By Darren Lum
Oct. 25 2016
Haliburton Hockey Haven is not just taking over the Lake Kashagawigamog resort Halimar it is building on a legacy of making memories.
Three years in the planning Haven’s owner Troy Binnie recognizes the difficulty with bringing NHL stars to Hockey Haven as it was known for at the height of its popularity more than 25 years ago. He believes he can give campers the same kind of lasting rich memories and continue to offer the quality instruction from his knowledgeable and skilled coaches.
He said buying Halimar this year was part of his long-term plan to make his summer camp a destination and enable him to give children a broader offering of activities than just hockey and water sports.
Children want more than just hockey and water sports out of a camp.
He believes golf is one sport not really being offered at residential camps and it is complementary to hockey.
This move includes an expansion of the camp’s instruction to include tennis and golf a water sports program that includes the current offering of wake boarding but also water skiing. There will also be an increase to the recreation opportunities from swimming lessons at the venue’s pool to on-site recreation basketball. Included with the broader offering starting the end of June is a change to the name to Haliburton Hockey Haven Sports Camp. He plans to offer registration for swimming lessons to children from the public. The camp will continue to be open to boys and girls between the ages of seven and 14.
“Our goal is to provide the highest quality with all our sports. The hockey program is not going to change. All the same guys are coming back. We’re still going to have some pro hockey players come out and help when they can and it goes with the tennis and the golf as well” he said.
There is a plan to have a full-time golf instructor and also guest appearances by golfers. So far he has not finalized a golf venue in the area yet.
He will also offer a counsellor-in-training program which was only possible because of his recent property purchase. This program will enable youth interested in becoming an instructor in tennis golf hockey or even just an activity instructor.
This location requires little to be ready as he credits former owners Suzanne and Jan Haedicke with maintaining the property so well. Binnie said he will take ownership late November.
He said a few minor modifications will be done to help with serving the children food such as adding furniture for the dining area the addition of bunk beds and the construction of a basketball court.
“I don’t like giving out numbers because it is not fair to other people involved but it was a significant investment” he said when asked about his financial commitment to this move and expansion.
None of this would have been possible without the support of the Township of Dysart particularly Reeve Murray Fearrey he said.
He acknowledged the township’s five-year lease agreement and an option for five more with the A.J. LaRue Arena as an early step to his plans.
“Without the arena there is no Hockey Haven. Once we had that solidified last year that gave me the green light to find a property. It’s a big investment. Is it a risk? Everything is a risk in life when it comes to an investment but the property itself is second to none when it comes to cottage properties on one of the top lakes in Haliburton” he said.
He admits Halimar is a far smaller property than their previous venue of Bark Lake but owning this property affords him scheduling flexibility.
“It gives us the opportunity to expand and do exactly how we want to do things and not be governed on other rules” he said.
The criteria for this new location for his summer camp was to move to a property that was on one of the major lakes and close to Haliburton which shortens any bus rides and gives quick access to golf courses.
He said there will be a full-day camp this summer for year-round and seasonal residents.
Based on his experience coaching and with his own children he believes a stronger and more intimate relationship will foster a better environment to learn.
“I want to know every kid and on Friday when they leave I want to know them personally and not know them as just a number” he said.
His aim is to keep the total camper numbers capped at 70 a week to give proper instruction and to facilitate stronger relations.
Keeping the camp here and close to Haliburton was considered an important aspect to his business plans. Hockey Haven is Haliburton he said.
“I’ve never been a Muskoka guy. My wife and I love the small town atmosphere that Haliburton still has with all the amenities of a big town area” he said.
“Haliburton has been my home for the last 25 years with my cottage. My boys have been going to the camp before I owned it. It’s a great area and it needs to continue on. It’s part of the heritage and Haliburton is a unique little town when it comes to hockey” he said.
Tradition is something he values.
He has already assured the Lake Kashagawigamog Organization which represents 264 residents on the lake they can still hold their annual regatta the Family Fun Day event.
He appreciates when adults ask him for photos as they remember the fond memories of spending summers here as children at Hockey Haven. Some of these adults are now sending their children to his camp so they can have the same kind of experience.
“It is a big tradition. We had to start from somewhere and every year we’ve seen our numbers increase by 40 to 50 per cent every year and now with our own camp and own facility we want to see it increase some more. At the same time keep it a boutique camp where kids don’t get lost in the shuffle” he said.
He is in the planning stages of an opening reception which will be open to the public. He hopes to have former professional hockey players possibly Toronto great Wendel Clark. Clark has made an appearance at the camp. If the opening event for the new location isn’t held before the start then it will be some time during the operating season he said.
The plan to relaunch the website with the new information and logo will if all goes according to plan be up on Nov. 15. Realistically he said he’ll be happy if everything is ready for the end of November.
His intention is to have Hockey Haven in his family for at least 50 years possibly passing it on to his three children aged 21 17 and 12. He jokes that his two older boys spent more time at the camp working than at his home in Haliburton.
“They love the whole thing. They love it so much I can’t even get them to come to my cottage. They always stay at the camp. It just goes to show you where kids love to be” he said.