Bantam/U16 boys hockey camp eye-opening, life-changing
Representatives of Liberty University's Division I, II, and III men's hockey teams hosted a second session of Summer Hockey Camps, for Bantam/U16 players, Sunday through Tuesday at the LaHaye Ice Center.
"Helping out at the camps with kids is always a great time, just to give your skills back and kind of teach the kids," said Flames rising senior goalie Hunter Virostek, who served as a camp counselor as well as offering on-ice instruction. "With that age group, I can relate to them being 12 and 14 years old because that was the first time I started playing goalie."
He said the environment Liberty offers its visiting campers — many who may be prospective Flames someday — to experience firsthand is a thrilling one.
"Coming to this camp is always just a stunning sight, seeing the facilities and the buildings, especially the overnight camps, being able to get the experience in the dorms and to see the beautiful architecture this campus provides," Virostek said. "Also, the hockey facilities, the hockey rink is just a gorgeous place to play a sport, great ice, great stands, just an all-around (wonderful) experience for the kids."
Club Sports Senior Associate Athletic Director Jeff Boettger said the LaHaye Ice Center is the draw, but the spiritual growth campers skate away with is what keeps them coming back.
"Liberty has world-class facilities, obviously," he said. "If you take a tour on campus, you see whether it's football, the academics, our hockey facility, whatever it is, we're doing it at a high-end, high-level type of operation. So it's fun to show that, it's fun to have them on campus, that's a big part of why they're here."
|Flames DI Assistant Coach Jonathan Chung exhorts his team before Tuesday's session-ending shootout.|
"But for me, it's also about seeing them impacted from a spiritual perspective," he added. "We're whole people, so body, mind, and spirit, and that's huge in how we approach our hockey camps, compared to maybe some others, and serve the community that way."
Rising sophomore forward Kris Bladen, one of the Flames designated spiritual leaders for the 2021-22 season, was able to encourage a couple of the campers who accepted the Lord as their personal Savior over the weekend.
"I actually worked with the U16s this week, so they all know how to play hockey," Bladen said. "It was really cool to get to know them, to get to talk with them about the Lord, because not all of them are believers, (and) to kind of mentor them — to see them play hockey, the sport they love, and also to kind of worship God they love in chapel sessions."
He said those life-changing encounters are what makes the camp worthwhile, beyond the on-ice spirit of competition.
"Not every camp has a Christian aspect to it, but here it's really special," Bladen said. "God has His hand over this whole campus and everyone that walks on this campus here. It was cool for me to see some non-believers commit their lives to Him this weekend, to see them grow in their faith. I feel super blessed God allowed me this opportunity to get to know them and … we can keep seeing them come back next year for the camps and grow more in their faith."
The summer hockey school will take a break for Independence Day weekend before hosting the Liberty Hockey ID Camp for U18 boys and Junior players from July 11-13 followed by the Girls Camp for Mites, Squirts, Pee Wees, Bantam, and U16 and U18 players from July 18-20 back at the LIC.