3 Valley Athletes, from Campers to NCAA Division 1

Axemen Hockey Summer Camps

The Acadia Axemen hockey camps have been running for well over 30 years in Wolfville each summer. Throughout those years the focus of the camps has always been on skill development, work ethic, team & sportsmanship, and of course fun. Many Axemen campers have gone on to play elite levels of hockey, including three female players who began as campers, moved on to be instructors at the Axemen camps, and now play NCAA Division 1 hockey. We caught up Brette Pettet, Maggy Burbidge, and Kate Spooner to discuss their experience at Axemen hockey camps first as campers, then as instructors, and what the camps and hockey in the valley meant to them.


Brette Pettet – University of Wisconsin Badgers

Growing up in Kentville my parents entered me in Acadia Hockey camps from a young age. Although I was able to improve as a young player and learns many hockey fundamentals, I was also able to further my love for the game of hockey during these camps. I feel lucky to have had such a positive environment and encouraging coaching staff during these camps, which lead to such a fun experience for me at a such young age.

Having the opportunity to coach younger players at Acadia Hockey camps has most definitely been a valuable and beneficial experience for me. Not only have I have the opportunity to gain a different perspective as a coach and use that to help my own game but I’ve also had the chance to build relationships with players and watch them improve over the years, which is incredibly rewarding.

I think growing up in the Valley has enabled me to appreciate the opportunities I have been given over the years pertaining to hockey. One of the things I value most are the people and the relationships I have built throughout my childhood in the Valley. Although I left at a young age to attend Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep School, I am incredibly thankful for coaches like Darren Burns who engraved work ethic and character into my brain as a young girl, as those have been the foundation to any success I have received as a hockey player.


Maggy Burbidge – Robert Morris University Colonials

I attended Axemen camps first as a camper when I was younger for many summers before I became an instructor. As a kid it was one of my favorite times to look forward to with hanging with my friends and going on the  ice everyday. I grew up playing boys hockey in both West Hants and Acadia until I left for prep school in bantam. I thought of the Acadia camps as an extended season with my teammates and closest friends . The camps allowed me to look up to older players that were instructors, and I saw them as mentors and I wanted to be like them and work as hard as they did. They really set a culture at the Acadia camps, it was a very hard working and learning environment that allowed everyone to get better and push each other. Learning to work hard from a young age really allowed me to excel in both hockey and school today.

My experience as an instructor at the Acadia hockey camps allowed me to focus and improve my leadership skills and this has allowed me to take those personal experiences in hockey and share them with  kids who wanted to learn and get better. This experience allowed me to grow and exceed as a hockey player and as a person when it came to setting and achieving my goals. It taught me how humbling it is to be able to give back to younger kids who were in the same position as me years earlier. Being a hockey player and seeing how hard the kids worked on and off the ice made me want to be better and work harder in everything I did. One of the experiences I gained as an Acadia hockey camp instructor is seeing the growth of the players from the beginning of the camp and celebrating their success as they learned and continued to develop to the end. There is no greater feeling then being able to help someone get better at a sport they love and see the happiness it brings to them which led me to the academic path that I am currently pursuing. I am currently playing NCAA hockey and studying middle level education at Robert Morris University. This became obvious to me and without the opportunities I got at the Acadia hockey camps, I may have choose a different path in school, but being able to help and learn with these young athletes had really changed my perspective.

Growing up and playing hockey in the valley instilled the hard work philosophy and something that myself and other teammates and friends pride ourselves on. One motto that always makes me think about the previous teams and programs from the valley is: “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. I will always value the friendships and teammates that made hockey so much fun and rewarding. I am forever grateful for the opportunities AMHA, the coaches and teammates, have given me and it truly is an amazing opportunity…if you can see it, you can achieve it.


Kate Spooner – Union College

Some of my fondest memories of summers during my childhood were spent at Axemen hockey camps. I was eager to prepare for upcoming hockey seasons, often participating in various Acadia camps (female, age-specific, and goalie camps), sometimes during the same week as coaches are always looking for goalies. Not only did this time improve my on-ice habits and allow me to compete with a range of kids from different skill levels, the camps also encouraged me to explore off-ice training from a young age. These habits improved my work ethic in the net and set a high standard of expectation beyond the ice in the classroom. My strong work ethic and coachability were in part what opened the door to playing at the Division I college level in the USA.

I began my role as an instructor at Acadia camps at a young age and found myself to be learning as much from my campers as I taught them. As a goaltender, I gained valuable experience seeing the game from new perspectives. As I worked through drills with goalies and players alike, it was enlightening to hear their thoughts and see their growth as students of the game. Furthermore, being an instructor at camp taught me many life skills including structure and planning, giving positive feedback, and motivation.

My experience growing up as a hockey player in the Valley was extremely uplifting and enjoyable. Having been apart of mainly co-ed teams, I always found the rinks in the Valley to be welcoming to a diverse group of players. We are very fortunate to have such a strong hockey community in this part of Nova Scotia, especially with the Acadia Axemen and Axewomen as role models to young players in the area. The accessibility of hockey development resources is only improving, and the Axemen camps, along with others, allowed me to thrive as a goaltender and make dreams of collegiate play a reality.


Axemen head coach Darren Burns, who has been a camp instructor from his days as a player in the early 1990’s at Acadia, through his tenure as head coach at Acadia, said this about the three Annapolis Valley athletes, “It has been an absolute pleasure to watch these athletes over the years. It was extremely important for us to have their leadership at our camps. They have always worked so hard to be role models for so many. Watching them play in the Acadia Minor Hockey system, and seeing them be impact players on their respective teams has been a rewarding experience for us all at Acadia. It was an easy decision to want to have them work at our camps. They now compete in NCAA Division 1 hockey, it is just great to see their hard work continuing to help them achieve their goals. I think they have been tremendous role models for the youth in the Annapolis Valley, and they deserve every good thing that comes their way! We appreciate their dedication and efforts over the years.”