Students may be hitting the ice in Enderby.
North Okanagan-Shuswap trustees have approved A.L. Fortune Secondary establishing a Hockey Canada Skills Academy starting in September.
“It’s great for our school and our community,” said principal Gene Doray.
The next step is to apply to the Canadian Hockey Association for approval.
The concept arose after discussions with students identified hockey as an interest.
“We’re not a breeding ground for the NHL. Kids can improve their skills or strap on skates for the first time,” said Doray.
“We don’t look at it as an exclusive club. We’re connecting it to the idea of leadership and service.”
There will also be a strong focus on academics and other programs available at the school.
Existing staff will be used for the academy including Terry Shykora, who has 26 years of coaching and hockey school instruction experience. He is a former captain of the UBC Thunderbirds varsity hockey team and was a coach in the BCHL and Germany.
Six other staff members have also stated they will be involved in the program.
While maintaining school enrolment of 265 has been challenging, Doray insists the focus of the hockey academy is to bolster student numbers.
“If we have a student from Vernon, Salmon Arm or Vernon, great. But that’s not part of the rationale to do this,” he said.
“We want to connect kids who have a passion with teachers who have a passion.”
Declining enrolment, though, has meant A.L. Fortune has not been able to field one boys’ sports team this year.
“From coaching sports in school, I know a number of kids for whom it was sports that brought them to school every day,” said Shykora.
“I think we can help fill that void with a hockey skills academy.”
It’s anticipated that 23 to 40 students could register for the academy during the January to September semester.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect kids from all of the grades,” said Doray.
The academy will take place at Enderby’s arena and because of the city providing affordable rental rates, student tuition will be about $70 a month.
“They will get 80 hours of on-ice instruction during that time. It’s an incredible opportunity for the kids,” said Doray.