Tampa Bay Region to Host Advanced Hockey Camp at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida.

WESLEY CHAPEL — Still in its infancy, Florida Hospital Center Ice is fast becoming a premier rink for ice hockey, curling, figure skating and other training programs. In July, the Wesley Chapel-based facility will host one of the nation’s most prominent hockey camps.

In conjunction with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and more than a dozen community partners, the World V-Red Prospect Advanced Camp comes to Florida Hospital Center Ice, July 16-20. Sessions will be conducted for two age groups: 12-14 and 15-19.

“This is an exciting opportunity for people and players in the area to get involved at the highest level,” said Brian Engblom, a former National Hockey League player and current broadcaster for Lightning games. “There’s a vast level of experience (with the V-Red organization) and they want to expand it to the Tampa Bay area.”

Gardner MacDougall, the camp’s co-founder who also coaches at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, met Gordie Zimmerman, co-founder of Florida Hospital Center Ice, and made arrangements for the camp to come to Wesley Chapel.

Players from throughout the nation are expected to take part in the sessions designed to improve players on and off the ice. Among some previous campers are 50 players who have been drafted into the NHL, including St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

“We’re trying to make a difference,” MacDougall said. “We try to look for advanced skill level; to look for advanced attitude and advanced work ethic.”

Zimmerman, a former minor league hockey player, also coaches the Wiregrass Ranch High School team that has included his sons Luke and Adam, along with stepson Spencer Geer. He is eager to see the level of training for local youngsters as well as those from other states.

“We want to grow hockey in the region,” said Zimmerman, adding that the Lightning is “a true partner in developing hockey in the area.”

Brian Bradley, the Lightning’s first all-star and single-season 40-goal scorer who played 13 seasons in the NHL, was on hand to promote the camp as well as the new ice facility.

“This facility is nothing but world-class,” he said as figure skaters trained on a rink behind a press conference in the foyer that took place on June 14. “This is a great opportunities for the kids, not only from Minnesota and Michigan but from Florida. There’s a lot of talent here.”

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