Inaugural West Coast Elite Hockey camp turns many heads
When Brent Gough moved to the Phoenix area, he knew he was diving into an area that was ripe with interest in hockey but that still was underserved in many respects.
He felt that a summer hockey camp designed to provide young players exposure to top junior and college coaches was something local kids hadn’t had access to, and he was eager to fill that void.
Gough, the Arizona Bobcats’ 18U AAA coach, recently wrapped up his first Junior Exposure Camp through his company, West Coast Elite Hockey, and said it was extremely positive.
The camp, held June 25-28 at AZ Ice Gilbert, included approximately 100 players from the 1996-2002 birth years. Gough said it was designed for players to showcase their talents to some of the top programs in junior and college hockey, while also getting top-level coaching in a setting with a small player to coach ratio.
“To get 100 kids for our first year was a huge success,” Gough said. “We’re going to continue to grow, but I’m all about quality as opposed to quantity. I think the more intimate the camp is, the better experience it is for the players and their families. Based on the response that we got, I feel that we were able to deliver that.”
Many of the players came from the Bobcats program, but it also featured players from other Arizona programs, and some from California, Nevada, Canada and Europe. Perhaps the biggest selling point for motivated young players was the top-level coaching and opportunity to get exposure to those coaches.
The camp featured top coaches from many of the best college and junior programs in North America, thanks to relationships that Gough has developed throughout his decades in hockey as a player and coach. Coaches included: Greg Powers (Arizona State University – NCAA Division I), Ben Murphy (Bentley University – NCAA Division I), Bob Bartlett and Rob MacLachlan (Lethbridge Hurricanes – Western Hockey League), Rylan Ferster (West Kelowna Warriors – British Columbia Hockey League), Barry Wolff (Coquitlam Express – BCHL), Troy Mick (Salmon Arm Silverbacks – BCHL), Clayton Jardine (Kindersley Klippers – Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and New England College – NCAA Division III), Nigel Dube (Minot Minotauros – North American Hockey League), Brad Flynn and Pat Dunn (Corpus Christi Ice Rays – NAHL), Pat Cavanaugh (Hampton Roads Whalers – United States Premier Hockey League) and Misko Antisin (Steamboat Wranglers – Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League).
“I’ve built those relationships over the years,” Gough said. “I bring in quality guys, and they’re all friends. They came this year to help support me, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to be excited to come back in future years.”
Gough, a native of Alberta, Canada, came to Arizona last year and began working with the Bobcats and hockey director Ron Filion. He played college hockey for four years at Merrimack and then played professionally in the United Kingdom for five seasons before moving into coaching in the BCHL. He believes his varied experience – in juniors, college and the pros – puts him in a good position to be able to help kids get the most out of their hockey careers, and he’s excited to be able to do that through his camp.
He has another camp planned for August in British Columbia, and is already looking forward to holding his second camp in Arizona next June.
“I think the kids got great coaching, and the quality of the talent was great,” Gough said. “This was one of the biggest reasons I moved out here – to help get this type of exposure for kids in this area. Without Ron Filion’s backing, this never would have happened. He’s really influential here and without him, this camp would have been a struggle.”
– Greg Ball