Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Western Expansion

It's a national holiday in this great country thanks to Canada Day where we celebrate our amazing nation and all it has to offer. It has been said that Canada never truly became a country until the east was connected to the west, a moment that happened in 1885 when the railway line connecting the Ottawa Valley to the west coast was completed and fulfilling the commitment made to British Columbia when it joined the Confederation in 1871. Western expansion followed, and it seems we're getting a second western expansion today as two successful hockey academies become one juggernaut hockey academy on the Canadian hockey landscape.

It was announced a week ago that The Rink Hockey Academy based in Winnipeg had purchased the Kelowna-based Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy and Edge of Excellence school subject to approval by the Hockey and the Canadian Sport School Hockey League as The Rink and POE were two separate, competing schools in the CSSHL.

The Rink, it should be noted, added a female midget-aged team this past season in the female prep school division, and they saw their first-ever recruit from that program signed to a U SPORTS Letter of Intent when forward Danica Namaka agreed to become an Alberta Panda. POE, meanwhile, has long been an outstanding school for athletes to attend, and they've sent many players on to higher levels of hockey.

"We are incredibly excited to add POE Kelowna into our RINK Hockey Academy family. We are looking to implement positive change to maximize constructive, progressive outcomes for all parties involved," RINK CEO Brad Rice stated in a release. "[President and CEO of POE/EOE] David [Roy] has done a tremendous job creating a strong program and foundation for student athletes here in Kelowna and we can't wait to see what the future holds."

While BC Hockey has yet to release their approval of this purchase, I would say that it's simply an administrative matter at this point as the CSSHL will likely approve the matter in order to continue both program's hockey academies' inclusion as part of their league's schedules. I would imagine that the two schools will continue to operate two hockey programs with "The Rink West" and "The Rink East" being separate teams who will occupy their current spots in the CSSHL.

This expansion back into British Columbia by The Rink Hockey Corporation is, admittedly, a little surprising given how they left the Kootenay area with fans still sore over the WHL's Ice moving to Winnipeg, but business is business and adding a high-quality hockey academy such as the Pursuit of Excellence will allow The Rink and its staff to combine two world-class hockey programs under one umbrella.

"Our goal for student athletes is to maximize their potential by combining their excellence as a hockey player, student, and as a person," POE President and CEO David Roy said in a statement. "With the RINK's acquisition of POE, we are now able to tap into their outstanding skill development programs and facilities, both in Winnipeg and now in Kelowna. This will provide young hockey players with an opportunity to develop as 360-degree players beyond what I could have ever imagined."

The transaction was scheduled officially for today as The Rink became the owner and operator of the POE/EOE campus in Kelowna, and it leads me to ask if this good for hockey as a whole when we see hockey academies raising the costs for students to attend and becoming far less inclusive. While I don't dispute the success that The Rink has had in its five years of existence, the costs to attend the hockey academy were fairly high with the numbers coming in at a five-figure dollar amount. That cost alone is extremely prohibitive for a lot of families, so I'm hoping we may see The Rink opt for more economical solutions for students who aspire to attend one of the Winnipeg or Kelowna schools.

There's no doubt that these two schools combining forces will make them stronger as a whole. The hockey landscape will change with both schools getting better, and that only means better players and better hockey in the long run. However, if the cost to get better players and better hockey keeps going up, one has to wonder where that success plateaus in the future as the game becomes too expensive for some.

Let's hope this new, bigger version of The Rink Hockey Corporation can figure out how to keep more kids in the game in more places across this great nation. That would be truly Canadian of them.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!