Colorado Rubber

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USJDP ideal for development, exposure


Now in its 15th year, the U.S. Junior Development Program (USJDP) was founded by Mike Gempeler in 2000 after identifying a need for an elite-level development camp. Gempeler wanted to create a program that would provide Junior A/B and Bantam-Midget AAA/AA-level players the intense training and exposure necessary to better prepare for junior and college hockey.

Already well-versed as an entrepreneur in the hockey industry having founded and operated Rocky Mountain Hockey Schools, Gempeler used his extensive network of coaches and scouts from the NHL, NCAA, United States Hockey League and North American Hockey League (NAHL) to create a curriculum and coaching team for the USJDP that, to this day, is like no other in the United States.

“The USJDP provides the most comprehensive elite player development program in the U.S.,” Gempeler said. “The program focuses on pure player development at the elite level, utilizing exceptional facilities, intense training protocol and high-level coaching to draw and develop players from around the globe.”

Currently, the USJDP curriculum is comprised of the Boys Junior Prep Camp, Girls Junior Prep Camp and International Hockey Tours.

In 2000, the USJDP launched its flagship program, the Junior Prep Camp, held at the University of Colorado-Boulder. It continued at that location for eight years until it was moved to the University of Denver and Magness Arena, where it’s still housed today. Based on the success of the Junior Prep Camp, the USJDP grew over the years, adding programming that further supports its mission of being the top development destination in the U.S.

Shortly after the Prep Camp kicked off, Gempeler began offering International Hockey Tours, taking kids to Switzerland to give them the opportunity to improve their game by training with and playing against European players. Since the first tour, the USJDP Selects has returned more than a dozen times to Switzerland and Central Europe and will travel to Helsinki, Finland, later this year for the prestigious Finland Lions Cup. Also in 2015, the USJDP will expand into the female hockey channel, launching a 19U Prep Camp at the University of Denver.

“It’s one of the only camps of its kind in the U.S. geared strictly towards girls and will be based on the same proven structure of the Boys Junior Prep Camp,” noted Gempeler.

Past participants of the USJDP include players who have moved on to play NCAA Division I hockey at some of the top schools in North America.

“Quite simply, the USJDP helped put me on the map,” said Sean Lorenz, a 2012 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. “I’m so thankful to Mike and the Junior Prep Camp for being one of the best development camps I attended and for the exposure I gained while at the program. Following the camp, one of their coaches helped get me into a NAHL main camp from which I made the team. That in turn led me to the (U.S.) National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor and on to Notre Dame.”

Gempeler has certainly not worked alone over the years to get the USJDP and its participants to the forefront. He credits Zac Desjardins for playing an instrumental role in the management of the programming and development of its players, in addition to the involvement of coaches and scouts, such as former NHL coach and current Israeli National Team coach Derek Eisler, longtime NHL coach and scout John Perpich, longtime junior coach John Paris, Jr., Alabama-Huntsville coach Mike Corbett and former DU assistant coaches Derek Lalonde and Matty Thomas.

“My mission is and has always been to make the USJDP the most comprehensive development program in the U.S. for those wanting to train with bigger, better, faster, stronger players from around the world,” said Gempeler. “Simply put, I want the USJDP to be the place to go for those players willing to work their tails off to improve. Period.”

For more information on the USJDP, visit

– Matt Mackinder

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