Evolution Elite Hockey Academy fast making name for itself
In just six short years, the Evolution Elite Hockey Academy (EEHA) has gone from a small organization with three teams to a program with 13 teams, learn to skate options and a Junior A team in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL).
Not too shabby for something that was originally created to simply provide an alternative hockey training program to young hockey players.
“Our mission statement really says it all,” said Evolution president Steve Van Sky. “Our goal is to help each of our players to reach the highest potential.”
Van Sky added that while winning is the goal of the game, it can’t be the only measurement of success.
“EEHA is an academy, a learning program dedicated to giving our players measureable skill development in an environment that builds character and confidence,” Van Sky said. “We accomplish that by employing professional coaches and adhering to our commitment to give every player the opportunity to grow. Every kid, from the rawest and least experienced through the most skilled player in the program, will get the same developmental resources.”
Off-ice training is done at Authentic Performance inside the Big Bear Ice Arena in Denver, Evolution’s home rink.
This season, the EEHA houses three 8U teams (Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced), two 10U teams (A and B), two 12U teams (A and AA), three 14U teams (A, AA and AAA), two 16U teams (A and AA) and an 18U AA team. The Colorado Evolution junior team is currently in its second season of WSHL play.
“We are passionate about hockey 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year,” said Evolution vice president Vassiliy Larchenko. “We believe hockey is the greatest game on the planet. Our goal is to get kids involved at a very young age and get them learning how to play the game the only way, the right way. In the few years we have been in business, I can tell you that at the end of each season, we take a look and evaluate all the kids that came through the program and each one took major strides and improved in so many ways. As coaches, we take the time needed to teach all these kids the basic fundamentals and how to apply them during games. What we see at the end of the season and in our games is nothing short of amazing and extraordinary.”
Larchenko also noted that parents need to focus on several items when shopping for a hockey program for their son(s) or daughter(s).
“The first step for choosing the best possible hockey program for your child is to look at the coaching,” said Larchenko. “Do your research, looking into the coach’s hockey record, their college degree in relation to sports and coaching, and listen to the feedback available from other parents on that coach. You may also want to look at whether coaching is the trainer’s full-time or part-time job.
“Once you have determined that the coaching in the hockey program is the best possible fit for your child, look into what the program has to offer. Check how many practices the program guarantees a week, and what kind of practices (full-ice, half-ice or cross-ice). Look at the length of the hockey season for that given program and if extra benefits, such as dryland, are included in the package. You may also want to observe the ratio of games to practices to determine if the program is intended to develop children’s hockey skills or is strictly game-based.”
And while this all sounds great for players that are forwards or defensemen, what about goaltenders?
“Even though goalies don’t do all of the same drills as the other players, it’s a good idea to find out about how the organizations handle the training and development of goaltenders,” said Larchenko. “One major question to ask is if the team has a dedicated goalie coach or at the very least, a goalie consultant. Youth goaltenders are generally still learning the position and need that one-on-attention from a specialized coach in that area.”
When all is said and done and parents have looked at all their options, there should be only one choice to make.
“We invite you to join Evolution Elite Hockey Academy, the right choice for your child,” said Larchenko. “Our hockey program offers exceptional coaching, full-ice practice four times a week with dry land, and one of the longest seasons of any hockey program, starting in mid-August and ending in mid-March. We stress the importance of practice, as it is the key to success. As you invest your child’s future in school, we believe the same effort should be invested in their development in regards to hockey. Evolution Elite Hockey Academy is the leading hockey program in Colorado and we look forward to seeing you soon.”
Evolution director Sergei Bautin, a former NHL player with the Winnipeg Jets, who took him in the first round of the 1992 NHL draft, Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks, in addition to the Russian Olympic Team, has seen the EEHA rise from the ground up.
“Our philosophy is to provide every hockey player with on-ice and off-ice instructional training by the best professionals available,” said Bautin. “We don’t believe that talent is born. We believe that talent is made. Our ingredients for developing talent are repetition, concentration and effective teaching by knowledgeable and professional coaches. Our approach is simple – teach correct fundamentals in an environment where players can repeat those fundamentals until they are perfected. The core of any skater requires the A, B, C’s – Agility, Balance and Coordination. We will enhance each of these skills with every player and our professional coaches will provide instruction on the various aspects of the game following our developmental track, including individual skills, tactics and team play.”
Evolution 8U development director Allen Dionne initially came aboard to bond with his two hockey-playing sons, Trey and Caden, but soon found himself contributing more to the program.
“The staff and coaching here, it all just rubs off on you,” said Dionne. “Everyone here has such a high intelligence for hockey and when you look around at who we have involved here, it really just blows my mind. Sergei has been successful at everything he’s ever done and he’s always coming up with new ways to practice, new ways to teach the game. When we’ve played AAA teams in tournaments, we’ve proven we can play at that level. Top talent wants to come here.”
Still, Van Sky can’t help but think back to the early days and realize how far the EEHA has evolved.
“That first year with three teams was tough, but we never wavered from our commitment to the kids,” Van Sky said. “I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to grow our program so successfully while maintaining our commitment to our mission statement. I’ve always believed that players and their families should be treated like customers, not property, and to that end, our commitment to providing the highest quality program and product will pave the way for continued growth.
“Would I like to see us provide that AAA option within the framework of being a complete hockey organization? Of course. Down the road 5-10 years, we will be right here, continuing to contribute to the growth of hockey in Colorado and helping to develop great young people into great young adults.”
— Matt Mackinder