Strength and performance for players | New
With summer here, it’s easy to forget all the hard work the athletes do in the offseason, but with the Otter Hockey Strength and Performance Center opening in January – coupled with the return of the ice on the rink for the first time in 10 years for summer training – investing the time to succeed has never been more accessible for Fergus Falls hockey.
One team taking advantage of this new offering is the Otters’ women’s hockey led by head coach Tim Lill, who said he has also seen its popularity increase since the center opened with 16 new players added to the mix and 42 planned to compete.
“I can see the benefit right away because when we have 30 high school girls here working together it’s a game changer because lifting weights can be intimidating,” said Lill. “When we have our own training center and we have 30 and they are all smiling and working hard, I can already see improvement in a month on the ice. “
The inspiration for the training facility came when former Fergus Falls Hockey Association (FFHA) Girls’ Director and Board Member Scott DeBrito was at Warroad with his son for a hockey game. After walking through a small facility attached to the Warroad hockey rink and looking inside to find the entire college girls hockey team training on a Friday night, DeBrito knew he had found his calling.
“I was like, ‘This is awesome,’” DeBrito recalls. “I called the two high school coaches Tim Lill and Mike Donaghue and I said ‘Hey, if I could raise some money would you support this locally?’ and they said ‘yeah, knock yourself out’, so we started the project a little over two years ago.
Coupled with the $ 100,000 the FFHA had set aside for construction projects and the blessings of the two coaches, DeBrito began leading fundraising efforts that reached $ 500,000 for the remaining money, including boys and girls recall clubs fund. In one type of three-way partnership, the hockey association owns the building in which the center is located and leases the land from the school district, including an agreement with the city to attach it to the community rink. Currently, the boys and girls teams in secondary schools each pay 25% of the running costs while the FFHA pays the remaining 50%.
“Scott DeBrito gets things done and he doesn’t stop when the going gets tough, he digs in his heels,” said Lill. “Anything worth doing can be a bit of a pain to do sometimes and Scott did it. He’s relentless and it wouldn’t have happened without him.
Seeing the training center open for the first time, DeBrito said he was delighted.
“It was amazing! Seeing the kids being able to use it for the first time was a great experience, ”he said. “In addition to the list of donors, I would like to thank very much Greg Buckmeier (FFHA director of men’s hockey) and Mike Richards, owner of Otter Electric, for all the hours they also devoted to the project. Jeff Jennen of Comstock Construction was the general contractor and was also a great help.
Women’s hockey captain Gabby Brimhall is an Otter athlete who has seen the benefits of the new training facility firsthand.
“Our team is getting a lot stronger and we’ve never had this opportunity before, so in the past it was the girls lifting themselves and trying to get better, but with that we all get better together, so that was really good, ”said Brimhall. “We’ve made a lot more connections with that and the chemistry is definitely going up, so I think the girls see it and they’re like, ‘Oh, I want to be a part of that. “”
With Otters rivals Alexandria and Brainerd already owning their own hockey training facilities, Lill says the new center will help level the playing field for Fergus Falls, ushering in a new era for all Otters hockey programs.
“That’s why they beat us every year, they’re strong from the top down and that’s where we need to be, three and four strong lines, so the whole squad is good instead of just relying on a few stars, which is usually what happens in Class A hockey, ”said Lill.