WINNIPEG, MB - According to the dictionary, a Barn is “a large farm building used for storing grain, hay, or straw or for housing livestock.” That may be true, but when being described in terms of hockey, it has a completely different meaning.
A barn in hockey terms is the word used to describe the arenas. Traditionally, minor hockey rinks are played in small facilities that often share a similar shape to farming barns, which is where the slang term for a hockey rink originates. It’s also the name of Manitoba’s newest hockey facility The Hockey Barn, a 3200 square foot barn with a sport court 80ft long x 40ft wide that offers athletes the opportunity to work on dryland training, small space training, shooting, and skill development.
Michael Hunt is the owner and Operations Manager of The Hockey Barn and a familiar name when it comes to roller hockey in Winnipeg. Hunt created Central Canadian Roller Hockey (ccrh.ca) here in the city and has been running it out of Maginot Arena for the past two years. After searching for the ideal place to open his business, Hunt found the space he was hoping for, a 3200 square foot barn located near the corner of Route 90 and the Perimeter. The doors opened up just under two months ago and Hunt says the response has been fantastic.
“In our first six weeks we’ve had 90 teams and 1400 athletes come and try out the Hockey Barn, and we are now getting more bookings from teams for second and third practices at the Barn, so it’s even exceeded my expectations.”
One of the first things you notice when you enter is the charm. Entering the barn with a hockey stick in hand, you breathe in the chill of the winter air and see remnants of the machine shop the barn used to be. It’s something Hunt says adds to the whole experience.
“When we first moved in here it was an old machine shop. There was a motorcycle, a compressor, some grease stains on the floor around the barn, exactly what you’d picture in a machine shop,” says Hunt. “Even after we pressure washed and disinfected everything, there’s still the stains from the oil around the barn, which just adds to the charm.”
“When I walked in here and I saw this concrete kick plate going all the way around the barn, and it was level, and the floor was level with no cracks in it, and it’s 3200 square feet, I said this is absolutely perfect.”
The brain-child of this concept is a close friend of Hunt’s named Peter Dale. Dale, a member of Team USA Roller Hockey for years, lives on a farm in Wisconsin and began his training facility Farm Tough Hockey in his barn 20 years ago. It’s a top training facility for many Division 1 college hockey players in the United States and has attracted people from all over the world to attend their camps. Hunt says Dale has been instrumental in helping him start the Hockey Barn.
“Dale has done it for 20 years in his barn so his experience has been invaluable,” Hunt adds. “I’ve been teaching and coaching that long, but I just opened up this facility and he’s been instrumental in giving me advice of what I need to do, what to stay away from, what to focus on. He’s the best in the business and if I’m not doing it here, I’d tell everyone I know to go out there because it’s absolutely incredible what he does.”
Hunt says this is something he’s always wanted to do here in Winnipeg.
“When talking to (Dale) I told him this is exactly what I wanted to do in Winnipeg because there’s nothing like it in the city. We know the different training opportunities in the city all offer great programs, but they can’t combine everything together, and that’s what we offer here.”
Being an eight-time member of team Canada, two-time world champion as a coach of team Canada and a 17-time National Champion in The United States, Hunt brings with him a wealth of experience. Throughout his travels, Hunt has seen what works and what doesn’t for many athletes. The Hockey Barn provides athletes a chance to get back to their roots, and take a step back in time when it comes to training.
“I have gone backwards to the Rocky meets Youngblood type of training and doing it old school,” Hunt says. “We have heaters to keep everyone warm in the barn. We create some of our own training equipment using things you’d find on a farm. It’s old school but it’s fun and it works.”
The barn features four shooting stations, small space training, dryland training, and they can tailor a program for each and every player who comes through the door. With a number of different training facilities throughout the province, Hunt believes there are a few factors that make the Hockey Barn stand out.
“I think it’s because of our coaching, and the direction we go about our business,” says Hunt. “Anybody can open up a place where they can have tile courting, they can go buy some nets, buy some pucks and cones and run through it, but the way we do it is offering athletes a chance to improve their overall skills while providing mentorship and daily life lessons to help them become better students, athletes, and people.”
With over 200 years of hockey knowledge from both inline and ice hockey, there is no shortage of experience when it comes to the staff who train the athletes. Michael’s son Cameron, a five-time National Champion and a three-time member of Team Canada, is one of the coaches at the Hockey Barn, along with Kali Leary, Reggie Goodfellow, and Murray Cobb. Hunt says the experience is great, but the philosophy all the coaches share is what makes the Hockey Barn a place where parents want to bring their kids.
“What we like to say is learn how to do the drill right the first time, then use the rest of your life learning and perfecting it,” Hunt adds. “Regardless of ability, you take that principal and you apply it to your school work, your work life, your home life and so on. It’s just a building block for kids to go from an idea of theology to ‘hey, there’s something to this.’ Because at the end of the day, hockey is just a game, but these principles can be used for the rest of your life in anything you do.”
Bill Burfoot, SmartBiz and Manitoba Post
Photos supplied by SmartBiz