When the 2016-17 school year began in September, so too did a number of new Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) programs, including a few across northwestern and sourthwestern Ontario.
To date, nearly 800 elementary and secondary school students are enrolled in the HCSA across the Keewatin Patricia District School Board (KPDSB), in the communities of Dryden/Vermilion Bay, Ignace, Kenora, Red Lake/Ear Falls, and Sioux Lookout. By comparison, enrollment for 2015-16 was right around 300 students.
The expansion was a community-wide effort, with support coming from staff, families, the municipalities, and a large number of organizations and volunteers who donated their time and resources to the program.
“We are completely overwhelmed by the generosity shown to our Hockey Canada Skills Academies to help students who want to play the game, whether for the first time or as a returning player,” said Dave Tresoor, the HCSA lead for the KPDSB. “Thank you to every individual, volunteer and organization who stepped up to support this program and ultimately, our students. To see the growth of the academies over the years has been tremendous and we are excited about the future of the program.”
Meanwhile, a little further south, an HCSA has finally come to École catholique Saint-Dominique-Savio, a school for both elementary and secondary school students in Owen Sound, Ont.
Enrollment includes 16 students from Grade 4 to Grade 8 (nine of whom have never played organized hockey, or are just learning to skate), and an older student has joined the program to complete a work term as a goaltending coach for his cooperative education.
“With the HCSA, students will get a chance to train and develop their skills for playing our national sport in an academic setting,” said Sébastien St-Amant, an HCSA instructor. “We have seen our students improve their skills greatly, not only in the case of those that are beginners, but in the case of those playing in more competitive programs as well.”
“We have created a program that teaches the students not only to play hockey, but also how to be successful on and off the ice,” adds Marc-André Proulx, head coach and director of the HCSA. “We want to make sure that we are helping our students develop their physical literacy as well as their health.”
And what do the players think of the new program?
Quinton Rodgers, a Grade 7 student, believes the HCSA has enabled him to improve his offensive skills in tight places, and the results back it up – he scored his first hat trick in mid-October.
For Brian Ormsby-Greensides, a Grade 5 student, the HCSA allowed him to fulfill his dream of playing hockey.
And Jamie Nicoll, another Grade 7 student, says the HCSA gives him the opportunity to work on the little details of his game as a goaltender.
The final word goes to Bethany Gunn, a Grade 8 student: “[The HCSA] teaches me how to play hockey and allows me to spend time with my friends and stay in good shape.”