June 21st, 2024

Desjardins heads up new academy

By Collin Gallant on July 24, 2018.



Complete with a contract inking and a Sportscentre-styled top 10 list delivered by administrators, Willie Desjardins has been signed to lead a new hockey academy program with the Prairie Rose School Division.

The former NHL, Hockey Canada and Western Hockey League coach will begin the program this fall, with registration starting this week.

It will operate out of three schools, with junior highs in Redcliff (Parkside School) and Irvine acting as feeders for Eagle Butte High School in Dunmore.

Administrators framed it as an offering for rural students that would expand programming and perhaps attendance.

The former NHL coach — who has lived in Medicine Hat since joining the Western Hockey League Tigers in 2004 — said teaching young players is something he’s passionate about.

“To me, it’s about building good citizens and good leaders,” said Desjardins at a press conference at the division’s offices in Dunmore. “To be part of seeing kids do things they think they can’t do, it’s always pretty special.”

The academy will offer on- and off-ice training, academic monitoring and course work on leadership, said Desjardins.

Administrators expect perhaps about 80 participants this fall, but say numbers will determine how the program operates. Negotiations began earlier this month, and parents can register now either online or by contacting the district’s main office.

“We are always striving to do the best for our rural and smaller town students, and this is another example,” said trustee Kathy Hogg, the board’s vice-chair. “It’s been a whirlwind, and I think it will turn into something great.”

The endeavour is a franchise of Global Sport Academy. That group operates in agreement with four boards near Calgary to offer programming there, including the city’s major public and separate boards as well as those in Okotoks and Airdrie.

First year fees could range between $2,500 and $3,000, said assistant superintendent Reagan Weeks, with a large portion required for busing.

The on-ice portions would be held at the Irvine Ag Society Rink and the Rec-Tangle in Redcliff.

Weeks said beyond Desjardins’ accomplishments in the world of hockey — he most recently coached Team Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics — the Climax, Sask. native is a trained educator.

“We know he’ll be an excellent fit for our organization,” said Weeks.

Desjardins holds a bachelors degree of education from the University of Saskatchewan, where he played university hockey after a WHL career. He earned a social work degree at the University of Calgary where he coached under national team coach Dave King, then joined Hockey Canada.

He led the WHL’s Tigers to league titles in 2004 and 2007, then won an American Hockey League title with the Dallas Stars’ farm team before joining the Vancouver Canucks as head coach from 2014-17.

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