Students shine at Baker Cup

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Students and staff at R.I. Baker Middle School face off at the Baker Cup at the Coaldale Sportsplex.

COALDALE – It’s not every student who’s asked to get up in front of hundreds of their peers and show what they’ve learned in class over the past year.

Students in R.I. Baker Middle School’s Hockey Academy wouldn’t have it any other way.

About 50 students in Grades 5-8 laced up their skates recently against a team of teachers, other Palliser staff and friends for the annual Baker Cup at the Coaldale Sportsplex.

“The kids, they get jacked up for that,” said hockey academy director Bruce Bell after the game. “It’s cool. You get to play hockey against the adults and most of the kids are better than their teachers, so the kids are excited. And it’s a good finish to the year.”

Although the grownups prevailed on the scoreboard, the event is a win-win affair for all involved.

The students get to test the skills they’ve honed through twice-a-week, on-ice sessions this year. The game is also a chance for parents to see how their child has improved over the year.

It’s also an opportunity for R.I. Baker and central office staff on the roster to see first-hand what the program is about and interact with the students on a different level than is usually available to them.

The stands at the hockey rink were packed with R.I. Baker students cheering on their classmates, as well as some Grade 4 students from nearby Jennie Emery Elementary School. Bell, who wanted to thank the middle school staff and everyone else who made the game possible, hopes a few of those students in the stands may get the itch to take to the ice in the future.

“You know kids. They don’t want to put themselves in a situation where they might get embarrassed, because of the peer pressure,” he says of students who might be hesitant to join because they don’t think they’re good enough hockey players. “It doesn’t matter. If you want to try it, come and try it.”

The hockey academies at both R.I. Baker and Kate Andrews High School attract players with a wide spectrum of talent and hockey experience. Bell says the program’s target group is anyone who enjoys hockey.

“Our net goal is providing a positive environment to teach the game of hockey to the ones who aren’t involved in organized hockey,” says the former National Hockey League player. “And for the higher end guys, to do a lot of things with 60 hours that they can’t do in practice as far as power skating and some other skill components.”

Students are not graded on how they match up against others in the program, says Bell, but on their own growth through the year. Class participation, accountability and respect also earn marks, with older students expected to be role models for the younger ones, and more experienced players to give beginners a little extra space when they’ve got the puck.

Palliser’s hockey academy began at the high school in 2008 with a class of 19. R.I. Baker came aboard the next year. The program at the middle school is already full for next year, and at last count the high school – which features four ice sessions a week over one semester – had more than 35 signed up after a class of 26 this year.