Former Rail Yard Dawgs coach Cal Miska trains new wave of sharpshooters
VINTON, Va. (WDBJ) - When Cal Miska arrived in the Star City two years ago, his goal was to turn the shorthanded state of youth hockey into a power play.
“When I first started, I just had a handful of guys that were playing the U-18 level, and then I started picking up younger kids and now, my camps are filled with kids that have an interest in making it to the next level,” said Miska. “In two years, it’s come far.”
Miska’s first taste of Roanoke came as a player with the Rail Yard Dawgs in 2018, and he returned to the team as an assistant coach the following season.
Now, through his development program Miska Hockey, he travels around training the next wave of young skaters in Wisconsin, Minnesota and right here in the Roanoke Valley, bringing intensity more often found in puck-hungry places further north.
“My goal was to grow the hockey program and individual skill because all of our goals are to play at the next level - college, juniors and, one day for these kids, to play pro,” said Miska. “With a summer camp, summer training, this is the next-level stuff. You go to Minnesota, and these guys are doing this every single day, and so I’m giving them a taste of the next level and it’s going very well here.
“Hockey is blowing up and it’s great to see that.”
While not with the Dawgs anymore, Miska still saw firsthand how the team’s absence during the pandemic impacted hockey fans in the region. But he says the COVID timeout actually helped grow the sport locally.
“I think it was the best thing for the community because the youth program was starting to grow during this last summer, and now this year, it’s the full effect of everybody wanting to jump back in the sport,” he said. “And with the Rail Yard Dawgs coming back, everyone’s fired up.”
In the meantime, Miska’s camp runs four weeks this summer at the Lancerlot Sports Complex in Vinton, and he hopes his future sharpshooters leave the rink with their skills and their minds at full strength.
“I tell everybody this: If you can’t pay attention on the ice, it’s going to affect you off the ice,” said Miska. “It’s going to affect their classroom work and life is going to be a bit harder and that’s one thing, besides power skating and edge control, that I want them to take away.”
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