Hockey camp bringing in big names

David L'Heureux
Special to the DailyJohn Harrington, a member of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team and current head coach at St. John's University (Minn.), will be one of the instructors on hand for the Red Wings Alumni summer camp next weeke in Eagle.

Anyone who knows hockey remembers the 1980 Olympics “Miracle on Ice” game. Local hockey fans will have the chance to meet someone that helped make the miracle a reality.John Harrington, who played right wing on the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, is one of the featured coaches at this year’s Detroit Red Wing Alumni Hockey Camp. Joining him are current Red Wings assistant coach Barry Smith, and goalie coach Jim Bedard.The camp runs from Aug. 8-13 at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. Instruction is available for all ages, including adults. In addition to the on-ice time, an off-ice portion of the program, run by Howard Head Sports’ Medicine, will focus on fitness and stretching.The week culminates with intra-division scrimmages on Friday, and a coaches clinic, led by Harrington and Smith on the 13th. A golf outing and barbecue are also slated for Saturday to meet the Red Wing Alumni.The camp is a great way to beat the summer heat. When they aren’t on the ice with top-flight instructors, participants can lounge by the pool as part of the camp fee. “You just can’t get this kind of coaching anywhere around here. And definitely not at this price,” said Andy Clark, a board member of the Eagle Valley Skating Association. “It is also a lot of fun for the players, the coaches and the parents.”

It’s even more of a value for Eagle County hockey coaches. Clinic organizers are waiving the fee for all coaches in the county.”It’s a commitment to the kids,” said Clark. “Your players are only as good as the coaches.”The camp and clinic serve as fundraisers for EVSA and the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, who split the proceeds.Member of the ‘Miracle’ team

One of the most exciting editions to the staff for the camp this year is Harrington. The gold medalist, from the 1980 Olympics, brings a lot more to the camp than good stories about his playing days – although there are plenty of those. He has 22 years of coaching experience under his belt since then.After playing on the 1984 Olympic Team, Harrington began coaching at the University of Denver, where he worked until 1990. He then relocated to St. Cloud, Minn., where he has coached the St. John’s University Johnnies for the last 12 years.Harrington said he is always excited to return to Colorado. It has good memories for him. This is the state where he made the Olympic team for the first time. While trying out for the team in Colorado Springs in 1979, he met his wife, Mary. He hopes his expertise will help some of the younger players.”With the younger kids, you focus on skills, and try to keep it fun,” said Harrington. “The more fun they have the more they will learn.”As kids get older, the focus switches more to putting those skills into a game context, said Harrington. His approach with the coaches is a little different.

“I always start off by telling them that there isn’t much left to invent when it comes to coaching,” said Harrington. “They have to combine ideas that are already there and make them their own. Try new things and mix it up to be successful.”Stories from Harrington’s playing days are fair game for questions. But he has a more important message he likes to talk about with players and coaches. “The thing I always share is that I wasn’t a superstar. But I enjoyed the game, and I was always trying to get better at it,” said Harrington. “I improved more between age 19 and 20, than at any other time. I tell people not to get discouraged.”Red Wing contingentSharing the spotlight with Harrington are Red Wings’ assistants Smith and Bedard. Bedard, who coached NHL-legend Dominik Hasek, was here last year. He will again work with local goalies.

This is Smith’s first year as an instructor at the camp. He works primarily with defenders on the Red Wings, but his hockey expertise extends far beyond the defensive zone. Smith has five Stanley Cup titles on his resume – three with Detroit and two with Pittsburgh – to go along with his numerous successes in the college and international coaching ranks.”Barry is a guy who understands about realistic aspirations for local hockey kids,” said Clark. “He has coached at every level, and can give them an idea of where they might fit in at the next level.”The Red Wing Alumni Camp gives players of all ages the chance to get hands-on coaching from the best. “With a lot of camps, there is a big-name headliner, but the actual instruction is done by someone else,” said Clark. “We have ex-pros, a gold medalist, and professional assistant coaches doing all the teaching.”It’s not just the participants that love this camp.”The coaches come out and work an eight-hour day, but it’s a vacation for them,” said Clark. “Over the course of the year, the alumni jockey to see who gets to come out to Eagle.”For information about the camp, log on to, or call (970)-328-5277.Vail, Colorado

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