Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brittain giving back with LTS program

It’s easy to spot Plymouth Whalers left wing Josh Brittain during any game.

At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Brittain is a power forward who has found a home on a line with Joe Gaynor and James Livingston.

The veteran line excels in forechecking and crashing deep in the offensive zone, creating scoring chances by wearing down opposing defensemen. That’s how Brittain scored his 15th goal of the season last night in Guelph – converting Livingston’s shot from the severe angle, right wing, and potting home the rebound just outside the blue crease.

Brittain has another job on the ice that utilizes a softer, kinder approach. He’s currently one of the lead instructors at Compuware Arena’s Learn-to-Skate program. Every Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10-11am and most Wednesday nights from 5-7pm, Brittain is out on the ice, patiently instructing young children that are around just six years old.

Brittain has taken to the LTS program much like he forechecks for the Whalers – straight ahead.

But instead of wearing down defensemen, he’s nurturing young skaters and potential hockey players.

He’s receiving rave reviews.

“Josh stepped right in when we needed someone,” said Compuware Arena Learn-to-Skate Director Jennifer Hancock. “We’ve received great feedback from parents and the kids. The kids say, ’Bring Josh back every week, we really want (to work with) him.’

“Just standing back and watching him – he’s great. He gets right in there with the details of skating and helps with puck handling drills. He’s just a great all-around instructor. We’re really happy to have him on board.”

During a recent session, Brittain instructed youngsters Fernando Gonzales, Dorian Diewald and Joel Fonovic. As big as Brittain is, he uses one part comedy, one part body language (often kneeling on the ice to get his points across) and one part strength to teach his students.

Brittain – a draft choice of the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks – grew up in Milton, Ont., and remembers the lessons he learned growing up.

“Growing up, I did a lot of programs like our Learn-to-Skate,” Brittain said. “I worked with some older guys who were assistants and not exactly instructors, but I looked up to them – how they shot the puck, scored goals and the whole aspect of it when you are younger. It’s pretty cool.”

Brittain decided to work for the Learn-to-Skate program as a way to give back.

“I noticed growing up how big of an impact an older person is in teaching,” Brittain said. “It certainly had an impact on me. Helping these little guys is fun for me and fun for them. Hopefully, our time together gives them a positive outlook on hockey while growing up.”

Brittain gave a scouting report of his three students.

“Fernando, Dorian and Joel are excellent skaters for their age,” he said. “We’re just working on their physical aspect of putting the puck in the net and to become the next Plymouth Whalers.”

Brittain’s work has another positive effect on families - they’re becoming Whaler fans.

“It’s cool to see how he works with the kids,” said Catherine Fonovic. “We get Whaler tickets as part of the (Learn-to-Skate) program. (At games) we’re yelling at Josh from our seats and he’s waving at us from the ice.”

New Learn-to-Skate Sessions are forming all the time. Brittain is often assisted by Whalers teammates Ryan Hayes and Matt Hackett.

In addition, the Whalers are offering Mid-Winter Break Clinics on February 15-16 or February 18-19. During the two-day clinics, kids will go through drills and work on their technique as some of the Whalers players and coaches are the instructors during the clinics, plus enjoy a pizza party after one of the days. Each participant will receive a complimentary Whaler game voucher for a game during the 2009-10 regular season.

Full equipment is required and the maximum number of participants is 40 per clinic. Register early to guarantee a spot. Contact Natalie Shaver with any questions at 734-453-3216.

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