Czech International Hockey Camp gives area skaters chance to learn European-style

August 01, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Tomas Mahovsky directs hockey campers Tuesday during Czech International Hockey Camp at Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex at Fairgrounds Park. Mahovsky came from Czech Republic to teach at the camp.
By Kevin G. Gilbert / Staff Photographer

Young area skaters are getting a taste of European-style hockey as the Czech International Hockey Camp makes its debut in the United States at the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex at Fairgrounds Park.

The camp, which runs through Friday, is being led by two professional coaches from the Czech Republic who have coached the Kuwaiti National Ice Hockey Team.

They are working with children ages 6 to 10, taking them through drills ranging from skating, to stick handling, to passing and receiving.

Jan Brychta, one of the coaches, said the goal of the camp is to show the campers how they practice in the Czech Republic.

“The kids are trying to do their best,” Brychta said. “After practices we speak with them (about) what’s wrong, what they do good, and we see the improvement every day.”

Brychta, who is a youth coach in the Czech Republic, previously served as head coach of the Kuwaiti National Team.

Tomas Mahovsky, the other professional coach, is also a youth coach and was an assistant coach of the Kuwaiti National Team.

The camp’s managing director, Dany Vasak, said that both coaches have also studied coaching at universities.

Chris Wetzel, director of the Hagerstown Youth Hockey Association, is assisting in coaching the campers this week. Wetzel said that he is also learning about different styles of coaching.

“This brings new different faces to the area, different ideas, different exercises, different drills, that we don’t necessarily know about,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully I can go to the Czech Republic next summer and learn a little bit more.”

The camp was started in 1999 with around 15 participants. It has grown to more than 600 participants from more than 30 nations in multiple summer camps this year, Vasak said.

It also now has winter camps, adult camps, and goalie camps, according to its website at

In addition to learning about hockey, the youngsters are exposed to different cultures, Vasak said.

The camp has been held in such places as England, Russia, and Spain.

Vasak said there have been attempts to have it in the United States in the past, but they never worked out.

“The U.S. is a very interesting market, and we have always wanted to do a camp here,” he said. “A lot of times people were interested in bringing us over, but (there were problems) due to the lack of ice time people could give us or due to the fact that it would be too expensive.”

Camp Coordinator Dean Joyce of Sharpsburg said he came up with the idea of bringing the camp to Hagerstown after he and his family visited the Czech Republic last summer, and his children participated in the camp there.

“We put our two kids up against a whole bunch of children from other European countries, and they did exceedingly well,” he said. “We got to talking and got to know the other coaches, and we invited them back over here, and they said yes.”

Joyce’s son, Graydon, 10, was in the camp last summer and is at the camp in Hagerstown this year.

“I want to do this camp once every year,” he said. “It basically improved my skills in every way.”

Brooke Munger, 10, who has been playing hockey since she was 4 years old, came to the camp from Stephens City, Va.

“They go through the basics and then do the hard stuff,” she said. “I’ve learned how to use the skills in a game, and when to use them.”

The camp cost $350 to attend, which covered the costs of getting the coaches to Hagerstown, Joyce said.

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