West Vancouver School District cutting ties with elite hockey academy

This story has been updated to include a response from West Van Warriors Hockey Academy founder and director Nathan Fischer.

The West Vancouver school district is in the process of severing ties with the organization running their elite hockey academy, informing parents and players that the program will not be offered for the 2020-'21 season.

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A letter to parents sent Jan. 31 from Diane Nelson, the school district’s director of instruction – WV premier academy programs, stated that the district would not be renewing its partnership with Spartan Sport Group, which operates the elite hockey academy, due to “concerns about academic success, and other challenges such as student programming and scheduling as well as the increased enrolment at Sentinel.”

The West Van Warriors currently play in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, which features elite school-based academy teams from across Western Canada. Students in the academy attend classes at Sentinel Secondary with the majority of the on-ice and off-ice training coming at nearby Hollyburn Country Club.  

Sean Nosek, associate superintendent for West Vancouver Schools, confirmed Monday that the school district and Spartan Sport Group “have agreed to part ways.”

“There were a few challenges that we faced,” said Nosek.

Among those challenges are a school that hosted the hockey academy already “bursting at the seams,” said Nosek.

Nosek said the fact that some students had to commute in to the hockey academy from long distances out in the Fraser Valley “wasn’t an ideal scenario.”

“These students are in a tough situation where they’re trying to participate in a rigorous academic program and attend to studies from far away,” he said. “Whether you're missing school or having some difficulty keeping up, I think everyone in the picture realizes how vitally important academic success is.”

This season the academy fielded four teams in four separate divisions in the CSSHL: Midget Prep, Elite 15, Bantam Prep and Bantam Varsity. Rosters on the CSSHL website list players ranging from age 13 up to 17 on the West Van teams. Fewer than half the players list North Vancouver or West Vancouver as their hometown, with several coming from across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley and others from more distant locales such as Vancouver Island, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Denver and Beijing.

Nosek said the cost of the program – approximately $22,000 a year – was not an issue in ending the hockey academy.

“Families who are invested in this sort of thing know what the associated costs are,” he said.

Both of the program’s bantam teams, the Varsity and the higher-level Prep, are currently in first place in their respective divisions, competing against teams such as St. George’s School from Vancouver, the Burnaby Winter Club Academy, Calgary’s Edge School for Athletes and the Okanagan Hockey Academy.   

Nosek said the program will remain in place at Sentinel Secondary for the remainder of this school year but will not be coming back to West Vancouver Schools next year.

Nosek hinted he understands the Spartan Sport Group is in the process of arranging a new home for the elite hockey academy.

Nathan Fischer, founder and director of the West Van Warriors Hockey Academy, declined to comment on the partnership with the West Van school district but told the North Shore News that he would make an announcement about a new plan and new education partner for the academy at an open house scheduled for March 3. 

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