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Growing time: Prairie Hockey Academy building on success despite pandemic era

More teams, new facilities, plenty to offer for Caronport-based Canadian Sport School Hockey League organization
PHA bench flyby
The Prairie Hockey Academy has had plenty to celebrate over the last while.
Since the start of the school year, the Prairie Hockey Academy has gone about doing its thing.

Practices, games when they were allowed, more practices, plenty of school work, another practice or two, and so on. Just finding a way to keep things going and keep everyone engaged while the ongoing pandemic keeps things sidelined.

The crazy thing?

Not only have they pulled it off over the last seven months, the PHA has actually thrived. To the point the Canadian Sport School Hockey League recently announced their program will be expanding by two teams for the 2021-22 season, adding U15 Prep and U18 Prep squads to their U16 and U17 offerings.

And that’s not even the end of the good news for the Caronport-based academy, which is now in its fourth year of existence since their inaugural season in 2017-18.

“We’re excited about the future, we still have to finish strong this season but I’m starting to feel like an Oilers fan, there’s always next year,” PHA president Justin Simpkins said with a laugh. 

“Things are looking really good, we’re really happy to add the U15 and U18 Prep programs, I think they complete that ladder of development and also give us the opportunity to bring in student athletes at a young age and really develop those practice habits, build that strong foundation and really stack those skills to have the big gains the next couple years before they go off to play Junior somewhere… I think there’s going to be some really good hockey at the Barkman (Arena) and we’re excited about it.”

The new additions will see more than 40 new players and coaches joining PHA, a number they’re confident they’ll easily be able to absorb into their current facilities.

“It’ll take some creative scheduling for sure to get all the games in on the weekends, but practice-wise and education-wise, BCA and ourselves have worked on this for awhile knowing that we were going to expand, so that part’s good,” Simpkins said, adding that class scheduling, dorms, the cafeteria and Briercrest Christian Academy itself have room for expansion.

The PHA is also looking forward to the April opening of the new Kinesiology and High Performance Training Centre, which will give their athletes and those with the Briercrest Clippers college programs a world-class facility to train in.

It’s a run of positive news in a time when there hasn’t been a lot that going around. But true to the PHA’s nature and their values, it’s all something that’s been taken in stride.

“For the most part it’s been really good, everyone knows the situation and we’ve been doing what we can to keep things interesting and keep working with what we can,” Simpkins said. “We’re probably going to break into some multi-sport activities outdoors as the spring weather hits and just give our minds and our bodies a bit of a refresher. Then when the training centre opens, we’ll give everyone a week off for some rest before we get into our new strength routine, too… we have things on the horizon and the opportunity to keep developing.”

The hunt is currently on for coaches for the two new teams -- the request for applications is on their Facebook page and has already seen many responses -- and the search for players to fill their rosters is coming up soon.

The U15 Prep Showcase camp will take place on the May 28 weekend at the Barkman, followed by the U18 Prep Showcase on the June 11 weekend, which will also bring in players for the U17 and U16 squads.

“Throughout the year we’ve had people filling out prospect forms and asking about the program, so there are a lot of families out there who are aware of us,” Simpkins said. “Once the signing window opens for us, we’ll start making our teams.”

For tons more information on their program, including how to register for the upcoming camps, visit

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