They aren’t exactly the dynamic duo, but when it comes to the sport of hockey, Fred and Vicki Perlini have formed quite the tandem and their recipe for success is tested and proven.
The Sault Ste. Marie couple has spent most of their life involved in hockey and after raising two elite-level players, they continue to preach and teach and many kids in Sault Ste. Marie are now reaping the benefits.
For the 14th consecutive year, they ran their Perlini Hockey Camp out of the John Rhodes Community Arena, something that gives them great satisfaction and keeps them in tune with the local talent pool.
“The important thing is if we can give something back to kids and keep them off the streets, that’s the rewarding aspect of it for Vicki and I,” said Fred, who oversees the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s hockey program in Michigan, but spends his summers back home in the Sault area. “Our goal is to come in and to give everybody an opportunity to come to camp, not just the AAA guys. We want them to come out, have fun, but fundamentals are always important to Vicki and I. We are big believers in the skating part and skill development and hopefully they make new friends here, too.”
As the director of hockey operations at Orchard, Fred is responsible for overseeing the entire program and he coaches one of the school’s teams.
Both Fred and Vicki are staunch students of the game. While Fred oversees the Orchard Park program in Michigan, Vicki spends many winter days giving private lessons to kids who simply want to get better. She said it’s important to eradicate bad habits early, before they become too difficult to correct.
“The key is getting them in that right position now so we don’t have to break those bad habits in two or three years,” Vicki said. “It’s so important to keep the knee bent. The more you force them to bend the knee, the better the stride and the faster they start to skate.”
After playing major junior hockey for the Toronto Marlboros in the early 1980s, Fred went on to play in the American Hockey League before eventually settling in England, where he not only gained a reputation as a skilled player, but a developer of talent, too.
And some of that talent pool included their two kids, Brett and Brendan. Brett was once a top prospect of the Soo Greyhounds, but eventually opted for Michigan State and is now playing in Italy. Brendan played in the OHL for the Niagara IceDogs and was a first-round pick of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. He played three seasons for Arizona before being dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks and now the Detroit Red Wings.
“This is what I did, whatever they did in life, wherever we lived, England, Scotland, Sault Ste. Marie, we always had a shooting area for the kids and access to skates, whether ice or roller blades,” said Fred.
“I said look, we’re going to show you how to do this but you have to keep practising it. Everything you’re instilling in them, you have to keep preaching about the hard work and let them know it’s like homework every day. We’re not remaking the wheel. It’s all simple.
“For me, No. 1 thing was skating. I thought I was a good skater but when I got to pro I was an average skater. With my boys, I’m constantly preaching skating skating skating. If we didn’t have access to the ice, they were always on his roller blades.”
Fred said when they first started doing their hockey camps locally, it was geared more toward the rep-team player. But, he said, he soon realized that there were so many other kids in Sault Ste. Marie that could benefit from it so he opened it up to everyone, male and female.
“We were doing Monday and Wednesday camps 12-14 years ago and we were doing it for our friends,” Fred said. “We never changed our price except for this year due to COVID. As you get older, what you’re going to find is you have to give back. I feel good by doing it.
“Yeah, you might make a buck or two but you’re also paying for ice time and it keeps Vicki and I busy in the summer. It feels good to see a new generation of kids coming through and to see a kid’s eyes light up because he or she loves the sport. There’s nothing more rewarding than that.”
He takes solace in the fact that their camp has become one of the area’s most respected ones and kids and parents still flock to it every summer.
“We’re not trying to be superheroes here,” Fred said. “But maybe we can change the mindset a little. The goal of the whole camp fundamentally is skill development. It’s about advancing their skills for the upcoming season. That’s been our goal every summer.”
Superheroes or not, Fred and Vicki Perlini have made a difference in many kids’ lives and continue to give back to the community they grew up in.