Jan 05, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Skaneateles has one of the few high school varsity girls’ hockey teams in the state. Soon, the town itself will be home to an elite girls’ hockey academy that will draw players from across the United States and Canada.
The National Hockey Academy, an accredited affiliate of USA Hockey, intends to have two teams for girls ages 19 and under, to play hockey at a tier 1 level, with a structure and experience similar to that of a preparatory school. Academy players would mostly live in Skaneateles and attend either Skaneateles public schools or the Manlius Pebble Hill private school, and be full participants in the local community while also focusing on their hockey skills eight months of the year.
“There’s hockey here, there’s rinks, it’s a beautiful area: What better place to do this than Skaneateles?” said NHA Director and Skaneateles resident Robert Brown during a presentation to the Skaneateles School Board of Education. “This might be good for the school and for the community.”
The NHA will have a maximum of 40 students, grades 9 through 12, who will play between 60 and 80 games during a nine-month hockey season running September through May. An average of 7.5 hours will be spent on the ice each week, including practice, games, skill development and power skating training.
NHA will be consulting and working with current and former players from both the U.S. and Canadian national and Olympic women’s teams. The names of those players, and the ultimate director of hockey, will be announced in 2012 once recruitment is completed.
The NHA has discussed ice rink availabilities with administrators of the old town ice rink and at the YMCA, and has identified times when the academy could practice and play games without conflicting with schedules of the Skaneateles Youth Hockey Association, Skaneateles Figure Skating or the high school girls’ hockey team, Brown said.
Academy members will not be allowed to play on the high school hockey team, but will be recruited “specifically and only” for the NHA, Brown said. The reasons for this are mainly to keep the girls focused on the NHA program, but also it will avoid charges of “recruitment” to the high school team, which is illegal under the Section III athletic rules.
The NHA students, however, will be living in academy housing in Skaneateles and therefore will be considered residents under Education Law Section 3202, Brown said. They can, therefore, go out for other high school sports in Skaneateles, just not the hockey team.
The academy also will not steal talent from the high school team because so few local hockey players will be up to the elite level required for admittance to the NHA, Brown said.
“It’s impossible to have that affect on the Skaneateles program,” he said.
With the NHA located in Skaneateles, some attendees would most likely go to school at Skaneateles High School. Brown’s presentation to the school board was more a courtesy and information sharing session than a need for permission.
“They don’t need our approval,” said Skaneateles Schools Superintendent Phil D’Angelo. “But any new idea is exciting and I want to hear more.”
School board members had a host of questions for Brown during his presentation, including possible impact on the high school girls’ hockey team, liability issues, scholarships, general funding, student housing and student supervision.
“Our main concern is, if we are responsible for educating [academy students] we need the authority to work with them, discipline them and comply with state and federal regulations,” D’Angelo said.
Brown said a main reason for locating the school in Skaneateles was the high reputation of the school district and the academy’s intention for academics to be just as important for its students as athletics.
“We want schooling to be central to the experience, we want them to be well-rounded,” he said.
Skaneateles High School Principal Georgette Hoskins told the board she had spoken to Brown about academic issues, and told him that each academy student who desired attendance at SHS would have to be individually assessed — “like any other student” — to move them toward graduation. “We are not a private school and these types of things are a challenge within the New York state standards and regulations,” Hoskins said.
Brown said he hopes the NHA will form its first team and be able to begin work by fall 2012, but the key to that lies in successful recruiting.
“It’s very exciting,” said Brown, who has been working on the NHA project for two years, and whose daughter played varsity hockey for the SHS for four years. “I’m just a hockey dad, and I think this will be good for hockey in the Syracuse area. I don’t want the academy here despite what people think. I want them to be excited about it.”
For more information on the NHA, visit nationalhockeyacademy.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.