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Atkinson’s ‘Battery Hockey’ facility aims to put a charge in training

Blue Jackets forward teams with local business owners to open high-tech training center for developing hockey players.

The idea for Columbus’ soon-to-be new hockey training facility, The Battery Hockey Academy, didn’t just materialize out of thin air.

It materialized in cool air, which just wasn’t cool enough to maintain an outdoor ice rink at Jason Ohlson’s office in New Albany.

“I used to have a big tanker truck come in and flood it,” said Ohlson, a hockey dad, owner of a local marketing firm and part-owner of The Battery Hockey Academy. “It’s only a couple hundred dollars’ worth of water, but it just sits there because it doesn’t get cold long enough to create any kind of reliable experience on it.”

Ohlson’s frustration was given a synthetic solution, called Glice, and that eventually spun off into plans for “The Battery” – a training facility for hockey players that plans to open in September at 8515 Rausch Dr., in Plain City.

“We’re solving a problem,” Ohlson said of the new venture, which is part-owned by Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson. “We’re not just selling an idea. It’s literally, ‘Here’s your solution,’ that the city needs. This is not a novelty. There’s nothing novel about this.”

Especially the synthetic ice, which was the initial solution for Ohlson’s melting rink. Ohlson learned about it from Matt Dickson, a local emergency-medicine doctor and another part-owner in the venture.

Dickson had a strip of Glice installed in his garage, for his sons to practice shooting pucks, and he remembered Ohlson’s soggy rink. Ohlson checked out the strip himself and soon contacted Glice’s North American representative – who just happens to be Dan Fritsche, a former Blue Jackets forward.

They discussed Ohlson’s outdoor rink, but the idea for The Battery Hockey Academy soon took over – forming as a collaboration of hockey dads, a local youth coach and Atkinson, who heard about initial plans during a charity dinner with Ohlson.

“I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time,” Atkinson said. “It was just trying to figure out how to do it with the right people. He started kind of talking about this with me, and it was spot on, because I was like, ‘I literally have the same vision of what I want to do, especially in Columbus, just knowing so many youth programs, high-school teams and professional athletes who come back in the summer and train here that need a facility like this – where it’s strictly a facility for hockey training purposes and where you can really zero-in on your hockey skills and development.”

WHAT’S ON TAP?

The Battery Hockey Academy is housed in a warehouse that was once used to construct 50-caliber bullets for the U.S. military. Its large open space was perfect for how its new owners planned to use it.

Inside, will be a 75-foot by 55-foot studio ice rink for individual and team instruction, along with a 60-by-60 synthetic Glice rink to be used for stations focused on stickhandling, shooting, body positioning and even body-checking.

There will be a room to hold team video breakdowns, a state-of-the art weight room for off-ice training and even a kitchen for teams that might want to host meals there. Open to all ages, the main attraction is a circuit-training course using hockey skills, designed specifically to help individual players improve their skills.

Instruction will be handled by a roster of coaches assembled by Joey Nahay, director of hockey for the Capital Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA), who will lead instruction and is another part-owner.

“I looked at it like, ‘I’m going to solve a problem and I’m going to be first to market, best to market, and we’re going to develop a circuit-style training environment,'” Ohlson said. “So, if a kid comes to us and he’s 8-years old or he’s 18-years old, you’re going to come in and go through the ‘Battery’s circuit: 20 minutes on the ice, then 20 minutes over to the Glice and stickhandling and positioning and body checking and all that, and then another space where you get rotated over to the shooting area. You could also use the skating studio.

It will be a unique experience, to say the least.

“You’ll find something like this in Pittsburgh, you’ll find something like this in Chicago and you’ll find something like this in Minnesota,” Ohlson said. “You’re just not going to find it anywhere in Ohio.”

At least, not until August.

The plan is to hit the ice in stride about a month from now, after the Glice rink is installed, the studio rink is finished and the weight room is complete. The Columbus hockey community is already buzzing, according to Atkinson, who said some of his Blue Jackets teammates are fired up too.

“I just saw [Zach Werenski] and [Seth Jones], guys that were just in town recently, and they’re so excited that when they come back, they’re going to be able to come up to a facility like this,” said Atkinson, who plans to train at “The Battery” throughout the year. “You’re going to be like a kid in a candy store if you’re a hockey player. It’s just going to be hockey all day, every day.”

It should fit right in the local hockey scene, considering the growth in popularity of the sport in Columbus. Atkinson has witnessed that growth the past seven years, since making his NHL debut in 2011, and his goal is to fan the flame.

He’s since gotten married, bought a house, signed a long-term contract extension and is set to become a father for the first time within a matter of weeks. Fostering the local hockey scene is high on his personal agenda.

“That was one of the main reasons why I wanted to start this, as well, because my wife and I are having a baby at the end of this month and we just bought a house in Upper Arlington, and we plan on being here full-time in the summers and training here in the summers, and starting our family here,” Atkinson told BlueJackets.com. “We love it in Columbus. There’s also so many young hockey players here, who not only want to get better and improve their skills and make it to high-school hockey, AAA programs, college and then hopefully, one day, realize their dreams to make it to the professional ranks. It was a no-brainer for this to happen.”

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