Following the lead of dozens of secondary schools extending from one coast line to the other, St Charles College has become the first local educational institution to incorporate the Hockey Canada Skills Academy into their high-school curriculum.
"It's been on my radar for a few years now," suggested SCC program leader of Physical Education, Darren Michelutti. "We already offer the hockey classes, and when I was looking for resources and such, I came across this program."
Open to both male and female students from grades nine to twelve, the Hockey Canada initiative includes in-class instructions, on-ice skills, off-ice strength and conditioning, mental training and personal development.
"The partnership with Hockey Canada will help in enhancing the overall experience for the kids," noted Michelutti. "You're getting Hockey Canada resources. They're there to guide you, develop practice plans, off-ice training. For me and Kristy (Hebert) and a couple of other teachers, we have to get more certified, which makes us better teachers, and better coaches, as well."
According to the Hockey Canada website, the benefits of the HCSA program extend not only to elite hockey talent, but the grass rooots as well, with the hopes of "enhancing academic achievement through the motivation of establishing a balance of both academics and athletics within the school system", while also allowing for greater daytime usage of the extensive network of arenas across the country.
"The course is for everyone," added Michelutti. "We're streaming the kids, grouped into a traditional hockey class and an elite level hockey class. For kids that don't play hockey and want to learn to skate, this program is for them."
"For those kids, you're going to do a lot of edge work, skating drills and stuff like that. For the kids at a higher level, obviously the drills can be a little more complex, but you still want to make sure that you are working on the fundamentals with those kids, so that they can enhance their game and bring it to the next level."
As for concerns that this new venture will provide the powerhouse that has been Cardinals hockey, historically, with another leg-up on the local competition, Michelutti offers a pair of rebuttals.
"First, this has nothing to do with St Charles Cardinals hockey," he said. "I suspect the whole hockey team won't even be taking the course. It's run more like a hockey school, there's really no game component to it."
"And though we're the first in Sudbury to offer this, the fact is Southern Ontario is huge into this program. I would think more and more SDSSAA schools will get in."