Developing hockey talent: Former local hockey star excited to help next generation

The BR.ICE Hockey Development poster offers players skill development, strength training, advising and video coaching. Founded by former Houghton Gremlins and Michigan Tech Huskies hockey player Raymond Brice, BR.ICE is looking to help develop skaters and goaltenders from the Copper Country. (Photo provided)

HOUGHTON — Houghton native, former Gremlins’ star and former captain of Michigan Tech hockey’s team Raymond Brice is back in town for the summer. Unlike in previous summers, when he returned to train for the upcoming season, this summer Brice is doing something different.

He has started a new company called BR.ICE Hockey Development. With BR.ICE, he is looking to offer a dedicated service to hockey players with the goal of nurturing their skills and talents.

While he just announced his retirement from professional hockey at the end of the 2023-24 season, Brice has actually been considering something like this for some time. In fact, he credits another former Huskies player as being a driving force in helping him hone his vision.

“(It is) something that, when I was in England, I started researching guys that I know that played,” he said. “I played with a lot of guys that kind of do this stuff, and I’m just researching and looking. I talked to Jamie Phillips. He gave me some really good advice. He’s been kind of hounding me to do it up here for years.”

Brice admits that a lot of the motivation for starting a consulting/coaching firm like BR.ICE comes from his own experience growing up in the Copper Country.

“Thinking back, this is something that I wish that I had growing up, or resources that I could go to with valuable coaches and guys that have been there and done that,” he said. “Tyler Schlast did a good job for me growing up, but he had a lot of his own dealings with other things.

“So, this is just something that I hope to provide the kids with valuable resources and learning through the summer.”

Brice, who has seen a good chunk of the world though hockey, has seen similar projects help players in larger areas with more resources.

“You look at other places throughout the U.S., big cities, their hockey development has gone crazy,” he said. “Facilities dedicated to summer training. There are NHL guys coming back to coach their kids through the summer to make money, pro guys, you name it up here. We really never had that, so I think it’s something that was needed. It’s something that I hope to grow up here.”

Kids in BR.ICE will take the ice for the first time Wednesday, and Brice is excited to have players meet and learn from the likes of Connor Hannon, Marcus Gloss, Blake Pietila, Tyrone Bronte, Corey Markham, Brian Hannon, Jake Crespi, Brendan Datema, Camden Markham, Eli Mikesch, and Max Fredrickson.

Brice wanted a staff with a diverse background, and he certainly has that, from a high school coach of 25 years, to former NCAA hockey players, to players just beginning their journey towards college hockey.

“We try to have a diverse background,” he said. “Tyrone has come from Australia, he’ll have an opportunity to work with these kids that have never even been to the other side of (the world), to Australia or whatever. So, I hope to provide diverse perspectives, because the game is changing, and everyone sees it in their own way.”

Also, being able to offer goaltenders a chance to learn from an All-American goalie is a nice perk as well.

“I think it’s super exciting,” said Brice. “We’ve hired, when I think (about it), really one of the best coaching staffs for this kind of business, and probably in all of Michigan. I think we have some guys that are really working. With a guy like Blake Pietila, the kids have the opportunity to work with an All-American goaltender, which is super special, and kind of gives those kids a personal connection, somebody that they can look up to now. The kids see the route that those kids went, and they’re learning from them, and it gives them the opportunity to chase their dreams and hope to be in those shoes someday.

BR.ICE is set to focus on skill development, but the important difference from a traditional hockey school is that it will be tailored to each player.

According to the About Us section of BR.ICE’s website, “At the core of our approach is our commitment to providing top-tier on-ice skill development, tailored to the unique needs of each individual. Through expert coaching and personalized training sessions, we empower our clients to excel in every aspect of their game.”

How Brice and his staff will achieve this is through a combination of on-ice drills, but also helping players understand how important off-ice work is as well.

“We hope to provide lessons off the ice,” he said. “Working with some visual training or visual training age called Visual Edge, kids will have an opportunity to see what that’s about and stuff, “Our mission statement is: Empowering the next generation of ice hockey players of all ages. Through comprehensive on ice skill development, off-ice coaching resources, and goal-oriented advising, we ensure a holistic approach to the player’s growth and success in the sport.”

Brice’s vision for BR.ICE is that it can be a resource for players for several years.

“Long term, (what) we really want to see is a kid that comes in when he’s six and leaves when he’s 18, (and) he’s a much better player than he would have been, because he had the opportunity to work with us,” said Brice. “We understand the market up here in the area, and we hope to provide affordable resources to these kids.

“I hope to provide consulting if a kid has questions or whatever. We kind of want to be that face, and if they decide to work with us or whatever, then we can offer those things, too. But, it’s really to help give back to the area a little bit, and provide a (resource) that’s needed up here.”

BR.ICE will have two different development styles at work this summer, a weekly set of skill development sessions, both for players and for goaltenders, and a summer development camp, which will run on two different weeks in June.

In the development sessions, the staff at BR.ICE will be working with individual players, which will help develop their skills.

“A lot of our drills are individual,” he said. “We’re going to have 2-on=1 drills, and battle drills, but it’s called skill development sessions for a reason. You look at some of the best players in the world, they’re doing drills that an 8 year old could do, but they’re just doing them on a faster level.

“So, what I tell the kids that are more advanced, ‘Just push yourself a little bit, OK? Add a little stick handle in here. Add another move here, OK? Try to get that puck through. Now, you take a stride.'”

The expectation that Brice and his staff have is that the skills they work on with players can help players of many different skill levels, and help them maximize their potential. At the same time, he admits that it won’t always be easy to see growth, as the difference in a player’s game will change less as they get closer to their end goal.

“You’re looking at more intricacies of what their development, or their game is, in order to make them even better players,” he said. “Because, when you’re starting out, your development’s like this, (then) boom, you get so much better, quicker, as when you’re starting out. But, as you get older and better, you get less (growth). Your chunk that you’re taking off to develop is less and less, because you’re close to that peak.”

Brice is very excited to be able to bring his experience and knowledge back to the Copper Country in this way.

“I think it’s super exciting,” he said. “I think it’ll be awesome to see how the kids respond in camp throughout the summer with those connections, and see how much we can grow it next summer, too.”

Brice said that he has about 150 players signed up for the summer-long program, and about another 100 for the hockey camps. Parents and players who are interested in checking out everything Brice and his staff have to offer can go to https://www.bricehockeydev.com.


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