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Investing in hockey at school

Thanks to a Hockey Canada Foundation grant, Skills Academy programs can further eliminate barriers to play and increase interest in hockey

Shannon Coulter
March 8, 2022

At Frontier Mosakahiken School in Moose Lake, Man., Jennelle Manko has lots of ideas for how she can grow her Hockey Canada Skills Academy program.

One way is by providing more activities options for students, and thanks to a grant from the Hockey Canada Foundation, her school now has access to new floorball equipment.

“I was really excited to have more options and more choices for the kids,” says Manko, who teaches Grade 3 and the Skills Academy program for Grade 9 to Grade 12. “We have weightlifting as an option, and then we have [floorball] now as an option, and we also had the rink and going outside to do outdoor hockey.”

Skills Academy programs were selected by the Hockey Canada Foundation to receive the grant, with the goal of eliminating barriers to play and maximizing off-ice skill development.

“We know that hockey is not always accessible to everyone,” says Hockey Canada Foundation philanthropy manager Alexandra Wise. “By providing this grant that can be used in schools where we know the kids are, they’ll have the chance to get experience playing hockey in a safe way and in an accessible way.”

For Manko, her school is in a small community home to the Mosakahiken Cree Nation. Since receiving the grant, she has noticed there has been an increased excitement about hockey in her school community.

“I think I’m going to have a lot more interest [in the Skills Academy program] and a lot more students wanting to be at school,” she says.

Timothy Biggins works in student services at Chief Napew Memorial School, located on Big Island Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. When he found out his school was selected for the Hockey Canada Foundation grant, he was “ecstatic.”

“It provided a really good opportunity for the students for dryland training, especially,” he says. “We are able to utilize our multipurpose court that’s outside of the building on a regular basis.”

Currently, the Skills Academy program is only open to U9 players at Chief Napew Memorial School. However, Biggins hopes this grant will be a stepping-stone to gathering more interest and participants in the program.

“On a daily basis I have other kids in different grades asking me to be involved. So, I think it is a launching point,” he says. “With this grant and that support that was given and the accessibility to that equipment, we are able to share it with other groups, not just the U9s, and it is developing more of a keen interest in the sport.”

Biggins’ goal of fostering a sense of community through hockey is not limited to the walls of his school. He hopes that the entire community will embrace the sport and that the community will have a team of its own one day. One of the first steps in that goal is operating and growing the Hockey Canada Skills Academy.

After seeing his three sons grow up playing hockey, he wants to help get as many kids as he can get involved to also feel supported by the hockey community once the entry barriers are eliminated.

“I’ve just noticed that whenever we have athletes that come from the community and are involved in our local hockey community, that those students walk in the school with a little more sense of confidence, and I love it. I love seeing it,” he says. “I want it to go throughout all the grades so that when they are finished their academics in the [kindergarten to Grade 12] system that they feel confidence and they can move forward.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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