When you have a passion for hockey and your sights are set on a junior career it only makes sense to have the game included in as many parts of your day as you can.
Sixteen-year-old Allan Pruss is one of about 50 students enrolled in the Notre Dame Hockey Academy, a vehicle he hopes will carry him further down the road towards his goal. “Coming to this academy is going to give me the tools to try and make the jump to the next level,” said the Midget AA player.
Head instructor Erik Lodge, a graduate of the minor hockey system in Red Deer, is into his third season at the Academy and he wouldn’t trade this for anything.
“These kids are passionate about it and we’re passionate about it, so it’s a great fit and it’s a dream job for me.”
Lodge brings plenty of solid credentials to the job including championships in minor hockey, at the college level, a Junior A Royal Bank cup with the Camrose Kodiaks along with capturing a championship over in Germany for good measure.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play on a lot of good teams. I think that’s what really has helped mould me and shape me and just learn a lot from those situations and the people I was around that were good leaders.”
He admits he would have loved the opportunity to have a similar academy available to help him advance his own career but this appears to be the next best thing.
He is quick to point out the focus of the Academy is not on strategies of the game or systems.
“We pick apart the system and work on the individual skills that these kids need in order to complete those systems,” he explained.
Even though he is already being coached in a practice setting with his double A team Pruss said it’s not hard to take the two instructional sessions and make the equation work.
“Well the academy is more one-on-one skill based while my team practices are battle and flow,” he said. “I can take the skills I learn in the Academy and bring it into the games on the weekends.”
Another part of the big picture is of course making sure the other classes don’t get left behind because of the sport.
“The homework comes first and hockey is always second but I do my best to work a 100 per cent in school and hockey,” said Pruss.
The students hit the ice for just under three hours Tuesday through Thursday and there is an off-ice session on Mondays which deals with nutrition, game preparation and muscle recovery.
There is also an aspect outside of the game itself which these young men are absorbing.
“They teach us the role of leadership and how to act as a gentleman, as a young adult and I like to bring that work into the classroom,” said Pruss.
Lodge said he has a close relationship with the minor hockey coaches of these kids and it’s paying off at both ends of the spectrum with teams benefitting from the skills these players are mastering.
He added this class, which as you might expect would get almost perfect attendance, combines the good student with the elite athlete.
“Our kids that we have in our program are very good kids and they work really hard,” he said. “They take the hockey very seriously and also they take the schooling very seriously.”