Former Columbus Blue Jacket Forward Martin Spanhel took to the ice at age 6 and played professional hockey around the world. Blue Jackets Assistant Coach Dan Hinote started skating when he was 9, and has won a Stanley Cup. Upper Arlington resident Jimmie Lightner just started skating 13 months ago.
Tonight, all three will share ice time together at the Blue Jackets Hockey School for adults.
As part of the ongoing commitment the Blue Jackets have made to the central Ohio community, the organization is again supporting Blue Jackets Hockey School at Chiller North. The School features Blue Jackets themed gear and support from Coaches like Hinote, who help instruct on and off-ice sessions.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Hinote, “These are the people who give back to the team. The fans here are very educated and we want to be in contact with them.
“Adult hockey here is very comparable to Denver and Minnesota. There is a high level of talent and you won’t see as much excitement about adult hockey as you’ll see in Columbus.”
Spanhel is one of the main reasons adult hockey is flourishing. He currently serves as the Columbus Adult Hockey League (CAHL) Commissioner overseeing the activities of 200 teams and almost 4,000 players.
“All the NHL cities have adult leagues, but Columbus is very unique,” said Spanhel.“We own all the ice rinks in the city and it allows us to have a high quality adult league.”
Bringing more people into adult leagues is one of the benefits Spanhel sees coming from Hockey School each year, and it’s part of why he’s leading the classes.
“We offer hockey classes year-round, but the Hockey School is really the icing on the cake,” he said. “It’s great watching adults start playing – it’s awesome.”
Earlier this week, Spanhel directed participants through skill drills including skating, passing, and shooting. Spanhel also uses his experience as a former Blue Jacket to translate those skills to in-game scenarios. .
“It’s amazing,” Lightner said. “A lot of times when they are showing a particular skill, it’s hard to imagine, as someone who didn’t grow up playing hockey and just beginning, when I would use that. By having a real example given, it really sticks.”
That’s not to say learning hockey as an adult is easy.
“There’s a lot of mechanics involved – there’s a million things you could be worried about, but a lot of times you should only worry about one,” said Hinote.“You want to stick to the basics.”
“I try to bring a different perspective. There are so many details I wish I knew as a player that I only learned once I became a coach,” Hinote continued. “I want to help others understand the cerebral part of the game.”
Lightner is excited to see what he can take back as a member of the CAHL team BT3 when Hinote joins the school tonight.
“Martin is an amazing coach – I’m curious to go from a former player perspective to a coach perspective and see what other kind of insight they have to offer,” he said.
As more people continue to begin to play hockey in central Ohio, both Hinote and Spanhel see the value in the ongoing collaboration between the Blue Jackets and The Chiller to put on programs like Hockey School.
“The Chiller team is very professional,” Hinote said. “I know programs will be run professionally, be on time and be informative. That lends itself to the overall success. These guys have lived and breathed hockey and they bring that passion to their jobs.”
Spanhel shares Hinote’s enthusiasm.
“It’s awesome how the Blue Jackets put the time and effort in,” said Spanhel.“They try to help us and we try to help them. It’s great for us and it’s great for participants.”
Tonight’s final Adult Hockey School session begins at 7 p.m. at Chiller North. It includes a scrimmage and off-ice social event. Walk-ups are welcome.
Blue Jackets tickets for the 2013-14 season are currently available for purchase. Information on all ticketing options can be obtained by calling (800) NHL‐COLS or by visiting BlueJackets.com.