Last week, Comets players participated in Jr. Comets’ joint practices as part of the Jr. Comets Mentorship Program. It was an opportunity for those players who were not present for the draft to meet their mentor for the first time.
“It’s awesome. We were all there one day when we were kids watching the professional guys,” said Comets forward Brendan Woods. “Especially for me, having a father that played and coached professionally I always enjoyed being around the guys and seeing how they interacted with each other and with me as well.”
The Comets demonstrated and participated in drills, assisted the coaches, and took pictures with their mentees. They also took part in a mini scrimmage at the end of practice.
Danny Paciello of the 2008 team enjoyed his first time on the ice with the AHL Comets. “It was fun. The players were really friendly. They showed us a lot of new stuff too.”
Woods also touched on the relationship between his father and Comets president Robert Esche and how the idea of the program came to be. “It’s a great thing that Esche has going for the club we have here. It started with him and my dad when they were younger; he would always grab him for a an extra goaltender to shoot on.”
It’s also important to remember the impact programs like this have on the young athletes. “It means a lot to them. They’re in the stands watching us play. They obviously love the game of hockey, I’m sure they all dream of being professional hockey players and having a chance to share the ice and pass and shoot with us is something I guarantee they’ll remember forever.”
The mentorship program operates through the duration of the American Hockey League season and includes a minimum of five different interactions throughout the course of the year. These interactions will include mentors attending one of the youth player’s games attending a practice, going out to dinner or having dinner at the family’s house, as well as being present on the ice during the year. These are just a couple of examples of some of the activities that have taken place since the start of the program. The program encourages creative and unique activities that may push both the mentor and mentee out of their comfort zones, ultimately helping them both grow in their own ways while embodying the Comets’ core values of growth, leadership, and development.