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South NeighborhoodsPower on ice: Former Canadian figure skater trains young hockey players here

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

By David Assad, Tri-State Sports & News Service

As a teen-ager, Barbara Benedetti lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was a member of the Canadian national figure-skating team. Benedetti is now an Upper St. Clair resident who has lived in the Pittsburgh area for 15 of the past 17 years. She continues to be involved in skating, but not the kind one would expect for a person of her background.

Barbara Benedetti coaches hockey players at BladeRunners in Bethel Park. Players in the background are Chris Clackson of Peters and, behind him, Alec Wright of Upper St. Clair. (Tony Tye)

Benedetti teaches power skating to about 200 young hockey players in the Pittsburgh area. Benedetti Power Skating Inc. offers group lessons at BladeRunners skating rink in Bethel Park. Her students range from beginners trying to fit in with their local in-house midget hockey team to more advanced skaters with professional and major college aspirations.

Benedetti said one of her longtime students, Dwight Labrosse of Peters, could be selected in the NHL draft in June. Labrosse plays Junior A hockey in the Ontario Hockey League, where pro scouts have been watching him.

Several members of the Pittsburgh Forge Junior A hockey team, including Chris Wey of Mt. Lebanon, Dylan Reese of Upper St. Clair and Denis Kristein of Bethel Park, are students of Benedetti.

Most players who take part in the AAA mid-major youth traveling hockey program based in the South Hills are also Benedetti students.

"There are many similarities between hockey and figure skating, but there are also differences in the training methods," Benedetti said. "When I first started this, I just taught the skating skills for hockey, but over the years I have learned, through experts and NHL players, how to teach the correct stick handling and skating with the puck as well as passing and shooting."

When she moved to Pittsburgh in 1985, her intention was to teach only figure skating.

"When I arrived in Pittsburgh, I was hired as a figure skating coach at the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center, and then they asked me if I would work with their hockey program which they just started at the time," Benedetti said. "That's really how I got introduced [to] working with the hockey players."

In the late 1980s, she left the metropolitan area for two years due to her husband's job transfer. Benedetti began teaching aspiring hockey players on a full-time basis shortly after she returned to Pittsburgh in 1991.

"I felt there was such a need in this area for a more extensive program that would not only start the kids off correctly but would continue training them through their high school years," Benedetti said.

"It was with my hope that with more consistent and ongoing training that we ... would produce a more competitive and high-caliber hockey player. It's so important that the parents, coaches and kids work together in support of each other."

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