No one was jangling keys orpredicting management-labour Armageddon last week when the players’ associationconducted a national training camp for promising adolescent players. The secondannual Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp brought 42 gifted youngsters fromacross the country to Mississauga, Ont., for five days of on- and off-icetraining and instruction.
One of the invitees was CallumBooth. The 15-year-old N.D.G. resident was the only goaltender from Quebec inattendance.
In addition to honing hispuck-stopping skills with veteran NHLer Martin Biron, Booth had classes innutrition, strength and fitness, sports psychology, life skills and personalvalues. There was also a parents-only classroom session – at which they did notcover vacation scheduling.
The Booth family – Callum,11-year-old Amelia, 8-year-old Angus and their parents – are supposed to be inEngland for a three-week holiday. At least that was the plan until Callum, whoplays Bantam Double-A hockey for the Montreal Royals and has been on the Quebecteam at under-14 and under-15 tournaments, was invited to the development camp.
Rob and Nicki Booth areBritons. They have been in Canada since 1996, when Nicki, a geneticist, washired by McGill University. She currently works in the Université de Montréal’sfertility program at Hôpital Saint-Luc, and Rob Booth is in advertising.
They get back to England everyfour years or so. But the hockey camp was an opportunity Callum couldn’t miss,so the trip home was rescheduled.
“It’s what you do for hockey,”Rob Booth said. “We’ve spent thousands of hours at rinks over the years. Therewas never a question he’d miss this camp.”
“Now we’re going in the middleof the Olympics, which will be crazy but fun,” Nicki Booth said.
Their stay in the U.K.,includes a visit to Manchester to see a quarter-final Olympic soccer match atOld Trafford – enemy territory for a family of Chelsea fans.
Then it’s a brief time back inMontreal for Callum, who will head off to the prestigious Salisbury School inConnecticut on a three-year hockey scholarship that begins in September. Booth,who won’t be 16 until May, will be the youngest player on the prep school’svarsity team.
After our meeting, at a café onSherbrooke St., Callum was off to an afternoon training session. He works outwith MMA fighters at a gym near the Orange Julep.
Callum was born a year afterthe Booths arrived in Montreal. They enrolled him in an N.D.G. hockey programwhen he was 4 years old.
“We were told the best thing todo was put a child in Learn to Skate for hockey,” Nicki Booth recalled. “Itwasn’t the intention to go any further. It was just what everyone said youdid.”
From his first tentative stepsat the Doug Harvey Arena, Callum has developed into an elite young player. Hebecame a goaltender at the beginning of Atom level, when he was 9.
“I don’t really remember whatdrew me to it, it’s such a time ago,” Callum said. “Now I don’t think aboutanything but playing goalie. The feeling of stopping someone is amazing. Thepressure of playing the position, I love the thrill of it.”
Booth, who also excels atsoccer, has always been big for his age. He is 6-foot-2 and will grow somemore, if his size 14 1/2 feet are any indication.
“We’re having problems gettingshoes for him,” Nicki Booth said. “And he’s just outgrown his skates. The nextpair will have to be custom-made.”
Booth seems headed for CareyPrice (6-foot-3)/Pekka Rinne (6-foot-5) range. And the kid can stop pucks.
Booth’s bantam team did not winthis year’s provincial championship. But the Royals’ goaltender posted a 1.18goals-against average during the playoffs.
“They don’t calculate savepercentage,” Nicki Booth said. “Which was a shame because they had quite a weakdefensive team.”
Booth saw a lot of rubber, andhis ability drew the attention of the PA camp’s talent scouts. The bantamschedule is 35 regular-season games. Playoffs and tournaments bring the totalup to about 60 games, of which Booth is the goaltender for a bit more thanhalf.
Add off-ice training and he’s abusy boy. Booth also excels in the classroom at Collège Notre-Dame, where he’scompleted Sec III before heading south to prep school.
He’ll be taking the customgoalie pads, glove, blocker and sticks – the first non-wood ones Booth has used– that were part of about $5,000 worth of goodies dispensed at the PAdevelopment camp. You can’t put a dollar value, however, on facing practiceshots by Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, John Tavares and Taylor Hall; or hearingGary Roberts preach fitness and nutrition.
“It was an amazing experience,”young Booth said.
He was particularly impressedby the passion with which Roberts preaches the training and diet regimens thatsaved his NHL career after a serious neck injury. The parents’ session featuredSkinner and Jason Spezza with their fathers, talking about their familyjourneys from minor to pro hockey.
Kerry Fraser reffed theSaturday game, in which Booth allowed one goal “off a deflection” and stoppedtwo penalty shots in the 20 minutes he played. Fraser also talked to the kidsabout respecting hockey and each other.
“There was even a seminar onfinancial planning,” Rob Booth said. “The guy brought it down to the kids’level, very light and entertaining.”
Those two adjectives won’t beapplied to the PA’s negotiations with the NHL. Union head Donald Fehr put in anappearance at the final camp dinner; but while the teens weren’t taught to singSolidarity Forever, the fraternal spirit was part of camp culture.
“They were all great guys,”Callum Booth said of his fellow campers, “and really good hockey players.”