While the wins have been hard come by this year for the young Ice Wolves, the players are investing in the future through learning. On-ice the players are working hard to learn systems of play under Head Coach Vossen and the coaching staff and progress is being made. Off-ice the players are being encouraged by Vossen to take advantage of the great partnership between the Wolves and Northlands College and take classes through our Education Program.
The next logical step in hockey for most Junior A players is to attend a Post-Secondary Educational Institution an play on the varsity team. The plum prize is a full ride scholarship at a U.S. NCAA Division I school. Scholarships and roster spots are also available for Division III schools. In Canada, most Universities and senior Technical Institutions have varsity teams that play in the CIS or other leagues. This is the route that Evan Vossen took in hockey, playing Junior for the Ice Wolves, Post-Secondary at McGill where the team won a national championship with him as Captain, through minor pro in the ECHL, and eventually back to the Ice Wolves as a rookie head coach.
Besides hockey skills, a player with aspirations to play university hockey is well advised to work on their academics while in Junior A. This is where the Wolves Education Program comes in. At the beginning of the season, the players meet with volunteer Education Coordinator Brandi Bell who is also the Senior Program Specialist at Northlands College. Brandi meets with the players and they outline their career and hockey goals. Brandi then recommends an educational program that will help meet those goals. The program range from high school classes to upgrade marks, to University level junior elective classes, to preparation and taking the SAT exams to enter U.S. universities.
This year has seen the highest uptake of the Education program ever. 6 players have signed up for 1st year U of S English, 3 players are taking Athabasca University Social Science Classes, 4 are upgrading marks for grade 12, and 10 have signed up for SAT examinations! The SAT exam results can be accessed by U.S. coaches, and make up part of the decision for acceptance.
The Ice Wolves have one of the strongest education programs in the SJHL, thanks to the encouragement by the organization and the coaching staff, and the partnership with Northlands College that provides classes, tutoring, one on one educational counselling, and focus on class arrangements that are flexible so that if the player is traded their education can go with them. Finally, the Ice Wolves organization reimburses players for tuition and fees for courses that are successfully completed.
As former Wolf, Lucas Nagel, who is now playing for the U of R Cougars says, ““take as many university courses as possible in Junior A. If you plan on playing University/College hockey the courses you already have will help with the course load in the future.”
It looks like the current Wolves are taking that advice and preparing well for the future, both on the ice and off.