Denver Post: One-Stop-Shop
By MIKE CHAMBERS | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Denver Post
Three big names from NHL archives have partnered to create an all-encompassing hockey training facility in Centennial.
Canadian natives and residents Eric Lacroix, David Clarkson and John Mitchell recently opened Drill House Sports Center at Family Sports Center, which is home to the Avalanche practice complex.
Lacroix, son of legendary late Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix, has also created Lacroix Hockey — a hockey-specific advisory entity located on the floor above the 8,000 square-feet training complex that sits at the south end of Family Sports’ east ice rink.
“We merged the two ideas,” Lacroix said. “Lacroix Hockey is advising families through the muddy waters of youth hockey, whether they’re 10 years old or 18 years old. I just feel like there is a niche there with sitting down with parents. Every kid has his own path. And we’ll also have charitable functions — some events through Lacroix Hockey to honor my dad’s legacy.
“It’s something I wanted to do, and David and John wanted to do a gym. Now, this is more accessible for the kids to get better.”
Drill House, which buys ice time from Family Sports, features its own locker room, a 100-foot-long artificial turf strip, three stick-handling and shooting bays (two with synthetic ice to accommodate skates), plus free weights, squat racks and the same kBox and Keiser machines used by most NHL teams. The facility will also soon feature a recovery/physical therapy room, plus a video room.
Mitchell, who concluded his 548-game NHL career with the Avalanche in 2017, has been coaching with the triple-A Colorado Thunderbirds in recent years. He and Clarkson, together with Littleton’s ACES Sports Academy, have acquired a franchise from Canadian-based Okanagan Hockey. Colorado’s first Okanagan team will be 14-under and train at Drill House along with other youth organizations, including the Thunderbirds, double-A Arapahoe Warriors, and Team Colorado’s girls team.
“I’ve helped coach some kids in the summer, and they’re training over here at 10 a.m. and then skating over at this rink at 3 p.m. and then getting treatment somewhere else at 7 p.m. Their whole day is taken up and they’re traveling everywhere,” said Mitchell, 37. “So we really wanted to create a one-stop-shop where you train, skate, be advised, have PT and recovery.”
Drill House is a therapeutic venture for Lacroix, Mitchell and Clarkson, the latter of whom moved to Castle Pines after concluding a 570-game NHL career in Columbus. Clarkson, 38, has been heavily involved with the Thunderbirds but is now thrilled to introduce the Okanagan model to Colorado — a model that focuses on off-ice training.
“I need this. Hockey is part of my life and teaching kids is what I love,” said Clarkson, who also serves as a Florida Panthers player development coach. “I need it and I feed off of it. It’s important to stay active, connected, and give back.”
Drill House includes Jason Kelly, co-owner and director of fitness, and Mikey Garrity, senior trainer and instructor. Former NHLers Ken Klee and Derek Armstrong will also be involved.
Clarkson said no youth hockey player will be trained by anyone without significant NHL experience. Scott Masters, a former video coach for the Panthers, Blues and Avalanche, is Lacroix’s right-hand man upstairs.
“We’re teaching what we know. We’re not teaching the stock market,” said Lacroix, 50, who played for the Avs from 1996-98. “We’re teaching hockey, and then we have the right trainers in Mikey and Jason.”
Drill House already has signed up summer groups featuring active NHL, minor league, college and junior players from the area. Avs captain Gabe Landeskog, who is recovering from knee surgery, worked out in the facility last week while the NHL club was on the road.
It won’t be uncommon for a 12-year-old player or 40-year-old beer-league skater to work out next to someone like Landeskog.
“For me, a rec kid who wants to play travel and he wants to put in the work in the summer, that’s awesome. That’s just as rewarding,” Lacroix said. “Of course, you want to work with the kid who wants to make it to the NHL or college or play juniors, of course, that’s fun. That’s what we do. But it’s also fun to get a rec kid because his goal is to make a B team or an A team. We’re adding classes to accommodate everyone.”
Drill House/Lacroix Hockey might feel like family. To the Lacroixs, it is.
“For me to be here, to use my old man’s name and honor his legacy and make sure he’s not forgotten, so to speak, it’s important. I need that,” Eric Lacroix said.
For more information, visit Drill House’s website at drillhousesportscenter.com.