The Yorkton Regional High School has teamed up with Hockey Canada, offering a Hockey Canada Skills Academy course to their students at the start of next year.
“Everyone is excited about the class,” says YRHS principal Mike Haczkewicz. “It’s a great way to get exercise and for the kids to refine their hockey skills.”
Dan Cross, Yorkton Harvest assistant coach and YRHS teacher, and Jason Payne, former minor hockey coach and YRHS teacher, will run the program as its instructors.
“I’m excited to get the course going,” says Cross. “It will be a lot of fun and a great way for young players to improve their skills.”
Yorkton Terriers head coach-associate GM Trent Cassan believes the program is great for Yorkton’s hockey scene.
“The Hockey Canada Skills Academy is a great way for young hockey players to be involved in a program that will help them understand and work on the individual skills necessary to help them to improve their game,” he said. “The teaching and development that these players will receive from this program will not only help them in the present, but will also give them understanding of the commitment it takes to advance them through the various levels of competitive hockey.”
The course, which is approved by Saskatchewan Education, offers a grade 10-level credit and opportunities to advance to a 20-level credit and 30-level credit.
It entails 40 one-hour sessions of on-ice training, including power skating, skills development, tactical development, goaltending instruction, and fitness. In addition, it involves 40 one-hour sessions of off-ice training that includes leadership enhancement, nutritional information, skill development, and a fitness program.
Up to 20 skaters and four goaltenders, male and female, can sign up for the program, which starts next August. It is a first-come, first-serve basis with a $350 fee.
The class will be similar to an average hockey practice; however, it will only focus on players’ personal development, rather than working on producing chemistry in a team as the athletes do on their respective minor hockey clubs.
The course is designed to help hone grade 9-10 players’ skills. But there will be opportunities for grade 11-12 hockey players to take part down the road.
“We are aiming to help the bantam age group,” says Cross. “They only get to practice once or maybe twice a week. This will give them the opportunity to get on the ice almost every day.”
Yorkton natives taking off to the Notre Dame Hounds’ program in Wilcox played a part in the Regional’s decision to reach out to Hockey Canada. They want to compete with the top development courses in Saskatchewan so they don’t lose their top homegrown talent to other cities.
“We have lost some good young players to the Notre Dame program,” says Cross. “We hope this program will keep them in Yorkton. We want the local players to stay with the Harvest and our other hockey teams.”
One notable talent that left Yorkton for the Notre Dame program is 15-year-old goaltender Matt Kustra, who was drafted by the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League in last year’s bantam draft.
“We didn’t want to see Matt Kustra leave Yorkton,” says Cross. “He’s a very good young player. We hope this class will help keep players like him here.”
The Hockey Canada Skills Academy with the help of a strong Yorkton Harvest club has a lot of potential to build a strong minor hockey foundation in Yorkton.
If all goes to plan, other cities could very well be looking for ways to compete with Yorkton’s hockey development program down the road as they are with Notre Dame right now.