It was a successful beginning for the Bear Creek Hockey Canada Skills Academy at Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie, Ont. Its’ inaugural campaign as a Skills Academy was filled with guest speakers, field trips, ice times three days a week, and was also supported by an enthusiastic administration and volunteer base that encouraged Academy students to pursue the challenge of improving their hockey skills.
On December 5, NHL Alumnus and current Grey-Bruce Highlanders AAA Coach, Curtis Sanford visited the Bear Creek Hockey Canada Skills Academy to work with students and share his experiences about his time in the NHL, KHL, OHL, and minor pro leagues. Sanford led all students through several skills activities during the on-ice session and also was able to work with the student goaltender 1-on-1.
As the program coordinator and instructor of the Bear Creek Hockey Canada Skills Academy, Edward Garinger, touched on the importance of having Sanford visit the Academy.
“Curtis is an excellent coach and instructor and I’m really fortunate to have counted Curtis as a teammate many years ago,” said Garinger. “Being familiar with his character and abilities – both as an elite goaltender and as an elite coach, it was a natural fit to ask him to share his knowledge with us.”
While watching the on-ice sessions, Sanford was pleased with the activities and interactions on-ice.
“The drills and instruction that were incorporated into the practice plan were challenging and geared towards the skill levels of the students,” he said. “The ice-time was well planned from warm-up to the cool-down and the students were very involved and respectful towards the leaders.”
Following the on-ice session, Sanford participated in a question-and-answer session with students. Each student had previously researched Sanford’s background and had prepared questions for the hockey influencer. In response to student questions, he shared some of his favourite memories in the sport, which included his experiences playing in Russia, his thoughts on today’s NHL game along with advice on how to reach ones’ goals as an athlete.
“The post practice Q-and-A was a great experience personally as I was able to reflect on my own career and answer well-thought out questions from the students,” he said.
Following his experience with the Bear Creek Hockey Canada Skills Academy, Sanford, who was an All-Star in the ECHL, AHL, and KHL, relayed that he was impressed with Bear Creek’s Skills Academy program.
“It was great, I had a good time and the students were very receptive and worked pretty hard,” said Sanford. “Ed Garinger and Bear Creek have done a great job integrating academics with our great game.”
Garinger also echoed the positive comments from Sanford.
“Both the students and I are very thankful Curtis took the time to share his knowledge and experiences,” he said. “Having an athlete and instructor of Curtis’s caliber share his experiences is invaluable to the improvement of our students, and I’m glad we are able to continue to provide opportunities such as this for them.”