St. Mike’s hopes to join the Mid-West Prep Hockey League (MPHL). Started in 2000 as a six-team American high school league, the MPHL now includes four Canadian schools. photo courtesy of St. Michael’s College School

Facelift for St. Mike’s hockey program

  • May 2, 2012

TORONTO - Toronto’s St. Michael’s College School is revamping its Senior Division 1 hockey program with the aim of improving student grades while maintaining a competitive hockey program.

“The program we had, as it was, wasn’t working because the student athletes were asked to juggle too many commitments,” said Paul Forbes, the midtown Toronto private Catholic school’s athletic director, noting that many players were committed to the school team as well as their community team.

“The reality of it is that they don’t really have time to play for two competitive teams in this day and age.”

Students enrolled in the St. Mike’s hockey program will no longer be permitted to play in outside leagues like the Greater Toronto Hockey League or Ontario Minor Hockey Association.

“This program will allow them to continue to develop their hockey and combine that with top academics so they can look to continuing their hockey, if they’re good enough, at the Canadian university level or U.S. level,” said Forbes.

The change means players will get less regular season ice time. The school is currently registered in the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA) which has less than half the number of games played in rep leagues. To make up the difference, the team will play in weekend tournaments throughout the year. Additionally,  the team’s 23 skaters and three goalies will lace up a minimum of twice a week for practices.

St. Mike’s also hopes, within the next five years, to join the Mid-West Prep Hockey League (MPHL), adding 14 more regular season games to its schedule. Started in 2000 as a six-team American high school league, the MPHL now includes four Canadian schools.

“The calibre of hockey is strong (in the CISAA) but it’s approximately a 16-game schedule so we are looking to enhance the schedule length,” said Terry Sheridan, St. Mike’s principal.  While tournaments and participation in the MPHL mean time away from the classroom, it will not mean time away from school work.

Unlike trips with local rep teams, an educator will accompany the team on the road to assist students during mandatory study sessions.

Newly named coach Chris DePiero, who will begin teaching at St. Michael’s in September, has a long history with St. Mike’s. He attended the school, taught there and coached the St. Michael’s Buzzers to two Ontario Junior Hockey League titles. Most recently he was coach and general manager of the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League.

“This should create an opportunity for them to lead a more balanced life,” said Sheridan, who acknowledged that players are students first and athletes second. “If we are away at tournaments then we expect the boys to be managing both their academic responsibilities and their athletic ones. If they’re lagging behind in their academics then their participation would be reviewed.”

But few gains are achieved without sacrifice, and in this case it is the existence of St. Michael’s Senior Division 2 team.

“For the next year or two we won’t (have one). We want to focus on the senior varsity,” said Sheridan. “To say it won’t come back in the future is inaccurate.”

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