Ridley College: Elite Opportunity
Written by John Southerst, edited by Allison Grande
As the only International Baccalaureate (IB) Continuum boarding school in Canada, Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ont. stands tall in academics. But what may surprise some is their powerhouse status in hockey.
When eight members of the Ottawa Senators, including Mark Stone and Zack Smith, took to the ice with the elite boys’ and girls’ hockey teams at Ridley last April, they were working with players who are accustomed to top-level instruction in a premium facility.
“This was an incredible opportunity for our students to not only meet these world-class athletes, but also to get a chance to learn from them during the practice sessions,” says Ridley headmaster Ed Kidd. The hockey program at Ridley, he adds, is designed to give students “the independence and responsibility that teaches the leadership and discipline to be an elite athlete.”
Ridley’s hockey tradition goes back to the 1800s, when teams played on Twelve Mile Creek running alongside the St. Catharines, Ont., campus and in Nicholl’s Hall – a covered rink built at the turn of the 20th century. Today, Ridley’s $11-million arena and fieldhouse project, funded out of alumni donations, houses the ice surface, a state-of-the-art strength- and-conditioning centre, athletic therapy clinic, custom locker rooms and a generous top-level concourse area above the seats displaying hockey photos over the years.
“The arena project turned the old arena into an adjoining fieldhouse subdivided into sections, allowing multiple uses simultaneously, including a rubberized competition-grade floor for other sports,” says director of athletics Jay Tredway. Five Ridley teams use the arena, he adds – boys’ and girls’ “first” teams of elite players, varsity boys’ and girls’ “second” teams, and a co-ed under-14 team.
But perhaps most importantly, Ridley has leveraged its facility byhiring team trainers and a dedicated strength-and-conditioning coach, along with respected head coaches. Mike McCourt, a former Canadian national team, AHL and European league player and NCAA and OHL coach, leads the boys’ first team. Former Team Canada player and under-22 national team summer coach Amanda Benoit-Wark coaches the elite girls.
Nevertheless, Tredway says the overall hockey program’s objectives are directed at all students, not just elite athletes, and remain educational. “Being active makes you a better student,” he says. “We want to ingrain the importance of daily play activity. We are all athletes. Life is athletic even if you’re not in a competitive framework.”