Prince Albert Minor Hockey technical director James Mays gives a Riverside hockey student a pat on the head as he runs drills on Tuesday at the Art Hauser Centre. After running hockey clinics at Carlton Comprehensive High School for four years, the school decided to expand the program, reaching out to Riverside to form a partnership that would allow students ages 10-14 to enroll in Carlton’s hockey class. Herald photo by Andrew Schopp
Carlton Comprehensive High School gave 14 Riverside Community School students the gift of hockey for the last time of the season on Tuesday.
After running hockey clinics at Carlton for four years, the school decided to expand the program, reaching out to Riverside to form a partnership that would allow students ages 10-14 to enroll in Carlton’s hockey class.
With equipment donations from parents, Genes Sports Excellence, the Salvation Army and other community members, the plan came to fruition and the twice a week hockey school drew to a close on Tuesday at the Art Hauser Centre.
In its first year, the partnership between Carlton and Riverside gave students the opportunity to play a sport they might not otherwise have had due to the high cost of equipment and registration.
“Some of the students don’t have the opportunity to either skate on a team or maybe don’t have the funds to join a team,” explained Aaryn Peterson, a mentor for the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.
With donated equipment and a grant from Hockey Canada the two schools developed the program, which would teach Riverside students basic hockey skills.
As a mentor, part of Peterson’s job is to connect students with the vision of attending high school, a notion she said the program helped stimulate.
“Our kids need that connection to high school and we want to get them coming to Carlton,” Peterson said. “Some of our kids have a hard time getting to school but every Tuesday and Thursday they are at school at 7 a.m., they are excited and enjoying it.”
With former Prince Albert Raider and Carlton teacher Mark Odnokon leading the class, Carlton students also lent a hand to develop connections with the Riverside youngsters.
Grade 9 student volunteer Tiffany Brown said she wanted to pass her love for hockey and sport onto the younger Riverside kids.
“Hockey is a team sport so it builds friendships and connections,” Brown said of the importance of hockey in her life. “By the end you feel like you have a family within your teammates and I just hope other people can enjoy that as well.”
With the Hockey Canada grant, the program attained funds to cover some of the costs for equipment, facility rentals as well as helped to purchase floor hockey gear so that the program could run in Carlton’s gymnasium when needed.
“It’s to give kids a chance to play hockey,” program volunteer James Mays said. “They can go to an outdoor rink but to actually play here in the ‘big house’ with real equipment, it’s a little different and special for them.”
As the technical director for Prince Albert Minor Hockey, Mays understands the importance of organized sport in a child’s development.
“It teaches you to be apart of a team and physical self discipline,” Mays said. “It’s another avenue for them to interact with other kids and do something different.”
In addition to the program’s on-ice segment, the hockey class features an off-ice component as well where students learn hockey history, nutrition, mental training and tactics.
Noting the outstanding development he’s seen from the Riverside students over the course of the program, Mays said he felt that hockey has developed a “bad rap,” in terms of the sport’s affordability.
Though he admitted that hockey, like any other organized sport, has its expense, he explained that there are always ways for parents to get their children involved in the sport, the Carlton/Riverside hockey school being a prime example.
“If you want your kids involved, there are ways,” Mays said. “Programs like this can help you achieve that.”