Throughout the 2021-22 school year, a return to normalcy grew across Canada
– and with it a clear majority of Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA)
school programs had the greenlight to return to pre-2020 practices.
Jaydee-Lynn McDougall, who just completed her first year as an educator at
Technical Vocational (Tec-Voc) High School in Winnipeg, Man., is thrilled
her year as dance instructor, physical education teacher and HCSA lead was
a journey with very few restrictions.
“Where I picked the program up, we were at a point in Manitoba where you no
longer had to wear masks on the ice, so it worked out very well,” the
26-year-old says. “The last two years, they had not been on the ice even
though they could sign up for the skills academy, so they have been missing
that integral part. That’s why they signed up for the class, right? To be
on the ice to improve their hockey skills.”
The school year in many ways represented a refreshing return to the ‘old
normal’ that existed before COVID-19 entered public consciousness.
Greg Masterson, the supervisor of learning services with the Calgary
Catholic School District (CCSD), concurs that the return to normalcy has
“It has been wonderful for our students and our coaches to be back on the
ice with no more restrictions,” he says. “You can tell there is a lot of
excitement on the ice during the classes.”
Resumption of classic HCSA programming – two on-ice sessions, dryland
training and classroom work per week for most academies – has once again
spawned the benefits long associated with these programs since its
institution during the 2000-01 school year: heightened academic
“The Hockey Canada Skills Academies promote student wellness, and when
students are feeling well, they are ready to learn,” says Masterson. “I
noticed when I was a vice principal at how organized these students were
away from rink and they demonstrated an appreciation of how privileged they
are to have this opportunity to participate in the skills academy.”
McDougall said it was evident that the 20 Grade 10-12 HCSA students she
mentored transferred their discipline and focus from the ice and gym into
“I think the program really helped students become re-engaged in school and
perhaps re-engaged in [life] in general,” McDougall says. “I had some
students join the academy later in the year who were not doing well
academically and after they joined in November they improved in their
classwork, passed all their courses and are moving on to the next grade.”
The first-year teacher says she was heartened to see so many of her HCSA
students actively participate in Tutor Friday hours at Tec-Voc. She’s
observed the students approach this opportunity to dive into their
academics with a similar rigor to their efforts to improve their edgework,
puck-handling and shooting.
Inclusivity and accessibility are other celebrated hallmarks of the HSCA
learning model. McDougall, who played Prep hockey at St. Mary’s Academy
during her high school years, experienced these rewarding dimensions of the
program during her rookie instructor year.
“It was really interesting coming into this program. I did not know what to
expect in my first year,” she says. “I had students playing in a league
outside of school and I also had a Grade 11 student who had never been on
skates because of COVID-19. It was incredible to see the skill development
there. The gap got smaller and smaller throughout the year because of the
amount of times we were able to go on the ice and practice those skills.
“I think the students when they are together all year really get to know
each other and accept each other. They were all helping one another develop
their skills in the stages they needed. We had more split drills at the
beginning of the year where we would do skill work on one side of the ice
and challenges on the other side. By the end we had our practices all
With another year in the books, there’s lots to look forward to in 2022-23.
Both Masterson and McDougall expressed a keenness to further enhance
accessibility and inclusivity with increased sledge hockey sessions for
students. Until then, there’s lots to celebrate about the successes of the
2021-22 school year.