great!

  • Laura

    How awesome! Sounds like they picked the perfect guys to take part in this clinic. Sounds like the participants enjoyed themselves! Like Krafty, I too would LOVE to get my hands on one of those jerseys. Actually, just Woods’. Any idea on whether they’ll be going up for auction?

  • Julie

    I want to give a shout out to Joshua’s hockey team, the NOVA Cool Cats: http://www.novacoolcats.org/ool Cats and American Special Hockey, http://www.americanspecialhockey.org/.

  • Dave

    The autobot sign is the most adorable thing i’ve ever seen. Hockey players are the best people in sports, its great that the Caps do so many things like this.

  • 28ISGREAT

    What a great story! I second the previous posters remarks on those jerseys – they are something awesome! I would definitely buy one.

    Please keep us posted if they ever become available, or if any should happen to go up for auction. Even better if my money went to a special cause!

  • Greg

    Sports are continually a great source for feel good stories. This one is certainly no exception. The Autobot poster is adorable.

  • Evan

    jealous. jealous. jealous.

  • Julie

    I will add that while I love Joshua’s pictures with Brooks and Greenie. My favorite is his with Hendy!

  • Brendan

    To all that want to know where they can get their hands on one, there is a charity that snagged one off the back of Laich that is currently up for auction here: http://www.wix.com/hwgfoundation/web#!auctions/photoalbomscroll1=3

    Thanks to my 2 friends for inviting us lucky SOB’s to partake in this event.

  • Laura

    @Brendan: Thanks for the link. :) Much appreciated. Familiar with the charity? I’ve never heard of it.