By Justin Seward
Willie Desjardins South Alberta Hockey Academy’s general manager Darren Macmillan provided a numbers update to the Prairie Rose School Division’s board of trustees on Feb. 9.
The data was broken down into three years’ worth of participation in local schools.
The Academy started back in 2018-2019 with a total of 65 participants between Eagle Butte High School, Irvine, Foremost and Redcliff.
In the second year, that number grew to 92—which enrolled 28 new kids to PRSD over the first year with the addition of Oyen.
Now in its third year, the Academy grew to 157 with the arrival of the U18 prep teams from Banff to start this season.
Eagle Butte saw a steady participation of 17 in each of the first two years but saw a decline this season to 10.
“It actually because we’ve taken a lot of those kids like Ethan (Machen, who was a guest speaker in the meeting) that were with us in Grade 10 and 11 at Eagle Butte—the kids that are high performance academy—that are now playing on our U18 Prep team,” said MacMillan.
Foremost School has also seen a decline in players since the inaugural season.
“But like we know in everything within our school division, anytime we have smaller numbers and we lose one or two, it’s going to look a little more significant,” said MacMillan.
“But again in Foremost, we have two females that were in our high performance for the last two years, that are now on our (U18 Prep) female team. That would affect their numbers a little bit.”
Redcliff’s academy grew to 27 players this year and MacMillan anticipates their numbers to grow next year.
“We’re going to see probably the year after that, Eagle Butte’s numbers go way up and Redcliff’s cycle down a little bit with all these kids that came to us in Grade 6 and Irvine and Redcliff eventually start cycling into Eagle Butte,” he said.
MacMillan noted that Irvine’s numbers grew to 40 this year because of the addition of Grade 5 this year.
Female players went from seven in the first year and eight in the second year to 43 this year, with 19 on the U18 prep team.
“Seventeen girls,between Grades 5 and 9,are in our academy in Irvine and it’s just exciting,” he said.
“ I think it’s because they see there’s a place to get to and a place to play.”
Board of trustee Cathy Hogg asked MacMillan if there was interest in Bow Island to start an academy.
“I’ve actually been talking to Scott (Angle, Senator Gershaw principal) for a couple of years,” said MacMillan.
“We’ve just haven’t got there yet. I don’t know why. I would love to go to Bow Island and as soon as Scott says, ‘Let’s do this,’ I will be all in ready to go.”
PRSD superintendent Roger Clarke said every school is different in terms of what their needs are and programs.
“I know that in Bow Island they’re looking heavily into an agricultural program and building some work there and a greenhouse in the back and so on,” said Clarke.
“But where the kids go (to) school there, many of the minor hockey kids are actually in St. Michael’s School.”
Senator Gershaw knows that PRSD is ready to assist when a future decision is made on if the school wants an academy.
Talks have suggested to combine Bow Island students into the Foremost academy.