2021 hcsa matthew halton high school

How the HCSA has helped me

A pair of students from the Hockey Canada Skills Academy at Matthew Halton High School in Pincher Creek, Alta., share the benefits of the program, on and off the ice

Damian Beswick & Jaydon Draper
April 7, 2021

This year is the first time I am part of a program like the Hockey Canada Skills Academy. It has been a great experience, because I never had this type of class at my old school and thought it would give me more chances to play and grow my hockey skills. It would also give me the chance to get better off the ice, as I would get a chance to improve my conditioning. Due to the coronavirus, we couldn’t play on the ice as a team, which sucked, but being in this program has given me the chance to still do things related to the game I love.

What we have been learning and doing these past couple months has been good for us and how we play the game. Since government regulations have kept us off the ice, we have been doing some floor hockey/floorball games to help us keep the feel of hockey. We have also been doing some workouts and dryland training to stay in shape, with the hopes we can go back onto the ice again. It has been a very good experience being a part of this program; it has motivated me to learn a lot of important things I need to know about hockey, other than skating, shooting and passing. This class has students from Grades 7-9, so it allows the older kids in the group to take on a leadership role since they have been in this program for the longest time and know how it works.

Hockey means a lot to me, and I'm sure to the rest of my classmates, and not being on the ice this year affected a lot of us mentally and physically. Hockey is an escape for most of us, to do something we love while being physically fit and getting stress off of our chest. I think I speak for all of us when I say this, but I am glad there are hopes we can start to play hockey, and even though it is only for a couple months until the season ends, it still gives us a chance to get onto the ice again and not have a long offseason. Until then, I will keep enjoying all the great things I get to learn in the HCSA program.

Damian Beswick (Grade 8)


Hockey has always had a big impact on me and others around me. Being able to join a program like the Hockey Canada Skills Academy to expand my skill and knowledge of hockey, and how I can distribute it to future players, is very important to me. This year has been quite hard with COVID-19, but being given the chance to continue the program under the government's guidelines gives me a sense of hope. To be able to skate on the ice for the first time since March 2020 really made me feel good, especially when all you could do before was sit at home doing nothing. I will always cherish the memories I’ve created in the HCSA program. This year it has looked different, but it has the same purpose it always has – to give everyone a chance to enhance and display their skills and knowledge.

When I go to class, I’m prepared to listen and learn something new about hockey, or discuss current events happening in the world which have an impact on our ability to be on the ice as a group. I feel like this class has really been an eye-opener, because to be given the opportunity to play hockey during school is something I’ve always dreamed of. Now that I have this opportunity, I really don't want to lose it. This program hasn’t just taught me how to learn different hockey techniques; I’ve learned different workouts and skills from other sports that can help improve a certain aspect of my hockey skills.

In our town, I never could have imagined being able to play hockey during school. When I heard about the HCSA program, I jumped at it. Hockey has always been there for me; when I feel alone or something just isn't going right at the time, I turn to hockey. I will go outside and just shoot pucks and it helps me relieve any kind of stress I have. When our season ends, I’m usually quite disappointed that I won’t be able to skate for almost another six months. So, when I hit the ice, it makes me feel like it’s back on, that it's go time.

Two years ago when I arrived at Matthew Halton, I was just a little seventh grader at a new school, trying to adjust to the way junior high works. When I started here, so did the HCSA program, so it was pretty special to be able to learn about my favourite sport. It was also a learning experience for the school, the staff and all the other students. In minor hockey I was a second-year Peewee (U13) and we had a few kids that were new and didn’t know much about the game. Almost all of us on that team were in this program, and I found that amazing. We were on the ice almost every day and found that it really helped us improve our skills as a team. The new guys were able to improve and I think it really helped them.

After my first year of HCSA, I immediately wanted to be enrolled in it the next year. Last year's program worked very well; we discussed it as a class and talked about fundraising so we could take our group and some supervisors to Calgary to watch a Flames game. We had many different ideas, and our group was really determined. We didn’t have a set plan until late February, when the grandpa of one of my classmates offered to donate two autographed NHL jerseys. The idea was to auction them off and see if we could make enough money for transportation and the cost of tickets. We were going to watch the Calgary Flames host the New York Islanders on March 13, 2020. That day, the NHL decided to postpone the season due to COVID-19. I was quite disappointed that we weren’t able to fundraise because of the postponement. That same weekend, I watched provinces start shutting down things because of COVID, until my own province shut down everything, even school. The thought of not being able to go to school for six months wasn’t what I was hoping for, but we had to adjust to online for our own safety.

Today, being back in school has been a great thing for me and many others, for our mental and physical health. Things have changed a lot since last year. But to be able to come to school every day and look forward to HCSA at the end of the day gives me a sense of hope and normalcy. COVID-19 has played a huge role in our day-to-day activities, but I can’t express how happy I am to be able to come to school and learn beside all my peers. Almost everything has felt different, but the feeling of being in the HCSA program hasn’t changed for me since day one – the excitement and urge to learn new and exciting things revolving around hockey.

Jaydon Draper (Grade 9)

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

2023 U18 Nationals: Saturday, November 11 (Medal Games)
Ontario Red won a 13th U18 Nationals gold in Dawson Creek
2023 U18 Nationals: Friday, November 10 (Semifinals & Placement)
Ontario Red and Quebec will play for U18 Nationals gold in Dawson Creek.
2023 U18 Nationals: Thursday, November 9 (Quarterfinals)
Alberta, B.C., Ontario Red and Quebec advanced to the semifinals in Dawson Creek.
2023 U18 Nationals: Tuesday, November 7 (Preliminary)
Ontario Red and Quebec finish the preliminary round undefeated in Dawson Creek.