Hockey camp Richards' joy

DEREK JORY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

Credentials don't determine how good of an instructor a hockey player is, but they don't hurt either.

Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Richards can certainly boast on what he's accomplished -- he won a memorial cup with the Kitchener Rangers in 2003, he captained the 2005 Canadian National Junior Team to a gold medal win at the World Junior Championship, he helped the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms capture the Calder Cup Championship in 2004-05 and last year he was an NHL Eastern Conference all-star, leading the Flyers in points with 75.

Richards is only 23 yet he's demonstrated maturity far beyond his age for some time now, he's a natural-born leader with all kinds of skill and he spent this past week sharing everything he knows with ecstatic camp-goers.

The 2008 Mike Richards Hockey Camp wrapped up today after a week of action in Richards' hometown of Kenora. One hundred and fifteen aspiring hockey stars took part in the third annual event, with kids ranging in age from 5 to 12.

"It's a chance for me to give back to the community that has helped me out throughout my career and throughout my life," said Richards, in between ice times yesterday. "I lived here ever since I was born so to get the opportunity to coach here and to see some young kids develop is pretty exciting for me."

The camp, which is partnered with Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence and is run out of the Keewatin Arena, teaches kids not only the fundamentals of hockey, but also invaluable life skills. In addition to the two daily ice sessions, camp goers take part in classroom lessons that focus on drug awareness, how to be a good listener and being a team player.

For Richards, who will be entering his fourth season with the Flyers this fall, the camp is a priority each summer because he once took part in similar camps when he was young and he knows how beneficial they can be.

It has now come full circle for the Flyers' alternate captain and it's his turn to be the teacher.

"Growing up in Kenora, it's such a small town, there were always people helping out, whether it's volunteer coaches, people running outdoor rinks, so it's always nice to give back to people that helped you out.

"Their kids are going through my camp right now so I'm seeing a lot of my old coaches and it feels good to help them out like they helped me out."

Darlene MacGillivray, executive director of the Kenora and Lake of the Woods regional community foundation, has worked with Richards through the camp for the past three years and even though he's risen to NHL stardom, she said he's still very down to earth.

"The youth that were entering the camp on registration morning on Monday, they couldn't believe that this superstar, their own hometown hero Mike Richards, was handing out their water bottle, their cap and their jersey," said MacGillivray.

"And then to be able to have him on ice with them, to have that access to that type of individual is terrific for the kids."

What's even more impressive is that Richards is donating his time and working the camp free of charge, all the proceeds from the event are returned to the community foundation for an endowment fund.

Richards said that being back on the ice this week has him licking his chops to get back on the ice with the Flyers in early September for training camp.

He isn't in that much of a hurry to get there though, Richards has truly enjoyed the time he spent with the youngsters this week.

"I think they're having as much fun as I am doing it. You see the smiles on their faces so you know that they're having a good time. Over the last couple of years I've got a lot of good feedback from the parents so that's what it's all about. As long as the kids have fun doing it, it makes me happy to put it on."


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