A Camp Like No Other

A Camp Like No Other

By: Kosta Papoulias, Dskate Program Director 

When asked by Dskate Founder Steven Hindle to help run the Dskate Hockey camps this summer, my immediate thought was, “I’ve organized hockey camps before. This should be easy enough.”

Boy, was I wrong!

I coached hockey for the better part of 15 years, and in that time, I’ve run my share of hockey camps. I even ran my own high school program for five years, which is no small feat in itself. That said, the Dskate camps were a completely different animal.

Preparing for the camps was a job in of itself. There were a plethora of documents to prepare in advance of the camps, including the player’s schedules and the program booklet, along with the input I provided to our web developers in advance of our revamped website.

Again, the aforementioned tasks were nothing to game-day at the camps.

Starting in Milton, Ontario, I got a crash course on what it means to be a Dskate player. Over 80 children, ranging from 7-17 years of age, attended the camp. There were players with elite-level skills, and those with introductory skills. Camps with that disparity of skill never go well in my previous experiences, but I was in for a lesson in control and equality.

That started with the coaching staff, led by Michel Valliere, who was as professional as they come. This was their first crack at Dskate as well. I was astounded by the level of preparation the coaches had. From their on-ice equipment, to their pre-practice discussions, there wasn’t a moment that went by that anyone didn’t know what was going on.

As the younger group hit the ice, they were immediately impressed, as were their parents, with the gauntlet of skill stations and obstacles that awaited them. Coach Valliere went through each station once, explaining what was required, and getting the coach on staff best suited for each station to demonstrate it.

While that was aw inspiring, the players impressed me even more. They understood every explanation and appreciated every demonstration. They went through each station in groups of eight, improving their performance with every repetition. And all the while, they were equally aware of their blood sugar level, leaving the ice when a blood test and quick snack was required.

Hockey is what I know and love, so it was easy to appreciate the commitment by everyone involved. What floored me were the off-ice activities, which, as the camp went on I realized, were the most important part of the camps.

There were daily sessions for players, with different activities related to diabetes and overall fitness levels. Along with those, there were two days of parental information sessions that ranged in discussions of new technologies to the psychological effect of being the parent of child with Type 1 Diabetes.

Most importantly, there wasn’t a single parent that didn’t attend a breakout session. Better yet, they all came out with smiles, discussing what they had just learned amongst each other.

But what makes the camps work…what makes them so special is the staff. The Dskate, Medtronic and I Challenge Diabetes staffs worked together like a well-oiled machine. They discussed every situation that showed its ugly head, and dealt with each one with a professionalism and rapidity rarely seen in a camp of this magnitude.

And the Montreal Camp was not different. What made it that much better was the staff at the Bell Sports Complex, who took care of our every need, the media coverage provided to the camps by CBC and TVA, as well as support provided by the Montreal Canadiens.


CBC - Dskate Montreal Report

Our good friend, Andie Bennett of CBC, came by the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard to see what Dskate was all about. Alex Leduc filed this report. Thanks for showing Montreal how Dskate is truly #Type1OfAKind #T1DHockey #CBC

Posted by Dskate Hockey on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

As the camps each wore down, the kids were happy, having met former Senators’ forward Cory Conacher and Arizona Coyotes’ colour commentator and Stanley Cup champion Nick Boynton, both of whom are Type 1 diabetic. They got to spend the day with the Conn Smythe trophy, awarded to the NHL playoff MVP, before winner Duncan Keith even got to see it, And they got to take pictures in the Canadiens’ press room and with multiple players on the ice, which included Alexei Emelin, Nikita Scherbak and Zach Fucale.

I left the camps with sense of accomplishment. I was proud of having taken the time to involve myself in such a huge undertaking, in making some of the special things happen, and in making complete strangers extremely happy.

But they aren’t strangers anymore…none of them. If there is one thing I took away from Dskate was that once you become involved, no matter the capacity, you become part of a family. This family is unique in how they were brought together, but they all had the same end game.

They all learned, as Cory Conacher put it, that “diabetes isn’t a disease as much as it is a challenge.”