Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Elite Players Getting Schooled Academy Offers a Traditional High School Experience with Advanced Hockey Training

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Elite Players Getting Schooled Academy Offers a Traditional High School Experience with Advanced Hockey Training

Article excerpt

The idea was to develop a program like few, if any, others.

With the rather unusual goal of making a lot of things as commonplace as possible for students participating in it.

The EXCEL Hockey Academy, a partnership between Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School and the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex - the Penguins' training facility in Cranberry - is designed to give young hockey players an opportunity to train at an elite level without denying them the chance to be a typical teenaged student.

"What we said was, we want to give our kids, all the kids in Pittsburgh, a chance to train at the highest level," said Rich Hixon, president of UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. "But what we don't want is them going through online classes and everything, so the partnership with North Catholic made perfect sense.

"They get a traditional high school experience - socially, academically. They go through their courses in the morning, then come directly here in the afternoon to train."

Although there are numerous hockey academies around North America, Hixon said most involve home-schooling or taking courses online.

"There are a few that are boarding-type academies, where you're on campus the whole time and you're going to school in the morning and then the hockey program, but I think a lot of those are in Canada," he said.

There are 28 participants, three of them female, in the high school program at Cranberry, and 30, one of whom is a girl, in the middle school program. Hixon said the latter was added "because of the interest level we've seen."

Although the programs are similar, there are a few differences. The high school players are obliged to attend North Catholic and are on the ice four days a week; middle school participants practice three days each week and can attend the school of their choice, as long as they can reach the facility in time for training at 3:30. …

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