Tom Nagy expected that his 17th year as the head of the Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary School (MBSS) in West Kelowna, B.C., would be unlike any of the preceding 16 years.
The persisting COVID-19 pandemic has presented plenty of difficult logistical questions to solve, but the longtime physics teacher was game to solve this particular equation.
What fueled Nagy’s determination to ensure his HCSA would experience a successful return to play this autumn? Kurt Corman, the HCSA coordinator for Central Okanagan Public Schools, says Nagy firmly believes the academies foster positive student growth.
“He believes in providing hockey players with the chance to grow in their academics and on the ice as a player. He has also helped students grow their social, emotional and intellectual wellbeing. Tom believes students from the HCSA program have become better students and leaders at MBSS.”
Nagy and Corman collaborated closely to design a Return to Hockey proposal that was based on guidelines outlined by B.C. Hockey and Hockey Canada. They then successfully secured the implementation of their plan from Central Okanagan Public Schools and the City of West Kelowna.
Arena use procedures published by the city’s recreation and culture department back on Aug. 21 prohibited users from dressing or undressing inside its facilities. Therefore, Nagy had to ensure all of his players arrived at the neighbouring Royal LePage Place and Jim Lind Arena completely suited up.
Fortunately, Nagy’s classroom is close to an outside door, so students could come in and drop off their gear at the beginning of the school day without disrupting the school’s distancing protocols.
“We would then take the gear outside and would then complete a 10-minute hike to the other side of the school to a climbing room above the gym that I was able to book as a changing room. It is fairly large, so the kids could spread out. And then we would have a two- or three-minute walk to the arena.”
The, at times, onerous process would be repeated every time an on-ice session was scheduled. Keep in mind that due to a new 10-week quarterly semester system getting enacted, the 40 Grade 9-10 students participating in the HCSA in quarter one were on the ice nearly every day from Sept. 18 until Nov. 13 for 75- or 90-minute intervals.
Another key element of the protocols devised by Nagy and Corman was stipulating that every student must hand in a waiver before each class to report if they experienced any COVID-19 symptoms or if they have been in contact with any positive cases in the last two weeks. Any student answering “Yes” to those queries would not be permitted to attend class.
Nagy said he also needed to be vigilant to discourage any unsanitary behaviour from students, particularly spitting, to ensure the program will be able to operate without interruption throughout the semester.
The longtime educator is proud of how the HCSA students followed all directions and avoided any shutdowns due to COVID-19.
“We could have been shut down at any minute if protocols were not followed, and there were a lot of programs in [West Kelowna] that we cancelled because of COVID-19 spread. All the students did a great job, which enabled us to keep playing.”
The status of COVID-19 restrictions in B.C. pending, the plan is to begin HCSA programming at MBSS for its Grade 11-12 students activated when quarter three of the school year commences in February.