TRAVERSE CITY — Brock Ballard didn’t originally plan on being at Centre Ice Arena this week.
But the Traverse City native received an offer he couldn’t refuse when the New York Rangers called.
Ballard assumed his role as a skill development coach for the Rangers organization, and put players through skating drills during this week’s practices at the NHL Prospect Tournament at Traverse City’s Centre Ice Arena. The rangers posted a 2-1 record through Monday.
“I didn’t realize how much I was missing the team aspect until I got back in it,” Ballard said.
Ballard, 42, spent the last 20 years as an independent hockey instructor, working with NHL players such as Alex Petrovic of the Edmonton Oilers and Brendan Guhle of the Anaheim Ducks. Both Petrovic and Guhle have testimonials on Ballard’s web page.
The 1995 Traverse City High School graduate and former Trojans hockey standout accepted the Rangers job in June.
He’s run almost 1,000 hockey camps, specializing in skating and skill development.
“I liked that I had players that were from all different teams,” Ballard said. “They want to be there.”
He worked mainly in Alberta, Canada, doing camps and helping train NHL players, spending up to 300 days a year on the road and living in Arizona the rest of the year. He said he’s helped train more than 40,000 players over the years.
Now he’ll have a home in Hartford, Conn., where the Rangers’ top minor-league team, the Hartford Wolfpack, resides.
Ballard played three years at TC Central, some as a linemate with current Trojans assistant coach Scott Harvey at Traverse City Central under head coach Jude Cummings. Current TCC head coach Chris Givens was a young assistant at the time.
As a junior, the Trojans won the Great Northern Hockey Conference for the first time. He earned all-state at right wing and was selected as a senior to play in the state all-star game.
“Even when I was in high school, I’d help out at camps,” Ballard said.
Ballard played Junior hockey with the Toledo Cherokee, and his father, Walter Ballard, was instrumental in helping move the Gaylord Grizzlies Junior A franchise from Saginaw to Gaylord.
Ballard said part of the new job involves taking notes on what Rangers and Wolfpack coaches say about prospects and working on any deficiencies a young player might have from a skating or skill standpoint.