Bruce Wolanin ’91 said he had seen it all. The sloppy drills, the poor instruction — “This cannot be a hockey camp,” he thought.
So in 1996, Wolanin — who played at Yale for four years and professionally in the ECHL for another — decided to do something about it, and founded the Bulldog Hockey Seminar.
“I had worked at too many camps for too many other people that were too poorly run that I felt like I could do a better job myself,” Wolanin said. “And I could create it with my own vision and carry it out like I would like my kid to be coached.”
Now the Bulldog Hockey Seminar is in its eighth year, and there are no signs that it will be slowing down anytime soon.
Wolanin, who is an assistant men’s ice hockey coach and doubles as a French professor, said yesterday that he was expecting about 20 people — the same number of people as in his French 130 class — last night for the seminar’s first session. The seminar generally begins in late September, but problems with the ice at Ingalls Rink forced the postponement.
A major draw for the program is the opportunity to be coached by Yale’s head coach Tim Taylor, who generally provides instruction for one or two sessions. Wolanin played for Taylor from 1987-91 when he was a standout defenseman for the Elis, but for a week this fall and two more this spring, Taylor will be working for Wolanin.
“This is Bruce’s show,” Taylor said, refusing to take any credit for the program’s success. “He does a wonderful job.”
Wolanin also makes sure to have at least one Yale player at the seminar. Starting goalie Josh Gartner ’06 is assisting Wolanin for the second consecutive year.
“I thought it was a good way to spread Yale hockey and expose new people to the game,” Gartner said. “Coach Wolanin accommodates the program to all varying skill levels.”
The different experience levels of participants in the program forces Wolanin to be flexible, since the seminar usually draws adults ranging from college students to retirees, both male and female.
“Some coach hockey and some have kids who play and some have just watched at Ingalls for so long [that they] wanted to try it,” Taylor said.
“We’ve got some people who are really good and some people who are just learning the game,” Wolanin said. “I also have a lot of youth hockey coaches. They get ideas for practice and they see how college coaches work the ice.”
While Wolanin stresses the fundamentals — the brochure points to powerskating/overspeed training each day — he makes sure his players have fun.
“I videotape the game the last day,” Wolanin said. “For some of the people it’s exciting because it’s the first time they’ve seen themselves play.”
Wolanin usually plays the tape at a small, end-of-session banquet where he gives out awards and prizes.
The warm atmosphere Wolanin creates has cultivated a great camaraderie among the attendees.
“It’s like a family,” Taylor said. “They like to play together and learn together.”
Joe Callahan ’05 starred for three years as a Yale blueliner and served as a guest coach in the seminar last year. The Phoenix Coyotes selected Callahan with the 70th pick in the third round of the 2002 NHL Draft.
“When Joe got drafted,” Wolanin said, “I had people calling me looking to reach him to congratulate him.”