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TPH announces new Center of Excellence location in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Total Package Hockey is pleased to announce the opening of its fifth Center of Excellence in Grand Rapids, Mich.  Grand Rapids will join Bloomfield Township as the second CoE in the state of Michigan, and will be housed inside Southside Ice Arena in Byron Center, a southern suburb of Grand Rapids.

TPH will enter into a partnership with Southside Ice Arena and its co-owners Travis Richards and Mike Slobodnik.  Both Richards and Slobodnik bring extensive hockey backgrounds to the TPH family. The two serve as coaches and leaders of the Fox Motors Hockey Club, a Tier I and Tier II organization they founded in 2013 that features 29 teams from the mite through midget age groups.

“Grand Rapids is a terrific location for a Center of Excellence,” TPH Chief Operating Officer Nathan Bowen said.  “The venue is exceptional, the location is populated with rising hockey talent and our partners share our values.  Both Travis and Mike have great passion for mentoring student-athletes. They are the definition of what it means to be fully ‘invested’ in what they do. We couldn’t be happier about this announcement.”

Built in 1996, Southside Ice Arena is a two-sheet facility located 13 miles south of downtown Grand Rapids. In 2013, the facility underwent a $1 million renovation. The venue will feature a newly constructed classroom (equipped with up to three different learning spaces), a recently renovated off-ice training center, ample locker room space and on-site dining facilities. The Grand Rapids CoE will allow student-athletes to Study, Train and Play all under one roof, maximizing each individual’s hockey, athletic and academic development.

Partners Richards and Slobodnik have not only spent most of their adult life working in and around the game of hockey, but they have established roots in the Grand Rapids area. Slobodnik, a Grand Rapids native, currently coaches at both the pee wee major level for Fox Motors and at the high school level for Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Slobodnik brings 20 years of youth, high school and junior playing experience to TPH, and he has also coached at five USA Hockey national camps.

Richards played ten seasons for the Grand Rapids Griffins and holds the record for most career games with the franchise at 655. Following his retirement, his No. 24 was raised to rafters of Van Andel Arena, becoming the first Griff to enjoy such an accomplishment. Travis brings a lifetime of dedication to the game of hockey, which also includes four seasons as a member of his hometown University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Richards and Slobodnik both believe the Grand Rapids market as a whole is ready to offer an ‘academy-style’ model for its hockey players and feel fortunate to have their venue house the Center of Excellence.

“Both Mike and I are deeply passionate about the growth and development of the hockey players involved in all programs at Southside Ice Arena,” Richards said. “The CoE model will provide the ultimate development opportunity for local players who have a desire to be the best they can be on the ice, in the gym and most importantly, in the classroom. Mike and I take great pride in doing things the right way and giving our best to shape young kids into young men through the game of ice hockey. Hockey is who I am; it is where I made almost all my friends. My goal is to share my wonderful experiences with as many kids as possible. The CoE model provides us with yet another avenue to do that.”

For Mike Slobodnik, “classroom” and the commitment to the academic portion of the CoE model is what he found most impressive when learning about the CoE. Slobodnik believes TPH’s commitment to academics is what prospective student-athletes and their families will appreciate most.

“TPH’s reputation for developing hockey players is extremely positive and well-known throughout the hockey community,” Slobodnik said. “Nathan Bowen and his team didn’t have to do much to convince us that their training methods are cutting edge and transferrable to today’s game. What impressed Travis and I most is that so many of our questions about the academic side of the CoE model were answered in the early stages, without us even having to ask. TPH has invested many resources to ensure that its student-athletes are getting an academic experience that prepares each individual so that he or will be successful in college and in life. They love answering the tough questions about academics and we are excited to put the TPH team in front of our families so they can show our market just how committed they are to the academic experience at the Center of Excellence.”

Brandon Naurato is the director of player development for all of TPH; he founded TPH’s first Center of Excellence in Canton, Mich. in 2014. Naurato, who also serves as a player development consultant for the Detroit Red Wings, takes great pride in the “positive reputation” Slobodnik references, he and believes Grand Rapids is an emerging market – one that fits perfectly in TPH’s Michigan blueprint.

“Grand Rapids is on the rise as a hockey market,” Naurato said. “Travis, Mike and the Fox Motors group are building their hockey program the right way, no different than how we have tried to approach the growth of the CoE model over the past five years.”

In addition, Naurato also hopes TPH’s track record for player advancement will excite dedicated hockey players in the Grand Rapids market.

“The Center of Excellence model alone has produced four NHL draft picks, 33 NCAA Division I commitments and over 60 USHL and NAHL players,” Naurato added.  “This has been accomplished because of the hockey, academic and social environments we have tried to foster, and most importantly, because of the passion and commitment shown by the student-athletes.  The bottom line is it’s their stage. We just try and help them dance. Travis, Mike and the staff we hire on the ground in Grand Rapids will be totally committed to positively impacting the lives of student-athletes.”

With the 2019-2020 school year right around the corner, TPH will be hosting an open house for interested student-athletes and their families on Jan. 9 and 10 at Southside Ice Arena.  For more information on the Center of Excellence model and the upcoming orientation, please visit the links below.





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