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Tahoe Hockey Academy finding elusive ‘path to success’

 

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It has been more than two months since the Tahoe Hockey Academy opened its doors to its first class of student-athletes, and the progress being made on and off the ice has the administration feeling extremely optimistic.

“The goal from Day 1 was to implement a program that provided an extensive athletic and academic curriculum,” Tahoe Hockey Academy president Leo Fenn said. “We want to give our players the tools and framework to succeed, but we also want to allow them to build their own path to success.”

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It didn’t take long before the academy’s first team found itself facing some stiff competition on the ice as it headed off to Pilot Mound, Manitoba, in early September to compete in the Western Prep Hockey League (WPHL). As California’s only Division I prep league representative, Tahoe faced an uphill battle competing against highly established prep hockey programs from Colorado, Calgary and Manitoba.

“You really don’t see that type of hockey in California,” THA captain Erik Larsson said. “The players and teams in the WPHL are big, fast and physical. You really have to be on top of your game in order to compete every shift, but it’s great to be in that environment because it makes you better. We’re on the ice two hours every day, and I can already tell in such a short period of time how much I’ve improved. It allowed me a chance to compete and succeed against the older players.”

The school’s foundation is built not only hockey and academics. Developing respectful and responsible young men is also a primary focus at the Northern California academy.

“We want to instill the ideals of accountability, consistency and discipline in our student-athletes as they conduct their everyday lives,” associate head coach Chris Collins said. “From the way they practice, to the way they interact with their peers, staff and community, we want to build a foundation for lasting success both on and off the ice.”

As with any boarding school, it can be a challenge for students to be separated from their parents for the first time. Having a program that emulates family values goes a long way in calming the fears that parents may have being so far away from their sons.

“Being able to visit Tahoe Hockey Academy for three days and witness first-hand the way the school operates speaks volumes to their professionalism and attention to detail,” said Wynette Birceki, whose son, Jack, attends THA. “You can see it on the ice, in the classroom and the way the staff interacts with the students, to know how much they care.”

Added Larsson: “The program pushes you to be better. It shows in the way we train, compete and develop every day.”

The Tahoe Hockey Academy program consists of daily ice sessions, strength and conditioning workouts and structured academic classes.

“We’re designed for the dedicated student-athlete who’s looking to pursue a higher level of self-improvement,” Fenn said. “That relates to their overall hockey game, individual skill, physical development and academic growth. We’re not here to focus on the wins and losses, and we’ll always measure our success on our ability to build better hockey players, students and young men.”

While the Tahoe Hockey Academy is still in its infancy, players, coaches and staff are bullish on what the future holds. The team will be tested as it continues WPHL play as well as scheduled trips to the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) Showcase, Bauer Invite and University of Notre Dame, as well as league play in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL).

A schedule of 60-70 games dictates a steady dose of hockey – and judging by the development of the program thus far, the boys in purple will be ready for the challenge.

— Greg Ball