Tahoe Ice Arena hosts PAC-8 recruitment camp
The Tahoe Ice Arena (TIA) has been getting some summertime action lately and bringing in top youth hockey players from all over the country.
TIA hosted the July 31 through Aug. 4 American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) PAC-8 recruiting camp — its third year doing so. At the camp, prospective high school students took a shot at displaying their skills to potential colleges in hopes of being recruited.
The PAC-8 includes the University of California, Berkeley; University of Southern California; University of California, Los Angeles; Arizona State University; University of Washington, University of Utah; University of Oregon and Washington State University.
“We’ve got kids here from all over North America,” said Van Oleson, who operates TIA. “We’ve got kids from Winnipeg, Canada that come down just for this. All of these [players] have come to Tahoe to take a crack at the Pacific Athletic Conference schools.” Oleson has operated TIA since 2011 and has spent the past six years developing and promoting regional hockey.
A.J. Boldan, PAC-8 executive director, said coming to South Lake Tahoe for the camp has been a pretty good fit and that Oleson’s support helps backup what PAC-8 hockey is all about.
“We also have the championship tournament here in February,” said Boldan. “I told Van we wanted a centralized location for everything and everything pointed to Tahoe. [Oleson] is in support of the mission — academics and hockey, so we’ve made Tahoe our home.”
Boldan also serves as general manager for the University of Utah hockey program. He said the camp helps match the best players with schools that may be looking to fill a particular position.
Oleson said that in addition to scrimmages and training drills, the camp also features a combine, where things like speed, agility and stick skills are assessed. Oleson said that the camp is just one of the many things TIA has going on that is solidifying the ice arena and the region as major players in hockey, while giving local players an accessible outlet to display their talent.
“We’re doing a lot of things here in Tahoe — like the PAC-8 camp,” said Oleson. “We’re able to give our local kids exposure and they can see one of the many pathways they can take with their playing.”
Player Reiss Jensen, of Reno, grew up playing hockey at TIA and even helped lead the local youth hockey team, the Tahoe Grizzlies, to their first state championship in 2013. Jensen was making his second appearance at the camp and said he owes a lot to Oleson and Lake Tahoe hockey for getting him to the level he is at now. Jensen recently graduated from high school and will be playing hockey at the University of Utah as a forward.
“I’ve been coming to play in [South Lake Tahoe] for about 10 years,” said Jensen. “I played on teams here until I was about 13. When Van came on to the scene and elevated the level of play, he was able to keep a lot of the high-level kids here who normally would’ve moved on.”
According to Jensen, he was able to meet Boldan through last year’s camp, which eventually led to him being offered a spot on the Utah hockey team.
“That’s how I met A.J., last year,” said Jensesn. “They have a solid Division 1, club program and A.J. was the coach so it was perfect.”
Oleson said Jensen is just one example of a success story that correlates with the level of hockey he has been working to develop over the past several years and that more players will probably go out of their way to come play in Tahoe.
“We’re getting a lot of great exposure of Tahoe,” said Oleson. “It’s awakened opportunities for people that may have taken a different path, but now have a new choice that they can take advantage of.”
Aside from just the hockey, Jensen said he’s received a positive response from the players, parents and staff involved with the camp. “The scenery is great and everyone loves it here,” said Boldan. “The atmosphere and culture is welcoming and wonderful.”