RMHS celebrates 20th anniversary
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When Mike Gempeler founded Rocky Mountain Hockey Schools (RMHS) back in 1996, never in his wildest dreams did he think the Kittredge-based company would reach its 20th anniversary.
But as that milestone emerges, reality has taken over.
Gempeler managed and grew the camp for 10 years on a local and national basis and then passed it on to Bryan Smith, who’s owned the company ever since and also serves as its director of hockey operations.
“Bryan has really taken on the social aspects of the camp and become the true face of RMHS,” said Gempeler. “After the early days of developing and growing a young company, Bryan brought some much-needed energy and enthusiasm to the camps, both on the ice and off, and has since taken RMHS to much greater heights.”
Smith says he can’t believe he’s owned the company for 10 years.
“It’s been an amazing experience getting to know all of the students and their family members over the years,” Smith said. “I’ve been able to see the players truly develop into young men and women and it’s been a priceless experience for me.
“I look forward to doing it again with the upcoming generation. Being the president of RMHS over the past 10 years has truly been a humbling and rewarding experience all at the same time.
“I always look forward to each new year and different ways to make the camp experience a fun and memorable one for the players and their family members.”
RMHS prides itself on providing the finest player development, training and exposure opportunities for students of all ages and skill levels – all in an exciting, positive learning environment.
The staff believes that a player’s development is determined by his or her own dedication and effort, in conjunction with the teaching of a highly trained and motivated staff. All activities and drills are designed to break down and develop each player’s critical skills through intensive technique training.
With that in mind, RMHS strives to create a positive, “no-fear” environment at each camp, where it is OK to fall down, fail or struggle with an activity.
“Every year, we change up what we do, on and off the ice, to keep things fresh for our students,” explained Smith. “We rotate our camp themes so the players can get the full hockey training they should expect.”
Some pretty good players have come through RMHS. Bo Hanson currently plays for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League and grew up going to RMHS camps in McCall, Idaho. In the early years of RMHS, the Shore brothers from Denver were also students at the camps.
“RMHS camps were always something I looked forward to,” said Hanson. “I loved learning from a great staff and an even better organization. They really helped with my skating and other fundamentals that are key in my game today.”
Still, even with so many elements working in its favor, RMHS has encountered struggles along the way, but nothing it wasn’t able to overcome.
“A few years ago in the down economy, our numbers were down compared to years previous,” Smith said. “Our staff stayed positive and only became stronger because of it.
“It really forced us to learn how to provide a valuable experience for the families that came to our camps. The staff didn’t panic and we trained the players by age and skill level with station training. It really helped push the students and staff to all work together and still be able to provide them with an amazing camp experience.”
It’s the ability and willingness to push forward that’s made RMHS a viable entity for so long.
“RMHS has been the leader in skill-development training for the past 20 years,” said Smith. “We run our camps in amazing mountain towns across the western part of the United States, and that makes for a perfect week where the whole family can come and enjoy themselves while their kids are on the ice with our staff.
“We have families attending from all over the world. The camps continue to grow every year as our staff connects our athletes and helps give them the direction on what to do next.”
Smith also believes RMHS will be making an impact many years from now because of the commitment level and knowledge base of everyone associated with the organization.
“RMHS will be around for another 20 years simply because we believe in each of our students, no matter their age or skill level,” said Smith. “We’re truly interested in developing the game of hockey at all ages and levels so that all players can play the game for the rest of their lives.
“Our staff also is so committed to keeping our minds open to learning new techniques to train our athletes and staying on top of the ever-changing game of hockey.”
– Matt Mackinder