Cranbrook Bucks head coach Ryan Donald describes a drill during training camp in 2022. Trevor Crawley photo.

Cranbrook Bucks head coach Ryan Donald describes a drill during training camp in 2022. Trevor Crawley photo.

Cranbrook Bucks to operate U18 hockey academy, inaugural season begins this fall

The Cranbrook Bucks is launching the Kootenay Hockey Academy for next season that will operate a U18 team competing in the Junior Prospects Hockey League.

The JPHL model brings together both hockey and academic components, staffed with key personnel including a general manager, academic advisor technical, skating, coaches and an athletic trainer, with hub locations in B.C. and Alberta.

The Bucks have partnered with Kootenay Christian Academy, as the program will offer athletes academics in the morning and on-ice hockey training in the afternoon.

“This is a big step forward in terms of local development and getting the Cranbrook Bucks more invested in our community,” said Nathan Lieuwen, Cranbrook Bucks president and owner. “The Kootenay Hockey Academy can offer athletes a clear path to junior hockey right in our backyard.

“The JPHL has proven itself to be a well-operated league that offers a strong showcase schedule and exposure for players. With the many resources at our disposal, we can offer a very competitive program.”

The closest hubs to Cranbrook include Lethbridge and Calgary in Alberta, along with Kelowna in the Okanagan.

“Celebrating the expansion of our league, we are thrilled to welcome the Kootenay Hockey Academy to the Junior Prospects Hockey League for the 2023/24 season,” said Richard Nault, JPHL Commissioner. “The addition of Kootenay Hockey Academy will bring a new level of talent and competition to our league from the Cranbrook area, and we are excited to see what they will bring to the ice.

“We look forward to working with the Kootenay Hockey Academy and their exceptional coaching staff to provide a platform for student-athletes to showcase their skills and continue their development path into junior hockey.”

With the launch of the JPHL hub in Cranbrook, the Bucks have also announced Ryan Carlson as the U-18 Academy Head Coach.

Carlson spent last season as an assistant coach of the Winnipeg Freeze of the MJHL and was also a lead instructor for Jets Hockey Development.

Hailing from Hermantown, Minnesota, Carlson’s playing career includes stints in the ECHL with Norfolk and Reading, Usports with the University of Manitoba, NCAA at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and J.r A in the MJHL.

“I am extremely excited about coaching at the Kootenay Hockey Academy in the JPHL,” said Ryan Carlson. “Starting this academy is only going to bring good things to the players and community of the Kootenay area.”

Any players interested in learning more about the program can reach out to academy@cranbrookbucks.ca.

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