International Ice Hockey Federation

Hitting the books, then the ice

Hitting the books, then the ice

School and hockey go hand-in-hand for Canada’s U18s

Published 27.04.2013 16:24 GMT+4 | Author Adam Steiss
Hitting the books, then the ice
Timothy Tope (foreground), Team Canada's education consultant, speaks to the team before the start of an academic session. Photo: Matthew Murnaghan / HHOF-IIHF Images.
For Team Canada, the value of a good education is as important as goals scored or shots saved. Despite what people might think about hockey players, these guys aren't just a bunch of meatheads.

Throughout most of their gold medal campaign Canada’s U18 team has had to attend academic sessions, designed to keep the players up to date on their studies back home.

The program has been in place with Hockey Canada for a number of years, to avoid players competing in the U18 tournament falling behind on their schoolwork during what is a sensitive time for many Canadian students.

“We had to do it, at this time of the year they’re simply missing a lot of school,” said Scott Salmond, senior director of hockey operations at Hockey Canada. "It was a need that was specifically for the U18 team because of the time of the tournament."

With late-April a busy time in most Canadian high schools, Hockey Canada has made a point of bringing in an academic advisor along with the team when it travels to the U18 World Championship. This year, Niagara Icedogs education consultant Timothy Tope travelled with the team to Sochi and supervised eight one-and-a-half to two-hour sessions during the preliminary round.

Tope’s job with Niagara begins in August, when he matches up the course selection for each of the players arriving in Niagara to ensure that they are prepared when they return to their home school at the end of the season and are as ready as possible for exams. Midterms occur around this time in Canada, with finals in June. In fact, a few of the players from Quebec, where the curriculum differs from the rest of the country, wrote a philosophy exam earlier in the week.

“It’s tricky because we get players from different backgrounds, some are in the high-A range and others are struggling more, so we just make sure that they are attending and provide help as needed," said Tope. "In Niagara, we say that if you’re a C-student in your home school, we expect you to be at least a C-student here.”

Gathering the team in the morning at the press center of the Vesna hotel in Sochi, Tope supervises the players as they go through their work, usually prepared for them in the form of an online course or sent by teachers.

“With that group, everybody’s doing something different,” said Tope. “We got guys coming in from across the country so some kids are doing online work and others are enrolled in classes at home, so I’m communicating with the teachers and guidance counsellors in Canada to ensure that the work is being sent to me and that I send things back.”

With a room full of teenage hockey players, one would think that getting them to put hockey out of their minds for two hours and concentrate on schoolwork would be mission impossible. However, Tope maintains that this has been a non-issue.

“Surprisingly, these kids act very professional, I think it’s in part with the expectations that are put on them by their club teams, but also the coaches have been great and they let them know that this is important,” said Tope. “I really was pleasantly surprised, they just come in and get to working right away.”

“There’s a group of kids within the group, guys like Morgan Klimchuk and (captain) Sam Reinhart that are just tremendous leaders. They set the tone and other guys pick up on that. They always are the first ones there and they make sure that everyone else is there on time, and as soon as we get into the class and I finish speaking, they lead by example and go about their business.”

For the kids who don’t have school, they don’t get off scot-free, having been put on the duties of writing a hockey blog for the Hockey Canada website.

You can view the blogs of Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey here. Forward Yan Laplante writes for the French version of the Hockey Canada website.

Now that the playoffs have started, school will be put on hold for the weekend, as Canada gets ready to play the United States for the World Championship trophy.

Because after all, bringing a U18 gold medal to show to the class would be kind of sweet.


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