By Woodard, Dale on August 10, 2018.
Lethbridge Herald – taber
A group of young hockey players raced up and down the ice Thursday afternoon at the Taber Arena, taking part in a scrimmage at the Ver-Set Skills Camp and proudly brandishing their camp jerseys.
But on those green and gold sweaters were two numbers and initials close to everyone’s heart.
This year, the Ver-Set Skills Camp – owned and operated by Lethbridge’s Kris Versteeg, Taber’s Devin Setoguchi and Rich Wiest – is paying tribute to Lethbridge’s Logan Boulet, one of 16 people killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash April 6, and former University of Lethbridge Pronghorns captain Brock Hirsche, who lost his battle to cancer two days later.
As the players took the ice this week at the camp that started Sunday and will wrap up Saturday, they do so in the colours honouring the Broncos with Boulet’s number 27 and Hirsche’s number 10 on each side of the logo, complete with each player’s initials.
“The jerseys look great and they did a great job on them to honour two players in Lethbridge that meant a lot to the hockey community in the city and I’m sure more than just hockey as well,” said Versteeg, who played with the Calgary Flames last season and is now an unrestricted free agent. “It’s good that people in so many ways are trying to help out in the way anyone can and keep the memories alive. I’m hoping that never stops.”
Special guest instructor and Taber product Brandon Davidson noted the importance of honouring the hockey family.
“The people that were lost in Humboldt along with Brock, those losses cut deep and for us to honour that is special to us,” said Davidson, who played with the Monteal Canadiens and Edmonton Oiler last season before winding up the with the New York Islanders. “We knew those guys as a member of our community and our hockey family. It’s such a close knit family in the hockey community. We are still together here and we’re going to honour them in anyway we can and it means the world to us that we get the chance to do that in their memory.”
Nine years into the camp’s operation after taking it over from the Sutter family, the Ver-Set Skills Camp remains just as hot a stop among summer conditioning camps as the weather outside Thursday afternoon with all spots filled up in March.
“It’s been great. Ever since we’ve taken over the school from the Sutters it’s been nothing but great to be a part of, to see the kids come out year after year,” said Versteeg. “I’m sure playing in Calgary did a lot with the popularity and why it sells out so soon. Usually it would be sometime in June or something, but right now we have a lot of kids on waiting lists. We contemplated doing two weeks, but it’s just so hectic. It’s too bad that you can’t get to everybody and help out everyone, but I’m just happy that all these kids can come out.”
Davidson’s past NHL season took him pretty much coast-to-coast, but for the past week the 26-year-old Taber boy was able to come home.
“It’s one of those weeks we really look forward to,” said Davidson, who like Versteeg is also an unrestricted free agent. “We get a lot of kids that return every year and I think the general consensus we’ve had over the past little while is we create this good atmosphere for these kids to come in and also develop and grow their hockey skills, but also their social skills. It’s all about being a kid and having fun and making sure it’s a good environment to be around. So far so good. I know we have one more day and then we get the hockey games on Saturday. The kids are a little tuckered out today, but they’re doing well. I think from the staff everybody is been very happy with how everything is gone, the parents as well. The parents come from a long distance and they bring their kids and we want to make sure it’s worth it for the kids and the parents.”
Since shifting the camp from Coaldale to Taber, the week-long camp has thrived and reached other parts of southern Alberta outside of Lethbridge, Coaldale and Taber.
The week-long camp caters to players aged five to 13 as well as bantam, midget, major junior and pro players and includes over 12.5 hours of on-ice instruction, individual and group instruction, daily powerskating, dryland activities and games and supervised swimming.
The wind-up games will take place Saturday to wrap up the camp.
“We have kids from all over, from Medicine Hat and Brooks being the majority and in Taber as well,” said Versteeg. “We actually have a ton from Calgary as well from all those areas, which is nice. After coming to Taber we were a little bit worried if we were going to have the same numbers, but people seem to still sign up and still want to come over the nine years and it’s great to see. As long as people still want to keep doing it, we’ll keep doing it for them.”
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