Okanagan Hockey School busier than ever

In its 49th year of operation, the Okanagan Hockey School (OHS) has seen consistent growth throughout the years.

In its 49th year of operation, the Okanagan Hockey School (OHS) has seen consistent growth throughout the years.

This summer, the organization has registered more than 2,100 players from around the world for their 2011 camps so far, the highest number since their inception in 1963.

Hosting a high volume of participants offers a unique set of challenges.

“Our first goal has always been and always will be the quality of our hockey programs,” said president of the Okanagan Hockey School Andy Oakes. “We set up our camps to allow for the maximum number of players possible, without compromising the high level of hockey instruction that is associated with our organization. Some of these factors include program hours, high instructor to student ratio, and daily ice time.”

Making all of this work is the responsibility of Kevin Goodwin, Senior Director of Operations.

“We have over 100 qualified full and part-time staff in Penticton this summer,” said Goodwin. “We use three separate ice surfaces to meet our ice time requirements, 10 vans to transport the players, and have over 20 programs running concurrently. Our earliest program starts at 6:45 a.m. and we don’t stop until our latest one ends at 10 p.m.”

On average, hockey participants are accompanied by two to three family members who use their time in Penticton as a holiday. The increased number of families in the Okanagan has provided OHS with the opportunity to play local host.

“To meet the needs of our visiting families, we have evolved our business into a local service provider, promoting accommodators, restaurants, spas, retail outlets and attractions that we have partnered with,” said senior director of sales and marketing Blair Noel. “This summer, we introduced a new trade show format on our registration days, which allows OHS partners to promote themselves to visiting families.”

The organization’s efforts have provided a massive economic boost to the area. Last year, OHS was recognized as the No. 1 tourism generator in the South Okanagan, contributing more than $13 million to the local economy in 2010.

In addition to their local summer camps in Penticton, OHS works with athletes in 9 other locations worldwide throughout the summer months. The Okanagan Hockey School Europe (OHSE) in hosted in St. Polten, Austria. In addition, they have partnered with the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames to operate their summer camps in their respective cities, as well as a new partnership with Hockey Canada to deliver an elite goaltender camp in Penticton.

Throughout July and August 2011, there are over 4,000 participants in OHS hockey programs with many NHL players, coaches and management working as guest instructors, including Josh Gorges, Brendan Morrison, Pat Quinn, Jeff Friesen, Chuck Kobasew, Dany Heatley, Shea Weber, Vern Fiddler, Duncan Keith, Cam Barker, Andrew Ladd, Bob Nicholson and Andy Moog.