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Elite hockey academy iced for another year by North Van school district

A controversial proposal to move an elite hockey academy to North Vancouver’s Seycove Secondary has been iced for another season.

A controversial proposal to move an elite hockey academy to North Vancouver’s Seycove Secondary has been iced for another season.

That means there will be no home for the private hockey school in North Vancouver public schools until the 2022-'23 school year at the earliest.

Spartan Sport Group previously ran the West Van Warriors elite hockey academy – which combines academics with intensive training and competition in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League – out of Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver. But following a decision by the West Vancouver school district not to renew its contract with the hockey academy, in February North Vancouver school trustees initially endorsed a plan to take on the elite hockey academy “in principle” at Seycove.

Soon after, parents showed up in force to voice concerns about the prospect of the academy moving to their school, including worries that the number of out-of-district students in the 76-member hockey academy would overwhelm the small school.

Others questioned why the school district was keen to take on the program, given the narrow scope of who is admitted into the academy, and the high cost of the program.

Faced with opposition to the plan, the school district promised to have wider in-person consultation with parents before any final decision was made.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has essentially kiboshed that opportunity, North Vancouver schools superintendent Mark Pearmain told school trustees at a recent school board meeting, because large in-person gatherings aren’t possible.

“So we actually have not engaged in that secondary process of going back to the community, which means at this point in time, the process for the elite hockey academy is as status quo, as in it's not proceeding,” he said. Pearmain said that includes the next 2021-'22 school year.

Pearmain said he’s notified the parent advisory council chairs at Seycove as well as the school principal and the hockey academy director.

North Vancouver school officials have iced a plan to bring an elite hockey school program to Seycove Secondary until at least 2022. photo North Shore News

Nathan Fischer, the director of the hockey academy, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Until it finds a school to call home, the hockey academy can’t operate, due to a regulatory requirement that the academy have a partnership with an educational institution.

The academy's teams were in playoffs at the end of successful seasons in the CSSHL when the COVID-19 crisis hit.

Academy star Connor Bedard became the first player ever granted exceptional status and early entry into the Western Hockey League. 

Bedard was set to make his debut with the Regina Pats this fall but COVID-19 restrictions put that historic moment on hold, and so Bedard has taken his talents to Sweden where he is training with an elite junior team based in Jönköping in southern Sweden, until the WHL gets the go-ahead.

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