Traditions taking hold at Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy
The new hockey season has barely begun, but it’s already obvious to everyone at Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy that things are different on the mountainside campus this year.
As Tahoe sets sail on its third year of existence, the academy is finding that traditions are taking hold, camaraderie is prevalent and the student-athletes are forming a unique brotherhood than can only be experienced in a campus setting like Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy.
“It’s already more than a team – it’s a brotherhood, and you can see the commitment that every kid has made to this program and each other,” said Chris Collins, the assistant coach of the school’s prep team. “You can see it the moment you walk into the dorm, and that extends from the prep team to the varsity team. It’s great to watch it grow so quickly.”
Tahoe is once again icing two teams this season. The varsity squad opened the season by advancing to the championship game at the Los Angeles Jr. Kings-hosted Labor Day Festival Tournament in El Segundo, and the prep team went 4-1 in the San Jose Sharks Jamboree playing against some of the top teams from Northern California. They scored 33 goals and allowed just eight in the five games.
“It took a little bit of time to find out who we were as a team, but once we found out, no team was stopping us,” Collins said. “The guys were having a great time.”
The academy has 26 new student-athletes in its program for the 2018-19 school year and hockey season, and they have come to the campus from New York, Chicago, Colorado, New Mexico, Canada, and many other locales. Tahoe expects to have a waiting list for next year.
“This past summer, we really experienced a surge in interest,” Collins said. “We do a lot of advertising in hockey communities across the country. On almost every single recruiting trip I went on, people knew about Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy.”
Added Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy president and hockey director Leo Fenn: “We’re really excited and feel fortunate that this has caught on. It’s a tribute to what the coaches do day in and day out and the development program we have instilled. We sort of look at it as us guiding the train down the tracks, but the kids have to do the work, and a lot of credit has to go to them as well.”
Fenn said that having Collins on board from the academy’s founding has been a major factor in its success – both in recruiting and in on-ice performance.
“The blending of Chris, myself and (head prep coach) Mike Lewis has really taken player development to a new level,” Fenn said. “Chris is a younger guy who understands what it takes to develop young players and has been a very important part of our program. He relates to the kids, and the kids love him. We always say that hard work isn’t hard work when it becomes fun, and Chris injects a lot of fun into our training.”
Collins said that Tahoe’s recruiting philosophy has shifted recently, and the staff isn’t necessarily looking to bring in exclusively players who are already at the top of their games.
“We re-evaluated the way we look at players in showcases,” Collins said. “With the amount of time we have with these kids on the ice compared to other programs and the development that we can offer, we can take a bit of a different ideology. Yeah, we want great players, but I’d rather have a kid who’s on the brink of playing Tier I hockey and is willing to put in the hard work to get to that level.
“A lot of kids will chase a letter, and they’ll lose out on development by trying to survive rather than going to a place that knows exactly what they need and abiding by those guidelines.”
— Greg Ball
(Oct. 8, 2018)