Fantasy Meets Reality

“That’s Marcel Dionne out there. This is the first time I’ve ever seen him on skates.”

“Wow, Jim Fox looks almost exactly like he did when he played in the NHL!”

“Bernie, is that Bernie Nichols? It is! It is!”

These are just a few comments overheard amongst the onlookers at the L.A. Kings Fantasy Camp held over the weekend at the team’s training facility in El Segundo. The attendees ranged from kids of eight or ten to adults as old as the former Kings players who were gathered to train them. Those pros, incidentally, included the three mentioned above plus Steve Duchesne, Daryl Evans, Ray Ferraro, and Ian Turnbull.

In case you’ve never been to a camp or watched one, it’s not like the “campers” are just skating around out there watching the pros do their magic. In fact, the on-ice portion of the weekend looked more like an NHL practice, with coaches (in this case, Mark Hardy and Nelson Emerson) running drills. As each drill commenced, the participants gathered while Hardy explained what they would do. Then the pros demonstrated the drill before the others got busy. While the drills were going on, the NHLers participated along with the other skaters.

One camper, Perry Howard, said, “I’m here just to watch, because I got injured a few weeks ago skating, but I’m taking it all in anyway. We started early with breakfast, had a meeting with Bob Miller, who introduced all the players, and then we got busy.” His biggest regret was that he wouldn’t be taking part in the scrimmage game to take place Sunday, the second day of camp. “It’s a great learning experience for me anyway. I’ve only been playing about two years, so it’s amazing.”

The good mood on the ice spilled over off. Turnbull walked past with a bunch of camp participants, and when he saw trainer Pete Demers, he said, “Hey, Pete. I need an ice bag on this shoulder. We’re going into Philly tomorrow!”

Demers replied, “Philly flu, huh?” It’s well known among fans of the game in the 1970s that nobody liked playing the Broad Street Bullies, and that nagging injuries had a way of acting up right when team planes touched down in the City of Brotherly Love.

Each participant in the Kings Fantasy Camp got a hat, t-shirt, shorts, an official Kings practice jersey with his or her name and number on the back, and a bag to hold it all. The activities included two days’ training on and off-ice, including video and strength work, and activities including bowling, a locker room tour, meals, and a reception. Proceeds from the camp, which cost each person $899, went to the Kings Care charity.

Brian Kennedy wrote Growing Up Hockey. It’s the story of everyone who loves the game. Check it out at


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