Weyburn Minor Hockey volunteer excited for Skills Academy

A proposal for St. Michael School to host the Hockey Canada Skills Academy in the next school year received official approval on Thursday, and it will now move ahead in the 2021-22 school year with Mike Weger of Weyburn Minor Hockey as the community liaison.

Weger first brought the proposal to the school and to the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division, and it’s been approved for St. Michael School and for Sacred Heart School in Estevan.

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“I’ve been involved in minor hockey since my son started playing, and I’ve been getting more and more involved,” explained Weger, noting he found resources for coaches on the Hockey Canada website which included information about the Skills Academy.

“As soon as I read the info and watched the video, I realized this is a program that could definitely fit the situation we have here in Weyburn,” said Weger. “We have a strong hockey community here in Weyburn, and we also have a Catholic school, St. Michael, and there’s quite a high enrolment of kids who play hockey.”

He recognized many of the players he’s coached in minor hockey along with his son Bennett, and “putting two and two together, I thought maybe there was a possibility we could facilitate something like this in Weyburn and build on it. So I arranged a meeting with Chad Fingler (Holy Family superintendent) and Dean Loberg (principal of St. Michael School), and a few other representatives of the school division, and laid out what I could do to help get this off the ground. I plan on staying involved in it as the community contact.”

He will be working with the school division and the school to make arrangements for the program when the new school year starts up in September, and it will be offered as a tuition-based program for Grade 6 as a pilot program.

At Sacred Heart, it will be offered for students in Grades 5-8 as it is a smaller school, noted Weger.

“Hockey Canada provides a lot of resources with the curriculum and practice plans, so the idea is the kids will be able to continue with their education, just in a different form. They will be on the ice for a lot of it,” he said.

In a presentation on the program to the Holy Family board of trustees earlier in May, Fingler said the program promotes well-being through a more active lifestyle.

“We’re looking for high-energy instruction that will be hands-on, so this is bringing real life experiences to the students,” he told the trustees, noting it also involves partnerships with the Weyburn Red Wings and Gold Wings, and the Estevan Bruins.

“This will be an innovative learning environment,” said Fingler. “There will be on-ice training and dry-land training. Our schools are primed and ready to go. … The Hockey Canada philosophy is it’s curriculum-based and a teacher is attached all the way through. This is a classroom-first program. It isn’t a hockey school, it’s a classroom first of all.”

“I think it’ll be a great opportunity for some of the kids. We’ll try it out this year and I hope we’ll be able to expand the program and be successful,” said Weger, noting the Hockey Canada program can be adapted to all skill levels and ages, with the program offered at around 150 schools across Canada.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the City of Weyburn as well,” added Weger, pointing out this program will be renting ice time from the City during times the ice is normally not used.

The program will see the students at the rink from about 12:30 to 3:30 when the ice time is not normally being rented, other than to a team like the Red Wings.

He also has hopes to have players from the Red Wings and Gold Wings teams helping out with the on-ice portions of the program.

“They rely on the community, so it’s a great way for them to give back and be a part of the Skills Academy. They’re all really great role models, and that’s what this program is all about, is creating through hockey citizens that are going to grow up to be contributing members of society,” he said.

Weger was recently recognized for his volunteer efforts, as he was named the Volunteer of the Year for the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, for southern Saskatchewan.

He admitted he was “quite surprised” to learn he had been nominated for this award and that he won it.

“I’ve been involved in hockey in Weyburn since around 2014, which isn’t that long compared to some other people from the community. There are definitely people in this community who have put many more hours into hockey than I have,” said Weger.

During the pandemic lockdowns last year through this past year, Weger put in a lot of time and effort to hold training sessions and provide opportunities for players to still be able to be on the ice, even though games weren’t allowed.

“It’s humbling that someone took the time to put this information together for the nomination, so I appreciate it,” he said.Mike was nominated by Jody Corbett of the Weyburn Minor Hockey Association.