RPM runs 16 hockey academies in B.C.

RPM runs 16 hockey academies in B.C.

New hockey academy considered in Maple Ridge

Online survey to gauge interest in eastern part of city.

A new hockey academy is being considered in east Maple Ridge, and the school district is asking interested parents to complete an online survey to gauge interest.

The targeted start date is September 2017.

“If we can give kids something that makes them more interested in school, that’s what we want to do,” said Thomas Haney secondary vice-principal Ian Liversidge, who is working on the project.

One question for school district administrators is whether it should be aimed at elite players or not. The province’s elite hockey academies offer more ice time and training, but the tuition cost is high.

Hockey academies are on the rise in B.C. One of the most successful has been the at Yale secondary in Abbotsford, which gained attention last January as high-profile alumni Jake Virtanen and Shea Theodore won gold medals at the world junior championships. Virtanen is now with the Vancouver Canucks, and Theodore has played for the Anaheim Ducks.

The cost of tuition is $9,000 per year at Yale. Players are on the ice most days, and they will play 50-plus games each season in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, against academies from Kelowna, Penticton, Shawnigan Lake, Victoria, Delta, Burnaby, Calgary and Edmonton. It has teams competing at three age groups.

The cost to attend some of these academies is $30,000 per season and up.

By comparison, the Pitt Meadows secondary program, known as the Pacific Rim Hockey Academy, which was one of the first in B.C., has players on the ice twice per week, with off-ice training sessions every two weeks, as well as off-ice activities and field trips. They do not compete in a league, and most of the players are registered minor hockey players. The cost is $1,800 per year, and there is one class of 30 student athletes.

Liversidge said the school district will take feedback from the public, and decide on whether to run what he calls a skills-based model such as Pacific Rim, or a team-based academy like Yale.

“That’s a philosophic question the principals have to address,” said Liversidge, adding that the expense to parents will be a key issue.

Educators also want to gauge the level of interest from girls in a hockey academy.

The approval process will be guided by a principals committee, overseen by the district office’s senior team, then must be approved by trustees.

Liversidge will guide the process as a “hockey guy.” He has been active in coaching development with both Hockey Canada and Hockey B.C., and has helped to author the current materials used in coaching certification. He also coached at the Pitt Meadows academy, and with the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association.

The Pitt Meadows academy was founded by RPM Hockey Company in 2004, which is owned by Craig Millen. He has since established 15 more academies around the province, using the same template.

He expects that many young hockey players in the fast-growing eastern neighbourhoods of Maple Ridge will support establishing a second academy in their area.

“There’s definitely interest in it,” Millen said.

He can’t get on board with hockey academies that charge students tens of thousands of dollars.

“From an ethical point of view, I’m not a supporter of it,” he said.

Logically, a parent and athlete should not be counting on a pro hockey career, he said. Their realistic goal should be to play junior hockey and earn a scholarship to play for a college. So, spending as much to send their child to high school hockey academies as they would for several years of university would cost does not make sense, he says.

The vast majority of hockey players can’t afford $30,000 per year for an elite academy, said Millen.

“They cater to the best, and to the kids who are able to pay.”

Millen coached his share of high-profile alumni from Pitt Meadows, including Ottawa Senators defenceman Patrick Wiercioch, who attended for Grades 8-10, then went on to the Burnaby Express of the BCHL. Willie Coetzee is another alum who played in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels, then went on to a pro career in the AHL.

Millen said the Pacific Academy caters to both average and upper-end players.

Liversidge said no service provider has been identified for the proposed second academy.

• Take the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/hockeyacademy.