Californians well represented at Shawnigan Lake School
Tucked into the southwest corner of Canada, in a spectacular wooded setting, a 100-year old boarding school is making waves with its burgeoning hockey program.
A handful of Calfornia student-athletes are part of the renaissance, and more from the golden state may be coming soon.
Shawnigan Lake School, situated on Vancouver Island, is in its fourth school year offering high-level hockey, and the program has quickly lived up to the high standards set by the institution’s academic offerings.
“We started with one team, and now we have four boys teams and a girls team, so we’ve grown quickly,” said Kevin Cooper, the director of hockey and head coach, as well as an admissions associate at Shawnigan. “The attraction for students from California and all over the world, really, is the high-level academic atmosphere combined with the excellent hockey and the very good boarding experience, which isn’t very common in the West.”
Shawnigan currently has five players from California competing on its teams. Matt Kors, a senior on the Midget Varsity Gold team, played for the L.A. Jr. Kings before heading north of the border. Tyler Leibl is a junior on the Midget Prep team who previously played for the San Diego Jr. Gulls, and Grady Birk, a junior on the Midget Varsity Black team, also came from the Jr. Gulls program. Brett Roloson, a sophomore on the Midget Varsity Black squad, and Ross Roloson, an eighth grader on the Bantam Prep team, skated for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks before enrolling at Shawnigan.
The latter two are the sons of Dwayne Roloson, whose career as an NHL goalie spanned six franchises and 17 years before he retired in 2012. The former all-star netminder now serves as an assistant coach with the Midget Varsity Black team and also coaches goalies at Shawnigan.
“It’s a great program with wonderful academics,” Roloson said. “The hockey program is still in its infancy, but is really moving in the right direction. Kevin is doing some great things with the varsity program here.
“My wife and I felt like the academic and athletic environment here was perfect for our kids. It’s very structured, from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night. It’s an excellent prep school atmosphere.”
Shawnigan teams plays about 45-55 games per season and practice 3-4 times per week at the school’s on-campus rink. The facilities are top notch, from the playing surface to the bleachers, locker rooms, coaches offices, training room, video room and weight room.
The school competes in the Canadian Sports School Hockey League (CSSHL), a six-year-old league that has already sent more than 200 alumni on to play Junior A-level hockey or higher, including a long list of players drafted by NHL teams. Shawnigan has won the boys varsity division banner since joining the league and they are aiming for their third one this year.
Of course, Shawnigan is not just a hockey factory.
The school is celebrating its centennial this year, and has offered hockey since the 1970s. Though its British founders placed a heavy emphasis on its nationally acclaimed rugby and rowing programs, the quality of the remaining athletics offerings is highly competitive. Set on 380 rural acres, the school has approximately 500 boys and girls enrolled and has an average class size of just 15. Twenty advanced placement courses are offered and the school boasts a 100 percent rate of its students moving on to college.
Cooper, a Toronto native, moved to Shawnigan in 2012 to advance the hockey program.
“A lot of families from California send their kids to boarding schools in the East,” Cooper explained. “Why not send them up north to a school that’s a little closer that is just as elite as those Eastern schools?”
— Greg Ball