Atlantic Hockey Group & Axemen Hockey run Spring programs in Wolfville for over 15 years
The Atlantic Hockey Group and Axemen Hockey program are in the midst of completing another spring season in a partnership that was created over 15 years ago and continues to run stronger than ever.
“It’s been very special to say the least,” says Axemen Head Coach Darren Burns. “To watch this grow over the years and see how it has been such a positive partnership is tremendous.”
The idea for the local program came about when a few local families started to join spring hockey teams in Halifax, as it was the closest team in the Atlantic Hockey Group program.
“I had a parent in our local minor hockey system say, wouldn’t it be great if we could run something like this out of Acadia and I walked away from the conversation, saying why don’t we run something like this out of Acadia?” The newly formed Acadia Minor Hockey Association was growing quickly and this program took off in a flash. “It basically came down to making sure our kids in the Annapolis Valley have the same opportunities that kids have all over the country,” Burns said.
Thousands of people come to the Andrew H. McCain Arena over the course of the spring, as the rink is active every evening with practices, along with games on the weekends. “The benefits of this program branch out in so many different areas. First and foremost, it gives the kids an affordable option to play six to eight more weeks of hockey. Secondly, Valley families save hundreds of dollars because they avoid the costs of travelling and practice here in Wolfville. This allows kids the opportunity to not be in a vehicle as much, spend more time at home, freeing up time for playing other sports which is important. It gives kids the opportunity to make new friends and develop their skills, but more importantly develop and build their relationships. For coaches, it is an opportunity for development for them as well. It’s a program we are very proud of; Charlie Bourgeois and the Atlantic Hockey Group are first class, and their product is affordable. When you partner with a group like this you feel very good about what you are doing. He is an excellent hockey person and a great leader in the community.”
“This program is an excellent eye opener for so many to see what Acadia University is about as well,” Axemen Associate Coach Kris MacDonald says, “It’s pretty neat, as I am fortunate enough to work in the School of Kinesiology and numerous times, I’ve had a student say that they first came to Acadia when they played spring hockey here many years ago.
I personally love being at the rink or downtown on the weekends seeing all the energy. People get to see what Acadia and the town of Wolfville have to offer. The building is open during the day, so university students can play shinny hockey, there are public skates that continue, and parent-tot skates. Any time the arena and building can stay open everyone wins.”
“We are very fortunate to have this partnership with Atlantic Hockey Group”, added MacDonald, “we have been so closely intertwined with our community for decades; with so many local businesses supporting our celebrity hockey dinners, golf tournaments, sending their children to our hockey camps, and consistently being Axemen hockey season ticket holders; so it’s nice to see our local businesses benefit when people are in the Valley for our events, putting money back into the Valley economy, eating at their eateries and coffee shops, people from outside the Valley come to shop here all the time. It is cyclical for sure, it’s an opportunity for businesses to get something in return for their support of Acadia Axemen hockey and it’s no secret that the corporate sector of the Annapolis Valley is heavily relied upon by our program.”
The spring hockey programs also provide spin off jobs at the arena where many local youths continue to find employment by officiating the games and working the time clock, so it’s a great bonus for them as well.
Coach Burns concluded saying, “the Atlantic Hockey Group has been a long-established business and it benefits so many, it’s been around for a long time just like the Axemen Hockey program, so it’s easy to understand why we have strong synergy together.
At the end of the day, it checks so many positive boxes; our youth get more physical activity, Wolfville and Valley businesses benefit, and it exposes so many to our exceptional institution at Acadia University. Our hockey camps and our partnership with Atlantic Hockey Group is a big piece of our overall hockey program and we are very proud of what we’ve built and look forward to many more years creating opportunities and great experiences.”