THE FRONT ROW WITH BRUCE BOURQUIN: June 13, 2014

Son of Great One to open school in Cd'A

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What if you got to meet some of the greatest players in National Hockey League history, both current and former players?

What if some of them were able to show you some of the tricks of the trade, you got to meet them and learn as much as you could, in order to improve your game?

For 120 young hockey players ages 9-14, they will get to learn from some of those players.

From July 27-Aug. 1 at Frontier Ice Arena in Coeur d'Alene, the inaugural Gretzky Hockey School will be held. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and current Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, a former Coeur d'Alene Laker and Spokane Chief, will be among the players who are scheduled to make appearances. Keith Gretzky, the director of amateur scouting for the Boston Bruins and younger brother of Wayne Gretzky, is the head instructor. The assistant instructor will be Dean Malkoc, a scout for the Bruins.

Ty Gretzky, the 23-year-old son of Wayne Gretzky, and his business partner, Eric Kleineck, have plans to open future schools in places like Los Angeles, where the Great One once played.

"Last summer my dad did a camp there (in Coeur d'Alene), the power skating one," Ty Gretzky said. "My dad really loves the rink over there and he thought it'd be a great idea to do a hockey school. Family friends from California brought us up five years ago and our family loved the place instantly. The rink's beautiful, it's a great place to spend the summer for families. It'd be a great location for a hockey school. I went to Eric, my buddy in Arizona, we went to Arizona State University together, and I partnered with him and we decided to do a hockey school and we thought it'd be a great vacation spot. My family and I have been there for five years and I brought Eric up here (to Coeur d'Alene) for the first year."

Ty said he really only experienced the trappings of being the Son of the Great One when he was playing for one season at Shattuck-St. Mary's High School in Faribault, Minn., in 2007. It was Ty's second season of competitive hockey and some fans there asked him for his father's autograph.

"I have been very fortunate to have been raised by amazing parents," Ty Gretzky said. "I have always loved hockey, so my dad being who he is was a blessing."

Ty said more than a dozen former NHL players have homes at nearby Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club in Harrison.

"I think there's going be quite a few (former NHL) guys coming to the hockey school," Gretzky said. "They can teach the kids and do some speeches and I think it'll be real fun."

The six-day camp will cost $999.99, to represent Wayne Gretzky's number 99. Earlier this week, Ty said there were roughly 40 of 120 available spots open, and that they are filling up fast. The deadline runs until July 27, but Ty said the spots could fill up before that date.

"I think each player will be different," Gretzky said of the former and current NHL players' amount of time with the children at the camp. "The guys are so helpful for the kids on the ice, teaching them different things. I've just spent time with some of those guys on the ice and the kids are going to love it and they're going to get a lot of good advice from NHL guys, advice that no one will be able to teach them, except for NHL guys, the knowledge that they have that no one else has. My dad's going to be out there skating with the kids."

Ty Gretzky and Kleineck hope to establish Gretzky Hockey Schools in five to seven cities in North America, including Los Angeles. A few local hockey players plan to attend the Coeur d'Alene school, but it will also have several players from Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Los Angeles and other places around the United States and Canada.

"Once we get the first one down, then people will understand how great it should be," Gretzky said. "We're trying to get the world out through social media and the other rinks, in Spokane and around the area. There's been a lot of excitement out there on Twitter, Instagram and they're looking forward to skating with my dad ... we'd like to open other schools in bigger hockey cities, but we'll always keep the one in Coeur d'Alene. We have a great relationship with the Frontier Ice Arena and we love working with them."

Wayne Gretzky is a 53-year-old retired former NHL center and four-time Stanley Cup champion who played for 20 seasons from 1979 to 1999 for the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. He owns several NHL career and single-season records, including most career points, most goals with 894, most assists and most points in one season with 215.

Brett Hull is a 49-year-old executive vice president of the St. Louis Blues. During his career as a right wing, Hull scored 741 goals from 1986 to 2005, third in NHL history and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He played for five teams, mostly the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars.

The school will preach the "Gretzky Hockey Philosophy" and Ty explained it a bit.

"It's just teaching the kids the way to play hockey the way my grandpa taught my dad how to play, when he (Wayne Gretzky) was growing up," Ty Gretzky said. "The way my dad taught my brothers and I growing up, showing us their knowledge and their experience. My grandpa (Walter) is the smartest guy I know, he knows everything. That's where my dad got it (his playing skills) from. My grandpa will be out there to talk to the kids and he's a great guy. We just kind of made that up, but that's the gist of it."

And in a little over a month, the gist will be the experience of a young lifetime.

Bruce Bourquin is a sports writer at The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2013, or via email at bbourquin@cdapress.com Follow him on Twitter @bourq25

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