It’s nearly that time once again, as schools are nearly out for summer, families plan summer vacations, grass is cut and ice returns to the Langlade County Multi-Purpose Building.
The annual Joe Piskula Hockey Camp is June 16-21 in Antigo. Registration remains open for one of the best and most affordable weeks of instruction in the state.
Piskula, the former National Hockey League defenseman, Wisconsin Badger, Antigo Red Robin and current professional player in Finland has held the camp in his hometown for a number of seasons, working with kids from the 8U mite age, right up through high school.
“It’s always a week that I really look forward to in the summer,” Piskula said. “Getting to come back to my home town, spend time with these kids that I have got to know over the years and watch them grow, some started at the mite level and I’ve watched them through graduation, it’s pretty special.”
In all, Piskula now touts 12 years of professional experience, including time with the Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and eight seasons in the American Hockey League, the top minor league affiliate of the NHL.
Piskula also played on the Badgers’ 2006 NCAA title team, a season in Sweden and for several junior hockey teams over the course of his career.
He will certainly not be alone at camp, bringing a strong stable of experienced coaches, many with pro playing experience of their own.
“I enjoy spending time with the coaches also,” Piskula said. “Long time friends, teammates, help make it a great week and bring with them a lot of hockey knowledge.”
Andy Brandt, associate head coach for powerhouse St. Norbert College, who captured the NCAA Division III national championship once again this past season will be on hand. Like Piskula, Brandt is a Wisconsin Badger alumni. He brings six years of pro playing experience to the table in both the AHL and ECHL.
Another Badger alum, Josh Engel, the head coach of Rice Lake High School will add his expertise. Engel, also an assistant coach with 18U Team Wisconsin, played four years in the AHL.
The presence of Brandt and Engel, with current collegiate and Team Wisconsin ties offers campers who have hopes of playing at the next level, a chance for exposure.
“It’s a great opportunity for not only Antigo, but out-of-town players to get in front of these coaches,” Piskula noted. “They have some pretty good ties to higher level hockey, including collegiate and pro resources, both are well-connected.”
Mike Hanke, founder of the Hanke Hockey school and an alumni of Division III Saint John’s will also be on hand, Hanke is an Antigo High School graduate.
Gordy Defiel, a goaltender with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL will add to the mix this year. Deifel has been a pro for two seasons. The Stillwater, Minn. high school graduate also played his college hockey at NCAA Division I Lake Superior State.
A number of other former Red Robins, college and junior players will take part on various days.
Defiel will run a goalie mini camp the weekend of June 15-16, with camp check-in for skaters along with a cookout and open hockey set for June 16.
A 3x3 tournament for players in birth years 2006-2011 follows the event on the ensuing weekend of June 21-23.
On ice sessions at the camp will include daily power skating and/or overspeed interval skating, skill development, along with team concepts and small area games. Dryland work will consist of shooting drills, puck handling, strength, agility and quickness training, street hockey, instructional video, and goal setting.
“It’s a great camp for ice time, three hours each day,” Piskula added. “It’s a good facility for the kids for dryland also, most groups are there five to six hours, we wear them out pretty good before they go back to the moms and dads.”
With a number of campers coming from out-of-town also, Piskula is also hoping for any interested local families who may want to play host, to cut down on travel time.