As Graeme Pickering ties his skates for another ice session with the Hockey Canada Skills Academy at the Starbuck School, he knows what to expect. This might seem odd for a student at a new school, but Graeme is the third of three siblings to pass through the Starbuck halls.
“I want to be like my brother and sister both in school and hockey,” Graeme, 10, says.
And rightly so. His older brother and sister, Owen and Avery, are exceptional student-athletes that have paved the way for the youngest Pickering.
Owen, 15, is suiting up with the Rink Hockey Academy (RHA) of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) after an impressive season with the Eastman Selects (Bantam AAA). He was a ninth-round pick by the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL Bantam Draft last spring and attended Broncos camp this past summer. From there, he headed to Swan River where he suited up with the Stampeders for a preseason game in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL).
“When I heard about Starbuck Hockey Academy with the high academic standards and being on the ice every day, it was a no brainer,” says Owen. “I enjoyed being pushed in the classroom and the competitive atmosphere that was created.”
Owen is currently attending Shaftesbury High School, where he maintains an average over 90%. “Right now I’m in honours math, so it definitely is a challenge.”
The other sibling in the family, Avery, is no slouch herself. After attending Grade 5 at the Starbuck HCSA, it was decided that Avery was best to skip Grade 6.
“We looked at all the factors with Avery and wanted to make sure that it was a good fit and that she was being challenged,” says Starbuck principal Dale Fust. “Although this is extremely rare in our school division, we felt that this was the right decision.”
“I really enjoyed the environment at the Starbuck Hockey Academy. I think the teachers had high expectations and pushed me,” said Avery, 13.
When it comes to being on the ice, Avery’s resume is equally impressive. This year she made the jump from boys AA to the girls varsity team at RHA. “Everything is going well this year, I really like being on the ice every day,” she says.
Avery has also set some lofty goals for herself. “I have two,” she says with a smile. “First, I want to get a full Division I scholarship to an Ivy League school. Second, I want to play on Canada’s National Women’s Team.”
As the third member of the Pickering clan joins the HCSA, Fust sums big brother and big sister quite nicely.
“When I think back to Owen and Avery here at our school, I think they really represent our program well. Not only were they tremendous athletes and had top marks, but they were also very good kids to have around.”