“A lot of the thought behind that is that it is because hockey is tied to education in the United States,” he says. “There are different outlets for a child to get in with and there’s a bigger outlook at the end of it where it is still tied to education. You might get a [college] scholarship in that sport. And that’s what we are trying to supply here with our students, an opportunity where, when they’re done with us, eventually most of our kids, and particularly our girls, are heading into postsecondary education.”
Not far from the fitness centre and the nutritious cafeteria and the striking ATM machine there is a wall filled with names of former students who have moved on from the Edge School program.
It is an intriguing parallel to the bronze plaque that sits proudly on the main street running through Kirkland Lake, the small northern Ontario town once renowned for sending its players on the NHL.
The Kirkland names – many of them legendary, such as Ted Lindsay and Dick Duff – petered out as the decades moved closer to the 21st century. Today, there are less youngsters playing organized hockey in all of Kirkland Lake than there are at the Edge School in Calgary.
In Kirkland, they pay $470 a year and parents can do volunteer work to get much of it back. Ice time is restricted and goes out in April. Those running the program – dedicated volunteers all – tell the parents none of the kids is likely to reach the NHL, but all can still enjoy the game.
At Edge School, where the ice is endless and forever, and where it costs the price of a college education to start Grade 5, the school’s “Wall of Fame” is fast filling up with the names of those who have moved on to the NHL (Tyler Myers of Buffalo Sabres, Joe Colborne of the Toronto Maple Leafs system), major-junior hockey and, for both men and women, U.S. NCAA and other college teams.
As Andrew Boutilier says: “It works.”
It is also the reality of elite minor hockey today.