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Abbotsford’s Yale Hockey Academy now operating independently of school district

New ownership group being led by current YHA operations co-ordinator Brad Bowen
The Yale Hockey Academy is now operating independently from the Abbotsford School District.

The Yale Hockey Academy will no longer be run by the Abbotsford School District, as it was announced that all hockey operations of the program are being formally transferred to a new group.

YHA had been offered as a school district program since its inception in 2004, but starting in July the program will be owned and operated by a group led by current YHA operations co-ordinator Brad Bowen.

The school district shared on Wednesday (Feb. 8) that, during a January 2023 in-camera board meeting, the decision was made to enter into an agreement with Bowen’s group.

A press release posted by the school district states that YHA was the lone high school hockey academy in the province to be operated by a school district. They also stated that “operation of the sports academy within the boundaries of existing school board policy and the School Act became increasingly difficult.”

Bowen has been with the program since 2006 and brings over 20 years of instructional experience. He has been involved in scouting in major junior (Portland Winterhawks) and the NHL.

Billy Wilms, the academy co-ordinator and an educator with the program, shared on social media that he is pleased to have the opportunity to remain in his role with the program.

“Excited to continue my role as educator with @YHA_Lions and am excited about this positive step for this program.”

Wilms also confirmed that YHA team members Erin Thornton, Andy Neilsen, Mark Holick, Derry Menard, Doneau Menard, Bryan Gourlie and Antonio Domingo will also retain their roles with the new ownership group.

Communication with families leading up to the decision was shared with parents/guardians involved in the program. The program has U15, U15 Prep, U17 Prep and U18 Prep teams. The four prep teams all compete in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.

RELATED: Yale Hockey Academy enrolment costs to rise by about $3,000 per player

It was reported in March that the fees for the program in 2022 was set at $18,300. They train at the Summit Centre in west Abbotsford.

The YHA has been an important development path to a number of professional hockey talents including: Devon Toews, Dylan Cozens, Bowen Byram, Noah Juulsen, Shea Theodore and Jake Virtanen.

The program made headlines in 2021 when a record 15 players were chosen in the 2021 WHL Draft.

RELATED: Western Hockey League teams draft 15 players from Abbotsford’s Yale Hockey Academy

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Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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