Kevyn Adams grew up in Clarence and played youth hockey in Western New York before his NHL career.
Once at the top of his sport, he played with six teams, including as an alternate captain with the Carolina Hurricanes when they dispatched the Buffalo Sabres in a bruising 7-game Eastern Conference Finals series on their way to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
After he retired, he became an assistant coach with the Sabres and, last year, the new HarborCenter vice president and head of the Academy of Hockey in the new complex at Scott and Washington streets on the Buffalo waterfront.
Now 40, he's been around the world of hockey for 35 years, and knows something special when he sees it.
During an interview this week, he said it's been nice to see HarborCenter begin to live up to the potential that owners Terry and Kim Pegula envisioned when they decided to build a complex with two indoor ice rinks, the hockey academy, a film room, sports performance fitness center and sports bar all under one roof. Let's not forget a flagship Tim Horton's and as yet to open hotel.
Such a complete package is rare across NHL cities and in Europe, Adams said.
I asked to talk with him as part of a story published today in WNY Refresh on Impact Sports Performance, an accessible, top-of-the-line fitness center on the sixth floor of HarborCenter. You can read that story here.
Among the questions I asked are the following seven, followed by his answers:
Q. Where does Impact Sports Performance stand in the pipeline when it comes to training athletes who have a shot to play in juniors, college and maybe someday in the NHL?
When we look at develop hockey players, we look at a holistic approach. There’s certainly an on-ice component, the skill development. There’s the classroom part, teaching through video. A huge component, as well, is the fitness. Through Jason Jerome’s team at Impact, it’s not just getting stronger but doing it the right way. It’s working on agility, it’s age appropriate, it’s training that’s geared individually toward a player at a certain age and skill level.
It’s about giving a player the best opportunity to succeed. ... Jason’s team does a good job putting an individual training session together to teach kids the right way to be an athlete.
Q. How attractive does HarborCenter now become for athletes looking to break into juniors, college or the NHL, and how does your school and Impact Sports fit in?
For any elite-level athlete or hockey player that’s trying to give themselves every chance to improve, it's helping that along.
Q. What reaction have you received from the families and young players you and your staff are working with?
It’s been very positive. I think they see over the course of time the benefits they get from it.
Q. What about former Sabres and other NHL players?
They’re blown away. A former Carolina player coaching the Junior Hurricanes was here recently and couldn’t believe the place.
For those of us who’ve been in the game, it’s pretty exciting. As more people come into town, I think the message and the excitement will keep spreading.
Q. How will running the NHL combine this spring and next help boost the visibility?
The combine is a high profile, very important week-long event for not just the NHL but the prospects. Potential future NHL players are getting to see the building. You have all the NHL executives, coaches here. It’s really becomes kind of the epicenter of the NHL for a week. To have that in our building is something to be proud of.
Q. Does this boost the odds of a young kid in Western New York or southern Ontario or northwestern Pennsylvania potentially getting discovered at an earlier age and shepherded in a way they wouldn’t have been before?
No question. We live in a hockey market and people love hockey. We all know that. You follow a Patrick Kane and you dream when you’re a little guy skating on a pond that you want to be like Patrick Kane, but then you have the facility like HarborCenter and the ability with the Academy of Hockey and Impact and everything else, and kids are learning to develop skills. We’d love to see these kids with real ability come through our doors. We can help them.
Part of what’s exciting about this – especially with me being from Buffalo – we’re now on a roll where we have a real opportunity to pass along the knowledge we’ve learned along the way.
Q. Does it also play a role in boosting health and wellness across the region?
Absolutely. There’s only 700 players in the NHL. Everybody who dreams of it and wants to do it, we try to give them every opportunity to reach the highest level of success. But there’s so much to learn about life being a part of a team.