“I am always pinching myself because this is a dream job,” says Barrie, a 31-year-old Phys Ed instructor
and the man in charge of the Hockey Canada Skills Academy that runs out of Edward Milne.
Barrie’s arms aren’t actually discoloured, but they might as well be because when hearing him talk about
his position as head of the skills academy, it’s clear he considers himself one of the fortunate few who have
so much fun on the job, they never actually work a day in their life.
The Edward Milne skills academy, located just outside Victoria on Vancouver Island, is one of 79 Hockey
Canada-sanctioned schools across Canada and was home to 50 students this year, both male and female, ranging
in age from 14 to 17 years old, with skill levels from extraordinary to simply ordinary.
This is an academy for hockey players who want to improve their game while also working their way through
school, one that places equal importance on what goes on in the classroom and on the ice.
An ideal pupil, according to Barrie, is a “committed student who is willing to learn and that no matter
where their skill level is, they’re trying to get better each day, they’re trying to work on the small
The minute details that make the difference between a B+ and an A and a botched offensive play and a
highlight reel goal are what Barrie excels at teaching. He believes this is the best environment for doing
so, as the focus is on the individual and not the team.
“I think that is truly different from the team approach, when you’re worried about building a team and
winning. The students don’t feel pressure to be something they’re not for the team, because everything is
simply focused on accelerating their skill sets.
“As the kids improve their skills, you see them enjoy the game even more and I think that’s probably the
most rewarding thing for me, just seeing them enjoy the game as their skills improve.”
Whether students simply play at school for the love of the sport or move onto bigger and better, like
WHLers Tyson Barrie, Cody Carlson and Brad Hoban, the academy covers every aspect of hockey during daily
Students hit the ice for three sessions a week; the others are split between dry land training and
strength training or classroom lessons on topics such as sports nutrition and sport psychology.
To Barrie, the only thing wrong with the program is that it wasn’t around when he was a young player
tearing around the ice. But even without having attended the academy at Edward Milne, he can still hold his
own on the ice.
Barrie gets a chance to strut his stuff in the annual teachers vs. students hockey game, an event that
most players have circled on their calendars from the first day of classes.
“It’s probably the biggest highlight for our kids each year, to play against the teachers and a few pros
and just showcase their skills in front of the school,” says Barrie, who routinely calls upon the likes of
former Vancouver Canucks forward Greg Adams, Victoria Grizzlies general manager Jackson Penney and journeymen
Clayton Young and Victor Gervais, veterans who have laced up their skates in just about every league
imaginable, to ensure the teachers always come out on top.
“We’ve got to keep the students humble, so we make sure we win each year,” laughs Barrie.
Final score aside, there are no losers at this academy, just well-rounded students who get the job done
with pencils and sticks in hand.