Lake City Hockey Academy participants Brooklyn Carriere (from left), Madigan Riplinger, Dominik Kniec, teacher Terry Duff, Jackson Altwasser, Dustin Forster and Will Roberts get ready to unload their gear Monday morning for their on-ice session at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex. (Greg Sabatino photo)

Lake City Hockey Academy a big hit with local players

For roughly 100 students at Lake City secondary, there’s not much they enjoy more about school than lacing up their skates and having a chance to enjoy ‘Canada’s game’ on a daily basis.

That’s thanks to the Lake City Secondary Hockey Academy and its teacher, Terry Duff, who loads up a trailer packed to the gills with students’ hockey gear each morning, before driving it to the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex for players to hit the ice.

The class is split up into four groups: two Grade 8-9 sessions (bantam), and two Grade 10-12 (midget) sessions, stretching throughout the morning at the CMRC. Three classes skate each day, while the fourth class works on dry land training before rotating for the next day.

“They started the program around 2007,” Duff said, noting School District 27 assistant-superintendent Harj Manhas and LCSS principal Gregg Gaylord spearheaded the program with Gaylord as its teacher.

READ MORE: Students edge teachers 7-6 in overtime at high school hockey game

Originally a program sanctioned through Hockey Canada, Duff said since he’s taken over running the class it’s transitioned to run strictly through the school, giving them more flexibility to tailor the class to students’ needs.

“This will be my sixth year teaching the program,” Duff said, adding it’s been a treat to watch the program flourish and grow over the years.

“When we first started it was quite a bit smaller, but when I took over it really gained some steam and popularity.”

Duff had been teaching film and TV at LCSS, and jumped at the chance to takeover the hockey program when the position was posted.

“It turned out to be a great fit,” he said. “I started out as a substitute for the Lake City program, and just transitioned into this role nicely.”

Duff has played hockey his entire life, and couldn’t be happier passing on his knowledge of the game he loves.

“It’s something I’m passionate about and I’ve been passionate about my whole life,” he said.

“My goal is to help kids love hockey as much as I love hockey.”

He said the biggest thing he notices about students’ participation is their genuine enjoyment of the class.

“They’re engaged,” he said. “They already like it, and you aren’t forcing them to do something they’re not interested in.”

Grade 12 student Raeyden Beauchamp, a former Williams Lake Midget Timberwolves player who made the transition to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League for the early part of this year’s season, is enrolled in the program.

“I’ve been a part of this class since I was in Grade 8,” he said.

“It’s just better than a normal gym class. You can do something fun every day, and you’re doing something you love every day.”

READ MORE: Teachers beat students in annual Lake City Secondary hockey game

He also said it’s a great chance to get some more ice time and practice.

Grade 8 student Lelend Nerbas, meanwhile, had never played competitive hockey before deciding he wanted to sign up for the elective at the school.

“I’d always wanted to be in hockey so I thought doing this would be good because I get to play hockey every day,” Nerbas said.

“It’s been great. I get to play with my friends, and everyone is together here working on something.”

Since he started with the program this past September, Nerbas said he’s become way more comfortable skating, and playing hockey — a sentiment Duff noted he gets a lot with the students in the class.

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Ryan Bauer (left) lays out a poke check on Kaylee Bennett as she skates toward the goal for a shot Wednesday during a Lake City Secondary Hockey Academy practice.

Grade 8 Lake City Hockey Academy player Lelend Nerbas said he’s enjoying the class, and is improving daily.

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