The 23 students enrolled in the Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) at
Matthew Halton High School are reminded of how they belong to a
coast-to-coast-to-coast hockey community every time they don their practice
Wearing the iconic Maple Leaf invites these teenagers from the small
Southern Alberta town of Pincher Creek to symbolically link arms with
Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic hockey teams.
“They recognize that the crest on the jersey in small-town Alberta is the
same thing the big names wear,” says Bryan Burns, the HCSA instructor and
vice-principal at Matthew Halton. “It really brings forth that spirit of
unity and connection. It’s huge for the kids.”
Canada’s quest for Olympic hockey supremacy in Beijing was front of mind
for Burns’ students throughout the global sports festival. Burns said his
students’ excitement was palpable from preliminary action all the way
towards the glorious finish of Marie-Philip Poulin propelling the women to
gold with a three-point performance against the United States. That
excitement is sure to carry over to the Paralympics, where Team Canada will
begin another quest for gold in para hockey starting on March 5.
Matthew Halton’s students hoped one of the games in the medal round would
line up with their HCSA class so they could cheer Team Canada in their
jerseys. Burns says one student quipped “that being able to watch would be
way better than doing math.”
The 15-hour time difference between Pincher Creek and Beijing nullified
that possibility. But Burns says there is another way to commemorate
Canada’s overseas hockey achievements in upcoming HCSA classes.
“We have an activity made where we are going to watch some of the game
footage. We will get the students to point out the examples of good
teamwork in the video and how players overcame adversity. Just looking at
the women’s team wearing masks while playing. Little things can get in the
way of your goal, but you have to focus on it.”
In the days before the Olympics began on Feb. 4, Burns penned a letter to
Hockey Canada to express his hope for his students to enjoy the quadrennial
“One thing that it great about the [Olympics and Paralympics] is that every
Canadian hockey fan can highlight a favourite moment from a game they
watched at some point in their life. For some the moment is a goal while
others it is being with family and friends huddled around the TV with pizza
and snacks. For the students at Matthew Halton, I hope that they get the
chance to see some amazing hockey and enjoy what hockey is all about…being
with great friends and creating memories of a lifetime!”
Burns also expressed appreciation for the aspirational power of the Winter
Games. The lone girl enrolled in the HCSA program can watch her television
to witness Sarah Nurse set new tournament scoring records with 18 points
and 13 assists. The student can be empowered knowing Nurse’s road to
becoming an Olympic champion began in minor hockey too.
Canada’s men’s and women’s national teams recognize and appreciate the
power of a child—and older fans, too—making the special effort to stay up
into the early morning hours to watch their hockey heroes. These athletes
routinely thank fans during interviews, share social media posts and make
time for autographs and pictures to show gratitude for the deeply
passionate Canadian hockey community.
After coming away with silver in an overtime loss to the United States in
2018, Canada’s Paralympic Hockey Team has its eyes on finishing atop the
Paralympics podium for the first time since 2006. The students at Matthew
Halton may be thousands of kilometers away, but the support and pride they
have for Team Canada can be felt across the world.
“We will absolutely wish the best for our athletes,” he says.
Is your HCSA celebrating the Paralympics? Show off your Canadian Paralympic
spirit as our team goes for gold by tagging @HockeyCanada on social media.