A few dozen of the world's best young hockey players filed into Elm Fork Shooting Sports earlier this week, to try their hand-eye coordination at sporting clay shooting, a sport unfamiliar to many from as far as Canada and Switzerland. Some looked like naturals, others missed almost every flying disk, and all nearly melted under the relentless Texas sun.
Hopefully the Dallas Stars scouts won't take heat endurance into consideration.
Monday's event was part of the Dallas NHL team's Development Camp, a week-long orientation of training, community outreach and team events aimed at acclimating top prospects to Dallas, on and off the rink. Of the group, half have entry level contracts with the Stars and half are camp invites without contracts.
The young men, ranging in age from 17 to 28, gathered at tables in the Elm Fork clubhouse while Jeanie Almond, "Mama Jeanie" to those who know her, explained the safety and accuracy basics of shooting. Wearing a rhinestone belt, pink button-down and cowboy boots, she held a shotgun with authority, explaining how to stand and shoot. Then the athletes set out in golf carts, guns in tow.
Almond, an expert shooter, bounced from one shooting stand to another, riding a pink cammo golf cart and making sure the young men were hydrated and having fun. They were. They were also melting.
"That is ass sweat, man," a Canadian told a fellow player, referring to his ass sweat. Almond brought him sunscreen for his pale bare chest, unaccustomed to a Texas summer.
"It's Texas service, boys," she joked, doling out snacks, drinks and more sunscreen. She was impressed by the athletes' please and thank yous.
A group of four practically melting Canadians navigated the heat and the range with Almond's daughter, Shellee Enfinger, a shooting instructor.
"Do I need my cowboy boots?" Hubert Labrie a 21-year-old defenseman asked Enfinger, joking after she told him he needed a shirt to shoot. A jokester more than a shooter, Labrie feigned frustration with each of his misses.
By the time the hockey players were halfway through the shooting course, they'd settled in. Sweat-drenched shirts were permanently retired. Enfinger had conceded that battle, at one point telling them dismissively, "Y'all are weird."
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The group made fun of the instructor's 'y'alls,' adding their own 'ehs' to every comment. Their Canadian ran as deep as Enfinger's Texan.
At one shooting station, Enfinger told the group, "We're gonna let you shoot out the back of a pickup truck." It was a portable platform set up in front of a machine that sent clay disks flying like birds.
"Now that's hillbilly," T.J. Foster, one of the Canadians told her.
They agreed: "That's Texan."