Story and photo courtesy of Daniel Katz of the Crag and Canyon – sunmedia.ca

Attendees of the Canmore summer hockey school were treated to some star power last week as Patrick Marleau, forward for the San Jose Sharks, and Sam Brittain, a Florida Panthers goaltending prospect, were guest instructors.

Brittain, a former Eagle (2009-10) who was drafted by Florida in 2010, had a hectic 2014-15 professional campaign. He split last season between the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones and the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, and was called up to the NHL to backstop Florida starting goaltender Roberto Luongo, for six games, but did not see any ice time.

Returning to Canmore for the first time to teach at the school, Brittain says it’s rewarding to give back to the kids.

“It’s a matter of making sure they have fun but they also learn lots,” he said. “It’s fun to be able to interact with the kids and show them a good time.

Brittain remembers fondly the time he spent playing for the Eagles: “I loved living here, it’s a great town. I love the people I love the coaches, it was a great time for me. I learned a lot, played a lot of hockey games here and it was just a really important part of my career and where I am now because of the time I spent here.”

According to Brittain, watching Luongo play instilled in himself a stronger drive to succeed and reach the NHL level on a permanent basis.

“It was great being able to see him, how he practices every day and how hard he works and what he does is always a good reminder of what it takes and what I need to do to reach that level,” he said.”

Marleau, who played junior hockey with Eagles assistant coach/assistant GM Jeremy Reich and against Eagles head coach/ GM Andrew Milne, was returning to Canmore for a third year as an instructor. He said he enjoys imparting his knowledge on a younger generation of players.

“It’s always fun being able to help kids out,” said Marleau. “Being here for three years, every time you come back the kids a little bit bigger, a little bit taller and a bit more improved so it’s fun to come back and see the development in the kids.”

Teaching the proper techniques for various hockey skills, such as shooting and skating, and positive reinforcement, are some of the ways that Marleau is contributing to helping the school’s attendees.

“I know growing up, I went to hockey schools and I was always excited when NHL players were there and they were teaching you, you were on the ice with them, you’d get autographs, pictures, it’s something that I remember growing up so you try to hope you can do that for them,” he said.

In addition to Marleau and Brittain, WHLer Luke Philp and AHLer Kris Foucault have also lent their time to teach at the school. Milne says the quality of instructors at the camp help the players to develop as hockey progresses.

“The game’s evolved a little bit with skating such an emphasis now on the game, and we have Meghan Jones (coach, Canmore Skating Club) come in and do three mornings of powerskating, which obviously the kids at this age don’t really enjoy but it’s a necessary evil,” he said. “Hockey school is more about having fun for all age groups and all levels. Your elite skill development will come at your pace but we want the kids to have fun.”

Eagles’ training camp begins Aug. 27 with their first exhibition game Tuesday, Sept. 1 at the Canmore Recreation Centre against the Olds Grizzlys. The Eagles’ regular season begins Sept. 11.