Helping coach his Lakes Hockey Academy program – a seven-week long hockey camp held in his hometown of Brainerd, Minn. – is a passion project for Mitch McLain and a few other local college and pro players. It’s a grass-roots initiative that focuses on growing the local hockey culture in Brainerd.
“We have a good group of pro guys and college guys around here,” explained McLain. “We all got to be around at home more (during COVID) and see where Brainerd hockey needed some extra help, hockey-wise. So, we started this hockey academy here at home and it means a lot to us.”
“We all did it together,” he continued. “In the summer, we had a training group and we’ve got four or five guys that have played pro and even have a couple of Stanley Cups in that group. We saw the benefits of that, and it just inspired us to give back.”
(Left to Right) Mitch McLain, Mason Shaw, Matt Boldy.
There are certainly advantages to spending every day at the rink during the summer, and McLain feels it helps him stay motivated during training and keeps him ready as he prepares for his second season in Calgary.
“I’m lucky enough that, with our hockey camp, I get to be at the rink all day long. So even when I’m coaching there’s an abundance of opportunities to get touches or work on some skills or jump in on drills with the kids while you’re coaching. We do a lot of off-ice work as well, I think it’s a huge advantage being on the ice so many times during the day and having the ability to get so many reps in.”
McLain is a versatile forward, known for his gritty style of play, adding toughness, leadership ability and a nose for the net. He notched a career high in points (28) last season with the Wranglers, adding 16 goals and 108 penalty minutes. A jack of all trades indeed, however, it was still a little surprising to see footage of him between the pipes recently, trying to do his best Dustin Wolf impression during the final days of camp.
According to McLain, it’s not the first time he’s strapped on the pads.
“I usually play goalie once a summer,” he clarified with a chuckle. “As I was walking out of the locker room, after I put on the gear, I thought to myself, geez, I’m going to pretend to be Wolfie here.”