If things go according to plan for Rod Collins in the next couple of years, a group of students in Pilot Mound could be following up second-period chemistry with third-period power play.
Collins, a Pilot Mound native now living in Bellingham, Wash., is spearheading a plan to launch what is termed a ‘sport school’, essentially partnering education and hockey to a level beyond a traditional high school hockey program.
Hoping to get the sport school off the ground in time for the 2014-15 school year, Collins sees a void in Manitoba that he’d like to fill.
“I was at Shattuck St. Mary’s (a Faribault, Minn., prep school noted for its hockey program) for 10 years and I saw a lot of Manitoba kids come down there, and I was at Notre Dame for eight years as well in Saskatchewan, so I’m familiar with the programs,” said Collins, who also spent three years in Wenatchee, Wash., coaching a U-18 team that plays in a Canadian-based sport school league. “And I think there’s a need for one in Manitoba to keep those local kids there and offer them that type of program.”
Hockey Manitoba sanctions three sport school programs — at Balmoral Hall, St. Mary’s Academy and Shaftesbury School — all in Winnipeg and all female-only programs.
St. Mary’s recently hosted the Female World Sport School Challenge, with teams from across Canada, at the MTS Iceplex.
Collins said his goal is to offer boys’ and girls’ programs in the bantam and midget age groups. Out-of-town players would be billetted in Pilot Mound and the students would study at Pilot Mound Collegiate Institute.
School principal Wade Watson said while the discussion is still very preliminary, it’s an idea he supports.
“As far as me as the administrator here and the rest of my staff, we’re totally open to it,” Watson said. “We just want to work with the people to make sure that it’s a viable operation.”
The patriarch of an avid Pilot Mound hockey family —his daughter Delaney was a longtime member of the Canadian national women’s team who is now an assistant coach with the NCAA Division 1 Mercyhurst Lakers — Rod Collins currently runs a hockey-camp program called Collins Elite Hockey, based out of Bellingham. While he works out the details of the sport school he’s planning on starting a hockey academy for boys and girls ages nine to 17 that would run twice weekly in Pilot Mound next season. Unlike a sport school, the players would continue to play in their own minor hockey programs, with the academy being merely a supplement.
If that goes well, Collins said it would be a major step toward the sport school, which he believes would be a major boon for Pilot Mound and its new recreation complex.
“The smaller towns are suffering in Manitoba or Saskatchewan or anywhere in Western Canada I guess as far as that goes,” he said. “But something like this would bring people in and make more use of the ice. Obviously it would help the economy, help fill the school. Those are things that a lot of those communities need.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 2, 2013