Hockey isn't just keeping kids at Britannia fit - it's helping many stay on track off the ice and in the classroom.
Three times a week, 42 secondary students ranging from Grade 8 to 12 suit up in their Britannia Bruins hockey gear. They're part of the innovative Britannia Hockey Academy district program.
Philippe Lam is a Grade 10 student who has been skating since elementary school. He first got turned on hockey with the Britannia Hockey Heroes program. Since joining the Britannia Hockey Academy, he has moved from minor league hockey to play on a rep team.
"I probably wouldn't get to where I am right now without the skills academy," he says. "Our coaches really push us and are really encouraging. Our coach Ksena really understands what she's trying to do for kids over here."
Founded six years ago, Britannia's Hockey Academy is stickhandled by Kesena Tatomir, a veteran of the NCAA and international women's hockey.
Tatomir says a lot has changed since she first put on her hockey gloves years ago. At that time, Tatomir's team was the only women's hockey squad in Metro Vancouver. Each game against male teams (the only competitors they could find) was kicked off with a formalized ceremony often complete with gift giving. It could be a little surreal, she says.
Over the years, Tatomir says the state of women's hockey has come light years. One of the things she says she is most proud of is the growing number of female hockey playing students the academy has attracted.
On the ice, the academy is aimed at hockey skills development. There are few games, but plenty of practice for shooting, passing, deeking, skating and positional play. The practice has paid off for many of the students, some of whom have gone on to play junior hockey.
But it isn't all fun and games. Students are also held to high standards when it comes to academic achievement and are given support by coaches and peers to help meet their objectives. In the classroom students review hockey videos, hear from guest speakers, work on their referee certification and get a crash course in the business of hockey.
After all, according to Tatomir, there's plenty more that students can do if they're passionate about hockey than just play it. There's hockey marketing, sales, community relations and a whole range of other endeavors. Tatomir says that the programs close relationship with the Vancouver Canucks has helped students see other possibilities beyond the rink. This year, she's hopeful a number of her students will have an opportunity to do some job shadowing with the Canucks organization.