Westlake Hockey Development co-founder and director Carl Michaelson has been playing hockey all his life. Originally from Hudson, Quebec, Michaelson’s interest and love of the sport devotion has led him to the creation of a hockey development camp.

This past summer, he traveled to Mistissini where he trained Cree youth. Now back at Hobart College in Geneva, New York, he took time to talk about his experience up north.

When Michaelson arrived in Mistissini, he was greeted with kindness and respect and was happy to see the youth take to the training the way they did. “It was awesome. I had a great time and the kids really appreciated the training. The cultural exchange was an amazing experience ¬– we learned a lot about each other. Time will tell if there are a few future NHLers, but the way they took to the training I wouldn’t be surprised,” explained Michaelson.

“The 14-to-17 year-olds stood out, including Silas Meekosh, whose father David had referred us to the community. Silas may make Triple A, which is quite an accomplishment for him. I am really proud of him and the whole community should be proud too.”

Michaelson’s mother, a nutritionist who has been involved with the fitness industry for several years, brought her expertise to Mistisinni. “My mom came up to teach nutrition which went over very well. It was also a big change for the families of the players.

“I think it’s important for any community to get some insight into a healthy lifestyle and to learn to eat better. I went to the grocery store to buy food and to show them how to read labels. They have a great grocery store up there and so we were well accommodated for what we were trying to do.

“We even made smoothies as an example of how to eat properly. We had a seminar for the families and community members who weren’t part of the hockey program but wanted to know more about eating healthier. There were some rude awakenings about what’s good and what’s not, but all-in-all it went very well,” said Michaelson.

“We were very well received by the community. We held free car washes and helped clean up the parks. We were definitely involved in community and took in as much as we could from the culture up there. We met a lot of interesting and fun and different people during our stay.

When asked about a return visit, Michaelson said he has every intention of going back. “We’re currently working on the details, restructuring the program so that it works even better for the youth the next time we go up there. We are talking with Gordon and John, who worked with us and got us up there in the first place, about how we can do this again. I have every intention of going there next summer. When you look at the way the youth developed from beginning to the end, it’s quite amazing. They had so much fun and they were really happy to see their skills get stronger. A lot of players lost weight and gained muscle and become stronger skaters. They adapted very well to the new system.”

When asked if his program could end up in other communities, Michaelson said, “We certainly hope so and not just Native communities but any community can benefit from this kind of program. We have every intention of bringing our program elsewhere and sharing our knowledge and what we can offer. If other communities contact us, we will do what it takes to make it happen.”

Michaelson is currently recruiting for his alma mater Hobart College, where he is starting his first season as the assistant coach for the Hobart Statesmen. A 2004 graduate of Hobart, he was a four-year member of the hockey team. As the team captain his senior year, he guided the Statesmen to an ECAC West Championship and the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid.