In a sense, Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley returned to his coaching roots with the annual hockey camp he hosts for children at the York City Ice Arena.
Hartley got his start coaching players — ones not much older than the youth at the camp — with a Junior A team in his native Ontario before working his way to the NHL.
This year marks the 18th year Hartley, also a former Hershey Bears head coach, has held the high-intensity camp that bears his name. It's the 11th year that York City has hosted it.
Hartley previously held the camp in Hershey. A group of local hockey dads talked him into checking out the then new York City Ice Arena, which boasts two rinks for training and a community room where campers sleep.
"It's an unbelievable setup to do a sleepover camp," the Stanley Cup winning coach said.
The camp: A combined 460 skaters and goalies are attending the camp, split into two separate weeklong sessions. That includes about 120 Canadians and a few players from Switzerland, where Hartley also coached.
Aiding Hartley in teaching the campers are a couple of his Flames players as well as some former NHL players and current coaches in various leagues.
Matt Walter, 15, of Alexandria, Va., said this is the fourth year he's been to the camp. For him, it's become a tradition.
First timers Carter Smith, 17, of Corning, N.Y., and Logan Baker, 16, of Elmira, N.Y., said they were down to prepare for the high school hockey season.
"It's very intense," Smith said of the daily regimen of on- and off-ice training.
Skate hard: Inside the York City Ice Arena, the sound of a stick smacking a puck echoed throughout the rink. With a quick burst of speed, the puck-receiving skater darted up the ice, lowered his shoulder and sneaked past a defenseman.
In a flash, he fired the puck, which bounced off a goalpost with a loud clang.
As the skater got back in line to do the drill again, another player gave him some playful ribbing about his missed shot.
But the players aren't the only ones who have fun at the camp.
"If I don't have fun, I don't think the kids are having fun," Hartley said.
The banner: For Hartley, the trek to York from Canada is a homecoming of sorts.
Like most times he's in the area, Hartley said, he recently drove over to his old stomping grounds in Hershey to have a look at the banner commemorating the AHL championship Calder Cup he guided the Bears to in 1997.
"I come back because I enjoy the entire community," he said. "I love it. I always love coming back."
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.