The program to offer young hockey players a chance to develop as people while playing the highest level hockey possible is about to take it’s first steps this week at Barkman Arena in Caronport.
The Prairie Hockey Academy kicks off with their Midget showcase this afternoon, with players from throughout the province vying for spots in what is expected to become a highly-coveted organization. As the only Hockey Canada-sanctioned school of it’s kind in the province, organizers are hoping it takes very little time for things to reach the level they’re aiming for.
The PHA is the brainchild of president Justin Simpkins, who has spent the past 18 months developing a system that builds on the Midget AAA Crusaders program he ran out of Caronport. His goal was to put together a program that wasn’t just about developing hockey skills — it also aimed to develop individuals of character and skill in life, known as ‘life champions’ in the Academy.
“This is has been something that has been in Justin’s heart for a number of years and it really dates back to his story of when he was playing hockey,” said PHA media director Scott Simpkins, Justin’s father. “He talks a little about how ego really made a lot of decisions in his life and he never had someone who was a mentor to give him some leadership ability or valuable decisions moving forward with his hockey career or his life.
So when he finished his college career, he wanted to develop a program where he could mentor young boys and girls into becoming ‘life champions’ across the board, regardless of the environment they went into after hockey.”
Players will attend school at Caronport High School while playing and working through the PHA system.
And that program promises to offer some of the most competitive hockey in the province, as the PHA will take the ice in conjunction with the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, which features elite teams from the B.C. Lower Mainland, Alberta and Manitoba.
This season, the Academy will play exhibition games and tournaments alongside the CSSHL an in the northern U.S. in the Bantam AAA Prep and Midget AAA Prep divisions and possibly Elite 15, depending on enrollment. This week marks the first step in that direction as the Midget program takes shape. Orientation and the first ice sessions are today, with further ice sessions on Friday and Saturday.
For more on this story see the online and print editions of the Times-Herald.