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Gibsonton to be home of Olympic Floorball training camp

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image Cody Hodgson, Brendan and Cameron Gaunce, and Steven Stamkos pose for a photo during floorball practice.

Many famous names have already signed on, including both NFL football players and NHL hockey stars.

By PENNY FLETCHER

GIBSONTON - Another Olympic training camp has been added to the site plan of Freedom Harbor, a $180 million project that has been gathering support from the international sports community and sports medicine specialists for the last two years.

Dave Beaudin, who has coached professional hockey all his life and for the past three years has also taught “floorball,” states that he is committed to bringing a floorball camp and forming floorball leagues at Freedom Harbor.

The Freedom Harbor project is spearheaded by Rich Mozdzer, one of the five partners in the venture, which is slated to be located on 123 acres on Bullfrog Creek Road between Old Big Bend and Symmes roads.

Freedom Harbor’s ever-changing site plan shows a combination of a medical facility, vacation spot and sporting arenas, including ice hockey, tennis, figure skating, swimming and many others. It will also host restaurants, a 4,000-seat auditorium, 350-person banquet hall, 400-meter track over a portion of its 70-acre lake, and an academy with dormitories for students who travel for training in sports competitions, including the Olympics.

The Observer News and Riverview Current have been reporting on the addition of sports and other projects and people for nearly two years since Mozdzer began gathering partners and sports figures in hopes of making Freedom Harbor the “project that will put South County on the world map.” 

Many famous names have already signed on, including both NFL football players and NHL hockey stars.

In the previous news story about this project, it was announced that Jakub Pilecky, Austrian Olympian hockey player, and Stanislav “Stan” Neckar, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, have been enlisted to coach and to plan the three ice rinks which are part of the project and that Svetlana Boginskaya, a three-time Olympic Champion, has promised to be present for girl’s gymnastics competitions there.

Now, Beaudin has joined their ranks.

In an interview Aug. 30, Beaudin said his father Norm Beaudin, now 70, had played professional hockey and been a trainer and that is where he got his love of the game. Norm and Dave are active together in teaching and hockey clinics.

According to his on-line bio, Norm Beaudin played 25 games in the National Hockey League and 335 games in the World Hockey Association. He was with the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota North Stars, and St. Louis Blues.

Originally from Canada, Dave Beaudin, 46, played hockey in the college ranks and has been coaching ice hockey in the Tampa Bay area for 20 years.

The new venture, however, is now on Beaudin’s front burner because “floorball” has just been accepted as an Olympic sport and its debut will be the 2020 Olympics.

“We have been asked by the North American International Hockey Federation to train men and women for the first U.S. Olympic team in this sport,” he said. “Speaking on behalf of Floorball Florida, USA Floorball and the International Floorball Federation we would like to engage in an ongoing development partnership. We see the potential of Freedom Harbor being a leading host facility for floorball events in North America. Globally, floorball is the fastest growing team sport and we are seeing a very encouraging trend to hosting large scale open championships that bring in players, coaches, volunteers and spectators.”

So what exactly is floorball? Where did it originate and how is it played?

“The grass roots origin of floorball is a game called uni bandy that was born in Norway, Sweden and Finland. In fact, it is now their main sport,” Beaudin said. “Uni bandy started in the 1950s and then was adapted into floorball in the ‘70s. It’s gained traction in the last 20 years because in Europe, games draw crowds of 20,000-30,000 fans.”

Now that 35 Olympic team committees have voted to have it as a league sport in their country to qualify as a sport in the Olympics, it can become one. But it takes several years of preparation to add a new sport so it can’t begin until 2020, he explained.

“Most of the European guys on the Tampa Bay Lightning grew up playing floorball,” he said. “I like it because it’s a no-contact sport for families, men and women, and it’s a transitional sport to ice hockey.”

Floorball is hockey on a solid surface that can be played on a gym floor.

“Steven Stamkos of the Lightning – maybe the top North American hockey player of this day- plays floorball,” Beaudin added. “What we’re trying to promote here is that it is kid friendly and the cost is less than ice hockey. All it is is sticks and a whistle ball. It’s healthy, family-friendly and cost effective,” Beaudin said.

Mozdzer said he is proud to have brought Beaudin on board.

More about Beaudin’s current projects, including his hockey school, hockey store and training camps can be found at www.beaudinshockeyzone.com.

“The fact that players like Beaudin are still coming on board has made it impossible to submit a completed site plan to the county,” Mozdzer said. “We are still adding sports and some of these make minor changes to where something else should go.”

Debbie Reynolds, another partner in the Freedom Harbor venture, said there are more additions besides floorball. “We have increased the number of tennis courts from 21 to 36 because of the tennis pros we are working with, and added a second football field. We are also talking with NFL players to do football training camps and we need a second one for a practice field.”

Another recent addition to the plan is Laura Mitchell’s intuitive medicine, Reynolds said.

“Laura has worked with more than 300 players and with sports trainers of NFL teams.”

Mitchell’s profile and testimonials may be viewed at http://www.linkedin.com/in/sportsdreammakers.

Reynolds said that the total project cost has gone from $150 million in the last news report to $180 million because of the additions mentioned in this story.

“Freedom Harbor will transform southern Hillsborough County into a sports mecca, offering Cabletow Wakeboard/Waterski on the lake as well as all forms of sports, have a full health club and medical facility,” Mozdzer said. “We are looking forward to a grand opening sometime in 2013.”

The site plan has been published several times in The Observer News and Riverview Current, but is currently being redrawn to add the new things that have come on board in the last six months so there is no artist’s rendering offered with this story.

Interested persons may visit www.freedomharborlive.com for more details.

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