Point of perspective - Lemieux scores points by teaching kids

December 09, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

For the Lemieux brothers, scoring is a matter of perspective.

To Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins, pumping pucks in the back of the net, winning points titles and becoming an icon in the National Hockey League has become his calling.

But to older brother Alain Lemieux, the only points that count come in the form of instruction to the youth learning to play the game.

While Mario continues his Hall of Fame career across two countries as the NHL's biggest star, Alain's world revolves around community rinks like the Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex, working with kids.


"I coached in the East Coast League and didn't like it," Lemieux said Friday near the end of his week of hockey clinics at the local ice rink. "I wasn't able to deal with the players on that level because they weren't focused. This is our first year of doing this, but when we finish, I will have worked with 4-5,000 kids."

Lemieux, who spent 20 years in professional hockey including parts of six seasons in the NHL, tries to make his points with the basics of a game that is just beginning to grow on the youth level throughout the United States. The main message is to put the best skate forward.

"At this age, you have to skate ... that's usually what I tell them," Lemieux said. "Once they are taught the wrong way, they usually can't get to the pucks. No matter where they play, they have to be able to skate."

Skating before shooting the puck in hockey is just like catching before throwing in baseball and blocking before learning to tackle in football. But it's probably one of the more tedious parts of the game to teach because it is one of those dreaded fundamentals.

Lemieux has a method to his approach.

"I go out and try to get a good tempo going and make sure that no one is stuck on the boards waiting. There is a lot of speed and fun for the kids. We do races and games and drills. They learn without really knowing it and it's fun. One day they will understand it all. The coaches have learned some drills they can use too."

Lemieux worked with around 140 players here in Hagerstown and will return in about a month to give additional lessons to the group.

The camps not only kept the older of the Lemieux brothers involved with hockey, it is making him the sports equivalent of Cal and Bill Ripken with the Ripken Baseball Camps which were started by their father.

All are sports celebrities who have stayed with their sport on the grass roots level. The famous names give them all automatic credibility for teaching a sport that most people think they were able to play naturally from birth.

"When we were kids, we were able to skate," Lemieux said. "We had rinks and we would skate outdoors. Now, it is difficult to do because of the number of rinks around."

Lemieux said he is able to do about four camps a year with his brother, all in the Pittsburgh area. He will also be doing a few Christmas camps in his hometown of Montreal.

Lemieux's knowledge, coupled with his brother's reputation, has made his first year in the youth coaching ranks a success.

"It has been great to be able to travel around and coach," Lemieux said. "It's been a great first year and a lot of organizations want me to come back next year."

It seems Alain Lemieux has his points, too.

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