Steamboat Springs When Ted Hoffman first started his inline hockey camp in Steamboat Springs back in 1997, he had visions of guiding young players from the asphalt surface of the Meadows Parking Lot into a life-long love for the sport of hockey.
Now six seasons later, young Tanner Stillwell is just one example of his success.
"It's just a lot of fun," Stillwell said. "We work a lot on the fundamentals, but we also get to play some games, which is the best part."
Stillwell started taking part in the camps and playing ice hockey at nearly the same time.
This winter the 13-year-old will move onto Steamboat's Bantam traveling team, but he is still a regular at Hoffman's annual camp.
"It's more laid back than it is in the winter," Stillwell said of the atmosphere. "It gives me a chance to work on some of the basics and improve my game."
Improving young athletes' level of play is just one of the goals Hoffman, a longtime hockey lover himself, was hoping to accomplish when he set up his portable hockey rink in the Meadows Parking Lot several years ago.
He wanted to bridge the gap between the hockey seasons by offering young players a chance to get some coaching. Now that the hockey rink's season has been extended, his camp comes close to completing the transition.
The camp is designed to introduce young players to the game, teach older players the skills they need to be successful in the winter and to allow young players to have a little fun outside of the hockey season.
"This is a great way to have some fun and stay in shape during the summer," Hoffman said.
"I've had all kinds of kids take part in the camp. Some of them are members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club who can't play in the winter, some of them are ice hockey kids looking to keep their edge and others are new kids who have never played hockey before."
In the past, this collection of young athletes has gathered under the hot sun at the Meadows Parking Lot near the tennis bubble. But this summer the camp, which is called the Steamboat Roller Hockey League, will move indoors to take advantage of the smooth concrete surface that is normally covered with ice and the cooler indoor temperatures.
Hoffman saw the rink as the perfect opportunity because the facility will be closed until August and the concrete is currently free of ice.
"It's a great opportunity," Hoffman said. "The surface isn't being used right now and it's perfect for roller hockey."
Hoffman will hold the first six weeks of his camp inside the rink. He will move back outside to the Meadows Parking Lot for the final two weeks that's when the city will flood the rink for an August hockey camp.
For Stillwell, the camp is a nice change of pace in his already busy sports schedule. He also likes to play baseball, football and basketball.
"This camp helps keep me in shape and excited to play hockey," Stillwell said.
The camp offers sessions for mites (8-and-under), squirts (10-and-under) and a combined session for peewees (12-and-under) and bantams (14-and-under).
The hour-long sessions run twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. Campers work primarily on skills in Monday's sessions and scrimmage one another on Wednesdays.
The mites meet each day starting at 8 a.m., squirts follow at 9 a.m. and the peewee/bantam session wraps things up at 10 a.m.
The camp runs eight weeks from June 10 to July 31 and costs $145 per camper. Each player receives instruction and a jersey. The players must also be sanctioned by USA Hockey Inline, which costs an additional $25.
Hoffman said he plans on playing games against teams from Avon during the camps and possibly traveling to an end-of-season tournament at the end of the session.