Great strides made from skating program

Queen’s Park Elementary students have gone from not wanting to be on the ice, even crying, to skating and playing Penticton minor hockey.

DANAICIA PETTY gets a helping hand from Penticton Vees captain Troy Stecher

DANAICIA PETTY gets a helping hand from Penticton Vees captain Troy Stecher

Queen’s Park Elementary students have gone from not wanting to be on the ice, even crying, to skating and playing Penticton minor hockey.

That is the impact the school’s Learn to Skate program, which will no longer continue, has made.

Learn to Skate was the brainchild of principal Rob Zoppi. The students in Grades 1 to 5 participated in five, 45-minute sessions throughout November. They hit the ice  at the South Okanagan Events Centre community rink Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Zoppi had a blast working with the kids and they have had just as much fun.

“I like that I’m really good at it,” said Hadley Erickson, who is now playing hockey with her brother Jake.

She still remembers the first time on the ice.

“I was a little bit wobbly,” said Erickson. “The second time I got pretty good.”

Ivy Nevala, a rookie, enjoyed the program.

“I just love skating,” she said. “I think it’s a good experience for me to learn so much stuff.”

Playing Star Wars was a hit, even if it meant they were struck by flying objects. Instructors would throw balls at them and the kids would try and dodge them. If caught, they had to return the favour. Star Wars was all about keeping the kids’ feet moving. Nevala also enjoyed the obstacle course created from mini-pylons and lengthy foam logs spread throughout the ice.

“It’s fun but sometimes I fall down,” said Nevala. “I was really nervous because I thought that someone would laugh at me. I was horrible at skating and I didn’t know how to.”

Queen’s Park Elementary teacher Alex Gardner said the obstacle course was intended for the kids to use different skills such as turning. Hockey sticks were utilized for the kids to lift their feet, using their edges. It was a valuable teaching tool.

While some kids whip around pretty good, balance remains a small issue as some leaned forward a bit, trying hard to avoid a face plant. However, the desire to be on the ice transferred to playing hockey. Twenty-five kids in the program are playing for the minor association.

Last year Zoppi added a pilot project to have a hockey team, the first of its kind in B.C. according to him, in public school at the entry level. They had 28 kids from Grades 1 to 5.

“Through the Jumpstart program they are able to give us an additional grant for some of the equipment for the kids. It’s neat to see their progression from the Learn to Skate to the next level and do the hockey team.”

“It’s kind of like the farm league for Penticton Minor Hockey Association,” said Zoppi. “Every Friday from 7 to 8 a.m. we are at Memorial Arena. We had an anonymous donor donate money for the ice time. The city donated ice time for Learn to Skate during the last four years, which is huge. Without their support, we couldn’t do it.”

The big boost this year came from Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program. Doug MacMillan, owner of Penticton’s Canadian Tire, spoke with the Jumpstart committee and was told to provide whatever was needed. They ended up with 75 pairs of skates. Initially the program was using skates from the city and Zoppi said that was a scramble to find the right ones. He joked that they had an old pair Gordie Howe used. Zoppi applied for a grant requesting 40 skates.

“It was interesting to see the kids’ faces the first time they saw the new skates,” said Zoppi. “They were like, ‘Wow, look how shiny these skates are.’ They all wanted a new pair of skates. It’s been a win-win situation. It helps with process of getting kids on the ice faster.”

Forty parent volunteers, Global Spectrum staff and members of the Penticton Vees (captain Troy Stecher, Brock Balson and Bryan Sinz) assisted in the craze taking place in the dressing room last Thursday. It takes under 10 minutes to get the kids ready for the ice.

Jim McKay and Cori Leadbeater, a grandparent and parent who help with tying skates, love the program. McKay said it’s the one best he has seen at schools.

“It’s just that everybody gets a chance,” said McKay. “Mr. Zoppi and Mr. Gardner take a lot of their time to do this.”

“They all have a blast. They love it,” said Leadbeater, whose hands get a little sore from tying skates.

She enjoys watching them progress from being scared to building confidence.

That is something Vees rookie forward Brad McClure has noticed.

“I have seen a lot of kids progress quite a bit,” said McClure, who recalls junior players in his hometown skating with him. “It’s good to see that they don’t need your help anymore.”

“I’ve been out a few times teaching the kids how to skate,” said MacMillan. “It’s been awesome. Out here today, I just have a big smile on my face. Seeing the big advancements that they all made. It’s pretty incredible.”

This year Zoppi and Gardner had to be more hands-on because the Okanagan Hockey School couldn’t continue its support of providing staff for on-ice instruction like the previous three years. Andy Oakes, president of the OHS, said they had staff reductions. That prevented them from being able to help the skating program while maintaining their day-to-day operations.

With that change, Zoppi said it isn’t feasible for them to continue the program. It takes a lot of work that includes other staff members from Queen’s Park Elementary filling in for himself and Gardner during their absence.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Zoppi, adding that despite the program ending, they will use the skates for the regular skating sessions. “You have to enjoy it when you have that kind of support and it’s time to move onto something else. I think what we’ve done for four years has been amazing.”

 

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Turn out is high in advance voting for the Penticton by election taking place Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Screen shot)
Over 2,500 already voted in Penticton by-election

General voting day is Saturday, June 19

The City of Penticton is beginning plans to revitalize its north entrance on Highway 97. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton reviewing ideas on how to make the city’s north gateway more vibrant

The city has plans to redevelop the area into a welcoming and attractive entrance

People decided to tag Skaha Bluffs rocks which the Ministry has to go in and now clean up. (Facebook)
Bluffs at popular Penticton rock climbing park defaced

Ministry of Environment is going to clean it up

A portion of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail near Naramata will be closed temporarily for upgrade work, including paving. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Upgrades plannned for trail near Naramata

Surface improvement work will mean temporary trail closure

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

Salmon Arm’s Brook Kosick competes in the barrel racing event at a BC High School Rodeo Association rodeo in Quesnel, which was held from June 11-13, 2021. (Cassidy Dankochik - Black Press)
VIDEO: Shuswap rodeo athlete barrels through competition

Salmon Arm rider Brook Kosick thrilled to compete in provincial finals

A vehicle was fully engulfed in flames before around 11:10 p.m. Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kerry Hutter - contributed)
VIDEO: Car fire snuffed in Coldstream

Vernon firefighters douse late-night fire near popular lake lookout

Dan Albas
COLUMN: Reopening the international border

Governments in Canada and the United States are working towards reopening plans for the border

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

A 50-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle Tuesday, June 15, crashing through a West Vancouver school fence that surrounds playing children. (West Vancouver Police)
Driver ticketed for speeding near B.C. school crashes into playground fence days later

‘It’s an absolute miracle that nobody was injured,’ says Const. Kevin Goodmurphy

Most Read