SCHENECTADY — Tucked away in the corner of the lower stands at Messa Rink sat legendary New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter. He was alternating between looking at his phone and watching his son Thomas on the ice.
Thomas Richter is one of over 100 hockey players who have come to Messa this weekend for the inaugural Union College Prospects Camp. The camp started Friday and runs through Sunday. Six teams full of players will participate in one-hour skill sessions each day, and then play games at night.
Thomas Richter will be a junior at the Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn. Like many of the players who are at the camp, he is hoping to attract attention from college coaches.
“I feel like these camps are very, very valuable,” Thomas Richter said. “. . . A lot of good kids come here, and you can work with them. It’s also good to showcase yourself, especially since the talent level is so high.”
While Thomas Richter followed in his dad’s skates by playing hockey, he didn’t choose the same position as his father. Thomas Richter is a forward.
“I think my wife [discouraged him] from playing goal,” Mike Richter said with a laugh. “She said it was hard enough watching me.”
Mike Richter, whose 13-year career with the Rangers was highlighted by winning the 1994 Stanley Cup, likes that there are prospect camps for players like his son.
“Like anybody who plays, you want to improve,” said Mike Richter, who played college hockey for one season at Wisconsin. “You have world-class coaches here and, hopefully, they’re going to give him a little bit of an understanding of where he can improve and play against great competition.”
The camp is comprised of players born between 1997 and 2001. It has drawn prospects from as far away as California, and many players from Canada are in town.
There are several Capital Region players on the ice.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Santino Benamati, who plays for the Clifton Park Dynamo and graduated from Brunt Hills-Ballston Lake High School in June. “We’ve got a lot of good competition out here. It’s going to be good to get a lot of scouts looking at you. You’ve just got to play competitive, give it all you’ve got and hope for the best.”
“Honestly, [I hope] to get some contact with the Union coaches or other coaches,” said Burnt Hills resident Cam Speck, whose father Brian is the Union women’s soccer head coach. “I just want to have a good time. It’s nice to have something local.”
The camp was organized by Union associate head coach Jason Tapp and assistant coach John Ronan.
“It seemed to be a good way to get kids on campus that might be interested in Union, and reach kids that we don’t really reach [like] some kids in California and Texas and Florida, some areas we generally don’t get to recruit, and some age groups we don’t really get to recruit,” Tapp said. “We didn’t do a lot with the younger kids just because of where we’re at. So, it’s a chance for us to see the higher-end 2000s and ‘01s and get them in our building and see the campus.”
But Union isn’t hogging all the prospects’ attention. Coaches from UMass, Vermont, Clarkson, Dartmouth, Quinnipiac, RPI, Bentley, SUNY-Brockport and Williams are expected to be at the camp. Helping Union head coach Rick Bennett run the drills were Clarkson assistant coach Josh Hague and new RPI assistant coach Dan Jewell.
Tapp is hoping this becomes an annual event.
“There’s a lot of schools that do it now,” Tapp said. “Harvard has a camp. Brown has a camp. There’s schools that do it already. With six teams this year, we’re happy with the talent we’ve seen so far in the couple of practices.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Ken Schott at 395-3159, [email protected], or on Twitter @slapschotts. Read his take on college and pro hockey any time by checking out his blog, Parting Schotts, at https://dailygazette.com/blogs/parting-schotts.