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Professional hockey instruction comes to Morrisville State College
MORRISVILLE, N.Y.— A coach once told Graeme Townshend he would never make it to the National Hockey League (NHL).
They were tough words for the aspiring hockey player to hear, but ones that motivated him to prove the coach wrong.
Today the former NHL player and coach is setting out to instill in hockey youth that anything is possible. Through his international hockey school, Townshend Hockey Skating Systems LLC, he holds clinics and camps throughout the United States and Canada, helping hockey players of all ages and abilities improve their skills and fulfill their potential.
Recently, Townshend brought four camps to Morrisville State College’s IcePlex, including his first-ever Elite Super Boarding Camp.
The elite camp is the only program in North America that offers 30 hours of one-on-one instructor/student training with detailed video analysis of every skill broken down and corrected, according to Townshend.
“Graeme Townshend has an amazing instructor to student ratio, teaching skating techniques that are far superior to most camps I have seen,” said Robert Hameline, IcePlex director.
Townshend brought his camps to Morrisville State College this year because the campus provided a perfect fit for his hockey skill development program with its twin-rink IcePlex and boarding capabilities.
“It is rare to find a school with summer ice like Morrisville has,” he said. “The college enabled us to create a professional atmosphere with a medical trainer and everything you would expect to see at an NHL camp and everyone went out of their way to make it possible to run very successful camps.”
Townshend was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to Canada when he was three. He started playing hockey at age five and had his sights on becoming a professional hockey player by the time he was a teen.
His dream dimmed when he was cut from the first team he played for as a kid because his skating wasn’t good enough.
But Townshend wouldn’t give up. He charged himself to improve his skills, determined to make his mark on the ice. He followed drills and tips in a book written by Bobby Orr, one of the greatest hockey players of all time, and worked daily to become a better player.
“I’d be the only kid on the pond or at a rink late at night,” said Townshend who was punished numerous times for missing his mother’s 10 p.m. curfew.
Hard work and determination were on his side and his skating improved. A skating camp in Boston also helped him boost his savvy on the ice.
“I firmly believe that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” Townshend said. “I try to convince my students that nothing is impossible.”
His career echoes that sentiment.
Townshend eventually made it big in the hockey world, playing and coaching at every level. He played for the NHL’s Boston Bruins, N.Y. Islanders and Ottawa Senators. In total, he played 686 professional games, scoring 227 goals and 208 assists for 435 points in the NHL, American Hockey League (AHL), International Hockey League (IHL) and Western Professional Hockey league (WPHL).
Upon retiring from competitive play, he went on to coach professionally for universities as well as the NHL with the San Jose Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also owned and operated the nationally acclaimed GTP Hockey Schools. Many of his students went on to play NCAA Hockey.
Townshend has trained more than 100 players currently playing in the NHL, including Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Luke Shenn of the Philadelphia Flyers. In August 2006, he was inducted into the Canadian Black Hockey Hall of Fame, joining Anson Carter, Herb Carnegie and Willie O’Ree.
Townshend brings a broad range of experience into his camps and clinics.
He and his team of 10 on-ice instructors, including his stepson, Seth, determine the skills students from youth or other hockey leagues are lacking and try to fill in the gaps and give them those skills.
On the ice he follows the motto “practice until you get it right, and then practice until you can’t get it wrong.”
Townshend’s camps include two hours of hockey skating skills daily, in addition to two hours of tactical skills (scoring camp, defenseman camp, checking camp or transitional camp). Training also includes physical drills off the ice, such as crab walks up hills.
“I want to show kids that you don’t need to work out in a fancy gym to acquire important skills,” he said.
Players who attended Townshend’s camps at Morrisville State College ranged in age from 7 to 18 and hailed from all over the country, Canada, and even Norway.
Cameron Rasco traveled from Miami, Florida, to attend three of Townshend’s camps at Morrisville State College.
“Since we don’t have ice time in Miami, I have to go out of state to camps like this,” Rasco said. “I came to become a better player and to learn different techniques.”
Those who rise to the top in Townshend’s camps are the players filled with determination who set solid goals.
“My ideal student is a kid who will try no matter how difficult the task is and who won’t quit,” Townshend said. “You can teach that kind of kid anything.”
Townshend’s future plans are to expand his business with more camps year-round. He measures his success as a coach by the success of his students and how they improve while they are with him.
“It is amazing for me to see these kids improve and achieve their goals.”
Townshend’s infinite love for hockey and his students are the staples that have kept him in the game he’s idolized for so long.
“Professional athletes can be influential in the lives of athletes,” Townshend said. “If sharing my time with a kid is going to enhance his or her life—I feel this is my gift.”
For more information about Townshend visit www.townshendhockey.com or call 207-284-6556 or 978-360-4244.
Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2012 President’s Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit www.morrisville.edu to experience, Morrisville in motion.