By JASON ELLIOTT
COEUR d'ALENE - In the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, amateur Valery Slavkin often times has to practice his hockey skills on the same ice as professionals.
It's not quite like the 4.88 million people in his hometown, but Slavkin has found himself on the ice of the Frontier Ice Arena in Coeur d'Alene honing his skills this week, participating in a speed skating and hockey camp taught by Russian coach Boris Dorozhenko and Next Generation Hockey in conjunction with the Compete Hockey Academy.
Slavkin, 15, was invited to participate by Compete Hockey Academy director Cam Severson and Dorozhenko.
"I've had a good relationship with Boris from the past," Slavkin said. "It's good to be here. I really like it here. I'm just here for a few days, but I'm sure I'll like it."
Other participants have came from the area, as well as Montana, Washington, California and Las Vegas.
Everyone is nice and it's a lot of fun to talk to them," Slavkin said. "It has been a great experience."
There are only 10 skating rinks in St. Petersburg to practice in, often times leaving youth to play with professionals in Russia, Slavkin said.
"In the Czech Republic, they've got more ice than in Russia," said Alex Moskalenko of Spokane, who Slavkin is staying with this week. "It's really small on the map and Russia is such a large place and the kids have to play with professionals because they don't have as much ice."
Moskalenko is also serving as Slavkin's translator.
"I'm really happy with the kids representing different areas coming here," Dorozhenko said. "It's not just the local kids coming in, it's the kids from Canada, Washington, Montana and Arizona. It's something interesting with the kids from different areas coming in. I enjoy helping the kids improve and hope that it's a positive experience for them and when they get back to their own organizations and clubs, they'll notice the difference."
"We've got a lot of out-of-town kids in the area spending their vacations," Severson said. "Coeur d'Alene is an unbelievable town for someone to have a family vacation and get their kid on the ice in the morning."
"I think it's an unbelievable opportunity for local players to get the opportunity to train with a European-style coach," Severson said. "The methods he teaches, I've never seen before - and I've been around the game for a lot of years."
Severson was drafted 192nd overall by the San Jose Sharks in 1997 and also played with Anaheim and Columbus of the NHL before retiring in 2010.
"He (Dorozhenko) teaches a really good development of skating on players' edges and keeping their balance," Severson said. "Hockey is really based on your skating. Once you get some confidence in your skating, the rest of the skills will come."
Camps are running from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, through July 19. During the first week of camps, Severson said more than 30 participants attended, just by word of mouth.
Severson got to know Dorozhenko by way of a mutual friend in former NHL player Russ Courtnall.
"I've been friends with Russ for years and he recommended we get this guy here," Severson said. "We talked about organizing something and it was the right time to do it."
It is the first of what Severson hopes will become a long-term camp in Coeur d'Alene.
"It's a process and I feel it's a great opportunity for us," Severson said. "Boris is one of the most well-known power skating coaches in the world and does camps all throughout Europe, Arizona and Canada. It's an unbelievable opportunity for local players."
One of those families is the Hollorns from Bozeman, which has two of their sons, Matt (16) and Tommy (12), participating in the camp.
"We live here during the summer, so when we heard about the camp, we came over here," Matt said. "It's been cool to get to know him (Slavkin). It's something new and I've really enjoyed it and getting to know him."
"It's a lot of fun," Tommy said. "I'm learning a lot about technique and enjoy the skating."
"I'm a big believer in the idea that the kids need to have a vacation," Dorozhenko said. "But at the same time, they need to get some time on the ice and believe the improvement happens when the kids are on the ice for at least three hours a day and have the rest of the day free. It gives the kids a chance to rest and the family a chance to get out and do something fun during the evening."
The Hollorns are trying to follow in the footsteps of their uncle Doug Weight, who played 19 years in the NHL, retiring as a member of the New York Islanders in 2011.
Players for the Compete Hockey academy attend school at Genesis Prep in Post Falls in order to meet the club's travel schedule.
"It's been a really huge benefit on our academy for the winter session," Severson said. "We've got some players that are doing this camp to take a look at the community to see if this is somewhere they want to go. They're taking a look at the school and it's definitely getting us out there as far as recognition for it as well."
"I think Coeur d'Alene is a really beautiful place and it's a good opportunity to come here for the summer," Dorozhenko said. "The ice facility is absolutely perfect for summer training. It gives people from Idaho, Washington and Canada a chance to come down and enjoy this place and have some positive time on the ice learning."
For more information on the camp, visit www.competehockey.com.