Caleb Labrie, left, Cam Robichaud and Dakota Keene are working together at PucDevelopment in Lewiston to help area hockey players develop their skills. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Cam Robichaud was so busy with his duties as the Maine Nordiques’ U16 Prep Academy coach and performance coach earlier this year that he needed help running his business.

He also wanted to expand PucDevelopment, a Lewiston hockey-specific training facility that he founded in 2014.

Caleb Labrie, who played for Robichaud with both the L/A Fighting Spirit and the L/A Nordiques, wanted to get into the hockey business after he graduated from Becker College (Worcester, Massachusetts) earlier this. He joined the Twin City Thunder coaching staff at the beginning of the season, but also was considering opening a training facility.

The pair decided to come together. And they have furthered their expansion by adding another area native, Dakota Keene.

When Robichaud graduated from Robert Morris University, he reached out to Ryan Frew, his former junior hockey coach with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, about a job with the organization. Frew gave Robichaud his first coaching opportunity, with the Monarchs’ split-season U18 team in 2011-12.

Robichaud said his relationship with Frew is similar to the one he has with Labrie.

“He had a good following with the youth players and high school players in (the Lewiston-Auburn) area, with being a big name playing high school at St. Dom’s and with the Nordiques with his junior time,” Robichaud, who played at St. Dom’s and Edward Little, said of Labrie. “When he expressed to me he was interested in starting a facility here in town, it kind of made me think back to Frew and how much of a mentor he was a for me.”

PucDevelopment also had been displaced by renovations at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, where it had been based since 2016, in the old Baxter Lounge on the top floor of the arena. Renovations at the Colisee displaced PucDevlopment.

Labrie, who has worked as a realtor, knew a place that could house a hockey training facility, at 550 Lisbon Street, and he and Robichaud have spent the past month refurbishing the new space, which is now open.

“I originally sold real estate for Fontaine (Family Real Estate Agency) and I went into a lot of buildings, and this is one of the buildings I ended up finding that kind of fit the gym-type set up we need,” Labrie said. “When I came back from school and (Robichaud) and I made the decision to go forward together, this was the first place I thought of.”

A big change occurred after the pair settled on the new location. Robichaud was he was let go by the Nordiques in October, and then a day later he joined the Thunder organization as an assistant coach.

TRAINING FACILITY NOT A GYM

PucDevelopment is not a gym, it’s a hockey-specific training facility.

“The first thing that makes it hockey-specific is it’s just hockey players walking through the door, that’s the obvious,” Robichaud said. “But it’s the type of programming that’s provided. No one comes in here and just works out. We aren’t a gym, we are a training facility — meaning focused on programming hockey-specific movements, whether that’s strength, conditioning or flexibility.

“We have components here, the synthetic ice to work on skill development, whether that would be for stick skills, shooting, passing, stick handing, redirections and goaltending work. We have a couple of goaltenders who are in here, working on their form and technique that I don’t do but rent out the space to goalie coaches.”

Caleb Labrie, left, and Cam Robichaud shoot pucks on the synthetic ice at PucDevelopment in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The programing that Robichaud and Labrie have developed is based on what they have learned through their playing careers. Both realized there was something missing in the state of Maine.

Robichaud attended the 2006 USA Hockey National Select Camp, where he played with future NHL players such as Jimmy Hayes, who played for the Boston Bruins from 2015-17, and Ryan McDonagh, who just won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. At that camp, Robichaud heard players talk about the facilities offered throughout the country that were specifically focused on hockey training.

Labrie played for the South Shore Kings 18U team in 2015-16, and saw a similar facility at the Foxboro Sports Center, where the Kings play.

“When I left to go play down there, they have (Edge Performance Systems, a strength and conditioning facility) in their (arena),” Labrie said. “(Rob) Gronkowski was hurt that year with the Patriots, and he was training there. Just to see the different equipment, we have a lot of local gyms and stuff, but there’s nothing compared to what a lot of these out-of-state programs offer — and the knowledge.”

Robichaud and Labrie believe PucDevelopment is the only hockey training facility of its kind in Maine.

PARTNERING WITH DAKOTA KEENE

In addition to training players on hockey specific drills and skills, Robichaud wanted to make PucDevelopment a one-stop shop for hockey development by adding a video scouting component, which allows players to receive feedback on their play on the ice.

So Robichaud reached out to Keene, who was one of Robichaud’s early clients at PucDevelopment six years ago and who helped Robichaud move PucDevelopment from its Main Street location in Lewiston to the Colisee in 2016.

Keene also played at Saint Dominic Academy, and with the Portland Jr. Pirates. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, where he played four years for the Beacons’ hockey team, in the spring, Keene started a video scouting company called OnFocus Hockey — he evaluates players through video and provides feedback.

“I think what (Keene) does is a very important piece to player development,” Robichaud said. “It’s not all about skating and it’s not all about the muscles, but you need to have a good head for the game. A lot of people are visual learners, and being able to see mistakes or even see good habits and correction through video is a huge part of the game. Especially the time we are going through now and the pandemic, video is one of the most used tools in the hockey circles, via scouting or recruitment by colleges.”

NCAA Division I schools in all sports aren’t allowed to recruit in person right now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Keene had a video scouting company in mind as he neared his college graduation, and after seeing how much video was being used to break down junior and college hockey players, the pandemic has only sped up the process.

Keene’s resume is already robust. He worked with the Arizona Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues of the NHL, as well as the Harvard University men’s hockey team and the National Women’s Hockey League.

“It was always something I thought about starting up and making it more an actual company that I can really reach out and help more people, but it was something that was on the backburner because I was so busy,” Keene said. “But, like I said, with a little slow down, I thought it was a good time to get it off its feet.”

Keene wants to assist more than the players in the Lewiston-Auburn area who want to play junior or college hockey, but also those throughout the country who have their sights set on the college or pro level.

He uses services like HockeyTV, which airs most of the junior hockey leagues in North America, InStat and LiveBarn to view players’ games and offer a breakdown on what they do well and what they need to improve.

Keene said that his past work has helped him build a client base.

“It hasn’t been too hard in the sense that I have a large hockey network of people,” Keene said. “It has been a little more difficult capturing the local athletes because I have been gone for at least four years and kind of out of the loop here with the people who are playing locally. Cam and the group at PucDevelopment will help capturing with those local (players).”

Keene hopes OnFocus Hockey will eventually help him land a job with a NHL team, but the pandemic has led to a hiring freeze with most NHL teams.


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