Sullivan's camp teaches kids more than just hockey skills

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
 Gwinnett Gladiators goalie Danny Taylor, right, helps Mason Lippert work on his puck-saving positions at Dan Sullivan’s Come and Get It Hockey Camp in Duluth on Wednesday. 

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips Gwinnett Gladiators goalie Danny Taylor, right, helps Mason Lippert work on his puck-saving positions at Dan Sullivan’s Come and Get It Hockey Camp in Duluth on Wednesday. 

Dan Sullivan’s goal with his “Come and Get It” hockey camps is to give kids a pro-like experience.

Three ice sessions a day with players from that level, lunch, dry-land training with instructors from Gwinnett’s Wellness Performance Institute and, through sponsorships, new jerseys, are included.

The Gwinnett Gladiators’ veteran forward is also making sure players learn about other important things — like being on time to practice.

At the end of one on-ice session Thursday, the whole group had to skate back and forth between the lines because of a couple of kids had been late to the workout.

Another forward who’s played for the Gladiators, Tom Zanoski, explained to them afterward that in the pros everyone on the team pays for that kind of infraction. But in one way, they got off easier. None of those who were tardy got fined by their teammates for the extra skating.

Sullivan also had Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle come and talk to the camp, one of two he’s offering at the Duluth IceForum this summer.

Pyle spoke to them about some of the same things he tries to impart to his own teams.

“He talked to the kids about what an amazing sport this is and what awesome experiences they can have,” Sullivan said. “Just leave it all on the ice because you never know when you’re not going to get the opportunity again. So work hard.

“And obviously the family environment the Gladiators have created is what I’ve tried to establish here. We do everything together. We eat together, we’re on the ice together, we work together. That’s pretty much our goal.”

Sullivan has been running his camps for the last seven years and added two week-long stops in Gwinnett to the schedule last year. The number of participants has doubled this summer, but Sullivan was able to get the help he needed to accommodate the increase.

Half a dozen pro players, including a number of Gladiators, were on hand for instruction. Sullivan himself wasn’t able to skate this time since he’s recovering from shoulder surgery, but the kids were in good hands.

Defenseman Phil Youngclaus, Sullivan’s teammate both here and in Pensacola, was one of the first to offer his time.

“Phil’s just that guy, it doesn’t matter if it’s on the ice or off, he’s in,” Sullivan said. “It’s just crazy how he’s just in. Whatever it takes to get it done.”

Goaltender Danny Taylor, who played for the Gladiators last season and has a fitness level second to none, also flew in specifically for the camp.

“Then Danny Taylor, wow, what can I say about him,” Sullivan said. “He’s amazing and I was really fortunate. He’s got his own business up in Toronto and he put that on hold. It’s a dry-land clinic. For him to put that on hold for me to fly him in here and help me out was amazing.”

Another major cog in the production is Sullivan’s wife, Liz, who does an incredible amount of work to keep things running smoothly.

“It’s hard work, but it’s cool because with a lot of these people, it’s friendships and they know what I’m trying to accomplish here,” Sullivan said.

This is the youngest group Sullivan estimates he’s had, including a couple players that aren’t even 5 years old yet.

“It’s a young age to be put in a camp where their parents aren’t here,” Sullivan said. “So if you don’t give them those really good experiences, I think that might change their whole direction.”

Sullivan’s camp here also remains unique in that he offers what are essentially scholarships for kids that might not otherwise be able to. It’s a cause that means something to Sullivan, who grew up in a single-parent home outside Toronto and couldn’t afford to go to similar camps.

“I think it’s putting together a good group of guys,” Sullivan said about the overall goal. “We’re not the best hockey school. We’re not the best hockey players. We’re not going to put their kid in the NHL, but if we can just help a little bit, that’s a little bit more they don’t have to work on.”