Nine years after the Kentucky Thoroughblades left Lexington for Cleveland, two of the T-blades are back in town to conduct a week-long hockey camp.
The SK8 With Skalde camp, at the Lexington Ice Center, features one-time T-blades captain Jarrod Skalde, along with the 1998 MVP of the American Hockey League, Steve Guolla. Also coaching on the ice is Dave Bailey, Skalde’s assistant with the Central Hockey League’s Bloomington (Ill.) PrairieThunder.
The camp, split in groups of 10-and-under and 11-and-older, continues through Friday, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Between the two groups, about 40 skaters are taking part.
Two “skills camp” sessions also are scheduled, 2-4 Saturday afternoon and 10 a.m.-noon on Sunday.
We caught up with the T-blades dynamic duo Wednesday.
“I think it’s gone terrific,” said Skalde, who is about to enter his third season as coach of the PrairieThunder. “It’s great to see all these kids out here, some for the first time playing hockey, putting equipment on, and others that have been playing for a while. They’re doing terrific. It’s great to see kids getting better right in front of your eyes every day. We’re three days in now and some kids have made huge, huge improvements.”
This is the first of what Skalde and Guolla hope will be an annual event. Lexington horseman John Sikura, a hockey enthusiast and native Canadian, encouraged the pair to give the camp a try. Skalde said this initial camp is a break-even situation financially so, with growth, he hopes to turn a profit in the future. Money is not the primary motivation, though.
Said Guolla, who scored 100 points for the 1997-98 T-blades and now plays for Tappara, in Tampere, Finland: “Old Thoroughblades back in town — trying to help the growth of hockey and have a good time, help show off the skills that we’ve known growing up in Ontario. … We’ve got a wealth of knowledge. We want to pass it on down here and we’re very approachable to that aspect. If anybody wants to call us or talk to us, we’re happy to deal with it.”
Skalde, Guolla and Bailey all have sons participating in the camp — Skate Skalde, 7; Tyler Guolla, 6; and Cooper Bailey, 11.
Skalde’s wife, Erin, is working with campers on the dry-land portion of the sessions.
Skalde’s 12-year-old daughter, True, is visiting Jarrod’s sister in Paris — France, not Kentucky. Guolla also has a son and a daughter at home in Michigan – Braden, 1 1/2, and Katelyn, 4 — in the care of Guolla’s wife, Lori.
Skalde and Guolla have been regular visitors to Lexington since their Thoroughblade days, always staying with John and Angie Sikura at their Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms.
“I can’t believe we didn’t think of this earlier,” Skalde said of the camp. “I talked to Johnny Sikura this summer. Sort of became ‘lets’ just try it out,’ and I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out.”
About Skalde …
Skalde joined the T-blades for 23 games in the 1997-98 season, finishing with five goals and 15 assists.
The next season, over 54 games, Skalde totaled 17 goals and 40 assists.
Following a 17-season playing career in the pros, Skalde now coaches the PrairieThunder, who move to the CHL this season from the International Hockey League.
Skalde played 115 games in the National Hockey League, with the Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Thrashers, New Jersey Devils, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames and Philadelphia Flyers. He also played in the AHL and IHL, as well as teams in Switzerland, Sweden, Slovenia and Japan.
He won championships with Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League and Orlando of the IHL.
Click here for Jarrod Skalde’s career statistics:
About Guolla …
Guolla netted 22 goals and 22 assists in 34 games in the T-blades’ inaugural season. He followed that with a 100-point season — 37 goals and 63 assists over 69 games. He finished his tour in Lexington with 53 games in the 1998-99 season, when he totaled 29 goals and 47 assists for 76 points.
After leading Michigan State to the Frozen Four in 1992, Guolla embarked on a professional career that included 205 games in the NHL. He finished with 40 goals and 46 assists during his time with the San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils. He went on to play in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Finland, skating for Tappara Tampere last season.