The first year of the Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) program at Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie, Ont., has been a successful one, with guest speakers, field trips, three days of on-ice time a week, and an enthusiastic administration and volunteer base giving students an opportunity to improve their skills.
In early November, the HCSA was visited by Brad Bowden, a 17-year veteran of Canada’s National Sledge Team whose résumé includes a Paralympic gold medal in 2006 and IPC World Championship gold medals in 2000, 2008 and 2013.
“Brad is an excellent ambassador for his sport and for Hockey Canada,” said Edward Garinger, program coordinator and instructor with the HCSA. “We are thankful he took the time to share his knowledge and experiences with us. I really feel that having an athlete of Brad’s caliber join us is beneficial to the improvement of our students, and I’m glad we are able to provide opportunities such as this for them.”
The Orton, Ont., native started the on-ice sledge hockey session with safety tips, and taught students how to maneuver the sled around the ice, including how to stop – not an easy task!
He had students participate in an introductory game, followed by some individual skill work, ending the session with a scrimmage in which the students were eager to demonstrate their newly-acquired skills.
Following the on-ice session, Bowden made himself available for a question-and-answer session with students. Each student had previously researched Bowden’s background and experiences, and had questions prepared. In response to questions, Bowden shared some of his favourite memories in the sport, his training methods, and advice on how to become – and stay – an elite athlete.
“I had a blast on the ice and in the classroom,” Bowden said. “The kids were a joy to work with, and it was exciting for me to see how a Skills Academy works. They’ve got an impressive program here at Bear Creek with some talented young players, and I’m happy I got to show them something new.”