Sardis secondary school is hopping on the high school hockey express.
Building off the success of the two year old Sardis Hockey Academy, head coach Jeff Grenier is entering a team in the top tier of the BC High School Hockey League, or BCHSHL.
The Falcons will play a spring schedule, facing off for the first time in late March/early April and playing out of Twin Rinks and Prospera Centre.
“The hockey academy is on the ice three days a week and we’re in the weight room two days a week,” Grenier said. “This is a way to take all of that work and put it into game situations.”
“I also wanted another way to hold the kids accountable throughout the year because they are student athletes first.”
Grenier’s hockey academy students are expected to maintain their grades, observe the school’s code of conduct and show respect for their teachers/coaches.
The hockey team will go next level, challenging them to fit practices and games into their already hectic schedules.
“A lot of these guys play Chilliwack Minor Hockey from house to midget AAA, so they may get off the ice at 11 at night after a late practice or game and they’ll have to be on the ice with me at 8:15 the next morning,” Grenier said. “I’ll be teaching them how to deal with that schedule, to be busy outside of school and still get good grades.”
“I want them to be quality students and quality people and come away with the skills and the resume they’ll need to succeed when they leave here.”
The hockey academy is open to anyone in the school district, and Grenier has a goaltender who is a student at Chilliwack secondary school.
The high school team will be open only to students at Sardis, but Grenier doesn’t think he’ll be limited in his ability to ice a competitive team.
“First off, we have awesome resources with the weight room and the rinks nearby and the fundraising that we can do within the school.”
“We have one guy, (Nowel Maarhuis) who plays major midget with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds and I’ve had at least 35 kids express interest.”
“I think we’ll have a tryout and settle in with a 23 man roster.”
BSHSHL teams can carry up to 40 players, but only 19 (17 skaters and two goalies) can be listed on the game-day roster.
“There is no body checking in this league, so you can have girls playing,” Grenier said. “I think non contact play will be able to better showcase individual skill and talent while providing a fun safe environment for all student-athletes to compete.”
The BCHSHL has three tiers.
The top tier in 2016 included a Yale Hockey Academy entry joined by Rockridge (West Vancouver), Windsor (North Vancouver) and Earl Marriott (Surrey). Most players would be at the A1 or A2 level of minor hockey.
Tier two included 12 teams last season and the calibre is more A2/house level.
“That’s kind of what we are, but they (league officials) said, ‘If you’re going to be on the fence, go with tier one and you can always drop down a division after the season starts,’” Grenier noted.
A four to six game round-robin slate starts right after students return from spring break and Grenier will have his team practicing in early March. The Falcons will play at least one playoff game after the regular season ends.
They’ll look sharp in the Dallas Stars-style green/black/white jerseys that Grenier is bringing in.
Grenier grew up in eastern Canada, in a region where high school hockey is infinitely bigger than it is in B.C.
“Guys get drafted into the National Hockey League from high school hockey back east and it’s a culture piece for those schools,” he said. “It’s part of the fabric of those schools where kids want to see their friends play.”
“I want to build a sense of culture at Sardis for these kids who may not be playing any other sport, and I think this will work if the kids are excited to come to practice each day and play in front of their friends.”
“I want them to develop new relationships and be excited about coming to school and representing Sardis on the ice.”