Star instructors headline Gretzky School
Wayne Gretzky has had his name and likeness attached to all kinds of products over the years, from hamburgers to soft drinks to sneakers. All those opportunities came to him via the game of hockey, of course, and now The Great One has lent his appellation to a series of hockey camps across North America.
Gretzky Hockey School (GretzkyHockeySchool.com), co-founded by Gretzky’s son, Ty Gretzky, and friend Eric Kleineck, opened for business with a school in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, last July.
The pair has expanded the enterprise to five schools this summer in Simi Valley, St. Louis, Edmonton, Coeur d’Alene and Toronto.
Kleineck spoke with California Rubber recently about the idea behind the schools, what makes them unique, and what the future holds.
California Rubber: How did you get started with Gretzky Hockey School?
Eric Kleineck: Ty and I started working on it around May last year, and we held our first school by the end of July. The first school in Coeur d’Alene was a success, so we decided to expand to five cities for 2015. There was a lot of interest from people who couldn’t make it to Idaho, so we thought we’d add schools in a few different locations so more people could get the Gretzky Hockey School experience.
CR: What is your hockey background, and how did you and Ty connect?
EK: I’ve been fortunate to work for the Arizona Coyotes for the last nine years, previously on the ice crew and now in the locker room with the team, staff and players. I met Ty and the family when Wayne was coaching in Phoenix (from 2005-09). Since then, we’ve become close friends; Ty’s helped some with my other company, Sauce Hockey, and we’ve played adult hockey together for a few years.
CR: Who are the coaches at each of your camps?
EK: Each of our schools will be unique in terms of instructors and guest speakers. Last year in Coeur d’Alene, we had Keith Gretzky and Dean Malkoc, both ex-pros and current NHL scouts with the Boston Bruins, along with Mark Ciaccio, who’s the power skating and skills development coach for the New York Rangers. We try to make sure we have a 1-to-5 coach-to-player ratio at every school we run, so the kids get plenty of individual attention and are able to work on their skills.
Last year’s special guests included former NHL greats Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Doug Weight, Guy Carbonneau and Russ Courtnall, and current pros Tyler Johnson, Barrett Jackman, Brendan Morrow and Paul Bissonnette.
CR: How did you choose the five locations for your schools?
EK: We had a list that was much longer than five, but had to narrow it down for this year. Simi Valley made sense because the Gretzkys live in L.A., and it’s an up-and-coming hockey market with a lot of good players. St. Louis is a great hockey town, and Coeur d’Alene worked out well last year so we’re excited to go back. Edmonton was a no-brainer, and Toronto is a hockey hotbed.
CR: What can players expect when they attend a Gretzky Hockey School?
EK: First and foremost, we aim to offer world-class on- and off-ice instruction. We’re really focused on making sure the kids work hard and get better at the game. We want them to take some things that they learn from our school and implement them into their games moving forward. Our second priority is to make it a really fun and unique experience you can’t get anywhere else.
CR: What do you see as the future of Gretzky Hockey School?
EK: We have some growth ideas that we’ve been discussing and a vision of how we can help give back and grow the sport of hockey. We’ll probably look to add a couple locations in the future to give even more kids the opportunity to have the Gretzky Hockey School experience.