Training for safe hockey in Parksville

Henry Acres’ hockey school places focus on preventing concussions

Henry Acrres has hung up the old axe on a nine-year playing career in Europe

Howie Meeker put Parksville on the hockey map where summer schools are concerned, and Henry Acres is making a name for himself as a forward-thinker and modern day mentor when it comes to teaching the fastest game on ice.

Next week marks the start of the ninth annual Acres Hockey Training school at Oceanside Place, and the dedicated veteran of the game says he’s growing apace.

Contacted at his mom’s house in Qualicum Beach on Monday, Hank said he got back to the Island on Tuesday, June 21.

“I’ve had about two days out of the three weeks I’ve been back that I haven’t been doing anything, and I’m feeling like I have a lot on my plate.”

Besides putting on a school in Nanaimo and putting on clinics, he was also asked to help out at the defensive corps at a U16 team up in Penticton under the Hockey Canada umbrella. Team BC will be competing against Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the upcoming Western Hockey League Challenge.

 Acres, 36, attended Ballenas Secondary School in the early 1990s and has summered here for the past 20 years. He has been playing hockey oversees for nine years, five of those with Asploven HC in Sweden. 

Acres, a father of two twins who just turned two on Friday, retired from playing the end of the 2010/2011 season and now turns his attention entirely to player development.

“You know just yesterday I was missing it a bit when I was out on the ice,” he said when asked who he feels about never playing again.

“But there comes a time when you have to hang up the axe as they say and focus completely on passing on my knowledge to the players that are coming up.”

 Acres also busy running schools and spreading the message in Sweden and Finland.

His wife, Christina is from the coastal village of Hapranda, Sweden.

Acres has been hired by the Calgary-based hockey academy company SISEC to run an academy In Switzerland next season.

As for his Parksville schools there are still some openings at all age groups. 

The 5-8 year olds are on the ice July 18-20th, and the 9-11 and 12-14 year olds the 24-28th.

“The focus of the camp this year is on safety and concussion awareness and prevention,” said Acres, explaining that “skating is the number one skill you need to play safe in hockey so basic skills are still the major focus. We’re just tweaking it a bit teaching kids to use their brain and being able to protect themselves.”

Concussions are a hot topic in hockey these days — Sidney Crosby, the game’s best player was concussed and unable to play for months during this past season of the NHL. 

Concussions in hockey are serious business needing solutions now, and to that end, Acres Hockey has joined forces with Brain Navigators out of Nanaimo to create the first concussion preventative summer hockey school in Canada. 

Acres Hockey Training’s mission is to provide players with the Skills, Tools and Education for Prevention (S.T.E.P.) via the Bringing Smart Play to Hockey program. 

A program endorsed by the Brain Injury Association of Canada.

The core message of Acres Hockey 2011 running July 18-20th and July 24-28 for players aged 5-14, “will be respect for opponents and the rules of play, fused with providing education for brain injury prevention.

“We have the ability,” said Acres. “We must do better as coaches. We must change our focus. Basic skills training must take precedence in our youth hockey to help players thrive and enjoy the game after the age of body-contact introduction. It’s a fact the majority of Canadian kids are behind in skating, and puck handling compared to kids in Europe.” 

Acres would know, having played pro mostly in Sweden and Finland.

Colleen Butler, Founder of Brian Navigators, knows the ugliness of living with brain trauma suffered in a car accident. 

“Two weeks and you’ll be fine,” she said she was told by doctors. “Little did I know what was in store for me. Having survived this journey I vowed that my struggle should not be repeated by others. Education is vital to understanding that head injury recuperation time can be minimized with practical tools mentally and physically.”

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