Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy graduates first senior class, Year 3 on tap
The summer months may be a time for young hockey players to get away from the ice, enjoy some other sports or activities and relish the freedom of being out of school, but for coaches and administrators, it’s time to grind.
Without daily practices and games to occupy their attention, they look at these months away from the ice as an opportunity to continue building their foundation, plan for the future and keep their overriding mission of developing hockey players squarely in their sights.
At the Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy, that’s exactly what president and hockey director Leo Fenn, athletic director Mike Lewis and their staff and board of directors are doing from June through August. Because the academy is equally as focused on its student-athletes’ academic progress as their hockey development, there’s even more to be done.
And as the academy approaches its third full school year and hockey season, a look back to some of its early accomplishments and what’s in store for the future “shows a great deal of promise for the years to come,” Lewis said.
Earlier this year, Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy reached a significant milestone when it graduated its first class of seniors. Seven student-athletes received diplomas and have set their sights on pursuing higher education, junior hockey or both. Those who feel like an additional year of development will help them on the ice can add on a post-grad year in Tahoe in an effort to prepare themselves for the challenge of Tier I or Tier II junior hockey.
Fenn emphasized how important the educational aspect of the academy is. Tahoe is not a “hockey factory,” but rather an environment where exceptionally motivated student-athletes can acquire the skills necessary to improve on the ice while also developing a foundation for their education and a lifetime of learning.
“We’re extremely proud to have graduated seven seniors from the Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy as part of our inaugural class of student-athletes this spring,” said Fenn, who also coaches Tahoe’s varsity team. “All of these fine young men embody the character and integrity upon which our academy was founded and that it strives to live up to each and every day.
“A challenging academic program will always be a core value of the academy, and seeing our players remain dedicated to their studies as well as their athletic goals only reinforces our belief that their time here in Lake Tahoe is setting themselves up for bright futures.”
On the hockey front, the academy has made significant strides since opening its doors in the late summer of 2016. Tahoe will again ice two teams for the 2018-19 season – a varsity squad that will play in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League and a prep team for older and more advanced players that will compete in the newly formed NAHL Prep League.
With the prep team having been accepted into the prestigious NAHL Prep League, a natural path has been laid for Tahoe’s players to compete at the next level, whether that’s in the NAHL, in another junior league, or at the college level.
“Several incoming recruits have been identified as highly sought-after prospects for the NAHL, Canadian Junior Hockey League and United States Premier Hockey League,” said Lewis, who coaches Tahoe’s prep squad. “In our short amount of time being established, Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy has established significant relationships with coaches and scouting directors with various organizations across North America that should greatly assist our efforts of moving players onto the next levels.”
Of course, as Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy grows in reputation and status, it will also grow in enrollment and interest from all corners of the country and beyond. Lewis said the academy has signed approximately 25 new student-athletes to join the Tahoe family this year, with players coming from all over North America. To address the large amount of interest from players from other countries, 2018 will mark the first time that the academy has accepted international applications.
And the young men who are suiting up in the academy’s signature purple and white sweaters and living on the shores of Lake Tahoe aren’t just ordinary hockey players and students.
“This incoming class of players really highlights the quality of talent that is being developed here in Tahoe,” Lewis said. “There are multiple Tier I players, guys who have been the leading scorers on their teams, and even in their leagues, plus team captains, national championship participants and honor roll students.”
From a concept that developed in their minds and on cocktail-napkin sketches to a thriving international academy that is developing some of the strongest students and hockey players anywhere, Fenn and Lewis know that the foundation they worked so hard to build is starting to bear fruit and will continue to do so in the years to come.
Since opening nearly two years ago, Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy has doubled in size from one team to two, has built a top-of-the-line locker room at its temporary home rink, has opened the doors to a dormitory that would make many college players jealous and has signed an affiliation agreement with the USPHL’s Potomac Patriots, among a number of other milestones. More student housing and a new rink are in the plans for coming years as the academy’s 16-acre campus is built out.
Even with the long-term and intermediate goals often needing to be pushed to the forefront to keep everything on track, the team at Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy never loses sight of its ultimate goal – giving their student body the tools to succeed in academics and hockey.
“The goal each season is to continue to challenge ourselves to produce better, more effective ways to help our student-athletes grow, both on the ice and off,” Lewis said. “As the 2018-19 school year and hockey season are fast approaching, we’re excited about the incoming class of student-athletes who will be representing TPHA. We feel that we have proven in the academy’s first two seasons that our development model works for Tier II and Tier I players looking to increase their skill sets, and by sticking to this model, we’re confident that we’ll continue to develop players who make the most of their abilities and potential.”
— Greg Ball
(Aug. 15, 2018)