So, your son got an invite to junior hockey camp

A parents' guide to attending junior hockey camp. Photo: Leafschick1967

KENNEWICK, August 23, 2013 — So you are the parents of an American hockey player and you have just received an invitation for your son to participate in a Western Hockey League (WHL) club’s rookie or main training camp. You have questions, concerns and not much information to help inform your decision. What to do?

Training camp can be an anxious time for players and their families. Parents want to be certain that they are doing what is best for their son, not just for their hockey, but life as well. Making a WHL club is tough to do and any player who does, ought to consider it a privilege. Conversely, not every 16 or 17-year old kid is ready to move to another city, state or even country and not all parents are prepared to let them go.


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With any luck, your son was identified in his bantam year by an area scout who introduced themself to you. You probably have a business card somewhere with the name of their club as well as email and phone contact information. You should get together with your spouse or partner and your son and prepare a list of questions you would like answered. Got it? Okay, give that scout a call.

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There is a good chance that you or your son have heard many things about the WHL, not all of them good. You may have heard that your son will be forced to sign a contract at 15 years old or that going to a WHL training camp will burn your son’s eligibility to play college hockey. The team is waiting for a reply and camp is getting closer. 

Many American hockey parents believe their son is the greatest hockey player who ever lived and that, this being the case, they only have to wait for a division one college athletic director to come knocking on the door, ready to roll out the scholarship red carpet for their son. It could happen. It would be amazing if it did. 

Unfortunately, for most players in WHL territory, (Minnesota to Texas and every state west from there), the hockey scholarship fairy makes precious few trips out west.

For elite players, the WHL is a viable option. If your son is still 15 turning 16, they are not eligible to play in the league. If they have been invited to a camp, you all should go and check it out as a family. You can stay for up to two days without risking any eligibility with the NCAA, longer if you pay your own way. Your son can take part in the practices and intra squad scrimmages. It will be a tremendous experience for them and they will have a blast. You can check out the town, the hockey arena and facilities. You can meet the general manager and head scout, if you have not already, the coaching staff and the team’s education coordinator.

If your son was drafted, the club wants him. If he has a good showing at camp, you might be asked about signing a contract. Make sure you know that, while there are benefits to this, you do not have to do it. Your son will remain on the team’s protected list while he goes home for his midget year. You should not feel rushed or pressured into anything unless you, as a family, are absolutely sold on the WHL as the path to take. 

If you attend camp, try to savor the experience. Remember that only a handful of players are invited so make the most of the opportunity. The team’s scouting staff will be around and they would love to answer as many questions as you can come up with. You are going to be making decisions that will permanently affect your son’s life and future in hockey. It is important and the club’s staff understands that. Have fun, get educated and enjoy the moment. 

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.


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Russ Rankin

Raised in the decidedly non-traditional hockey region of Santa Cruz, California, Russ Rankin fell in love with the game as a kid while watching the "Miracle On Ice" 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. He began playing recreationally as an adult when the Sharks joined the NHL in nearby San Jose and regularly attends Sharks home games. His favorite NHL team is the New Jersey Devils, which he has been following since the 1987-88 season. In 2007, with more and more U.S. born players (particularly from California) making an impact in the WHL, Rankin pursued his passion and knowledge of the game into a job scouting California for WHL clubs. He can be seen at rinks all over the state searching for the next great crop of players.

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