Monday, 8 February 2016

When the score didn't matter: Marymount Adult Education Centre's unique hockey day

By Gregory Caltabanis

Samuel Moskovitch Arena in Côte Saint-Luc  was the venue and hockey was on the agenda,  but what transpired on the ice was an afterthought to the whole spectacle.

A few hundred special needs students from Marymount Adult Education Centre and John Grant High School made their way to the arena to take in their first ever hockey game. “We also have students from over 75 countries learning French or English who have never seen a game. It’s part of our job to have them share the culture,” said Jacques Monfette, the principal of Marymount Adult Education Centre.
A great time was had by all.

For Monfette, watching the students engaged in the action is like no other feeling. “If you associate Montreal with one thing, it’s hockey, he said.  “We provide them with this and I always get a kick of seeing their reactions once the game begins or once they see the speed of the puck in person.”

This year it was a special needs student named Carlo who kicked off the event with the traditional opening puck drop. Carlo was at the Philip E. Layton School for the Blind and has been at Marymount Adult Centre since September. He and his friends relished the opportunity to participate in this year’s Hockey Day. Once the game kicked off, the arena was buzzing with excitement. For the first few minutes of the game, most students were on their feet cheering on the teams. If you didn’t know any better, one would think we were taking in a Montreal Canadiens game at the Bell Centre.

However, Marymount’s second Annual Hockey Day would not have been possible without the help of Hockey WithoutBorders, who provided the teams for the game. “I told  the organizer Scott Berish that I needed two teams and he came through for us,” said Monfette.

Hockey Without Borders is a non-profit organization which looks to promoting health and activity to youth.   For Berish it was all about showing everyone a good time. “I really hope they had fun because it’s just an amazing event,” he said. “For me, on the other hand, it’s more of a humbling experience.

Over the past 10 years, Berish has conducted skating clinics for the blind and continues to give back to the community.  He particularly enjoys Marymount’s Annual Hockey Day as it gives the special needs students the possibility to do something they would have otherwise not had the chance to do. “They are vulnerable in a way that we all are and we get to provide them with this amazing day,” he says. “They just love hockey and we do it to connect and share the experience with them.”

Myron Weekes, a teacher at Marymount Adult Centre, shares a similar sentiment to Berish. “I’m happy to see them go to a hockey game as it’s an opportunity that they don’t always have due to facilities and whatnot. It’s really a great inspiration and serves as an example to the rest of the community,” he said.

Hockey Without Borders’ ambassador  Ron Perowne was also in attendance and helped with the puck drop. “I was encouraged when I saw the crowd,” said Perowne. “It’s truly inspiring. “

It was coincidentally Perowne’s birthday. He  would go on to say that seeing the students’ reaction to the game was “the best birthday present I could have ever asked for.”

Monfette also touched upon the importance of his school’s hockey day. “It’s a binding experience for our Marymount community,” he said. “The teachers and students have been excited all week. All I want is for everyone to go home and to tell people on Monday how proud they were to attend our Hockey Day.”

This was the second Annual Marymount Cup and it appears to be staying for years to come. “We typically bring the students apple picking or to Cabane à Sucre but this event has become an annual thing for sure,” said Monfette. looking ahead to the future.

When it was all said and done and the students boarded the buses back to their respective schools, no one even mentioned the score of the game. The fact of the matter was that, quite frankly, it didn’t matter. What truly mattered was seeing countless students revel in their first ever hockey game.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Royal Vale’s Hockey Program Distinguishes Them From the Rest

By: Gregory Caltabanis

When walking into Royal Vale School in NDG  you would not be wrong by thinking that its not much different from the other elementary schools in the area. The staff is helpful, the teachers are conducting their lessons and the students are going about their business. After taking a deeper look into the school, however, it becomes apparent that their hockey program sets them apart from the rest.

Over a decade ago, Royal Vale physical education teacher Norman Katz created a hockey program with the goal of promoting health and activity. These programs are typically found in high schools therefore it was unique initiative, said Katz.
Norman Katz and some students.
But how did it come to be? According to Katz, it all started when his colleagues at nearby Lower Canada College, a school renown for its impressive athletics programs, asked him if hed like to put a team together from Royal Vale to compete in a league. Katz would accept the proposition and made elementary school history in the 2011-2012 season when Royal Vale finished in third place and qualified for the playoffs for the first time.

Katz did admit that starting this program from scratch was a bit overwhelming at first. I told them I didnt know if I can do this," he said.  "I needed an arena. We simply didn't have the infrastructure,

Determined to see this idea out,  Katz eventually succeeded in creating  the program, despite the fact no public elementary school had something similar. Being a public school kid all my life Ive always believed that kids should have the same opportunities," he said. "The fact that they can do things that anyone can is important to me."

The philosophy of the program is a simple one. Whether you are a male or a female, you can play on the team if you are good enough. Our captain of the team is a female,"  Katz said. The first two goals of the program were scored by a girl, Danielle Shemie,

While he acknowledges its not easy for girls to play with their male counterparts for a number of reasons, Katz says he is happy the school welcomes them to play. It takes a strong character because you have to be okay with being around the guys," he said. "You want to be a part of the team. Im proud of every girl who has come through our program."

Katz recalled some of his fondest moments since the inception of the program. We participate in a tournament at Lower Canada College every year with teams from all across Canada coming," he notes. "When they come here, they ask themselves who we are but now they know who Royal Vale is because of our program,"

Recently Royal Vale and Rapid Hockey Development have decided to work in collaboration together to offer students the opportunity to hone their hockey skills in a unique concentration program. For Katz, the introduction of this program will only continue to promote a hockey spirit at the school but he did express one concern. Fundamentally I didn't want the kids to pay any additional money to pay for this program," he said. " here is a cost involved to participate but there are also positive spin offs,  

At the moment, it costs $1,375 to sign up for Rapid Hockey Development, which includes 72 hours of on-ice training among other things. There are some kids in my program who are on it and are getting more training,|" he said. "Ideally, you think we can be a better team due to this program. s

This relationship with Rapid Hockey Development has helped Royal Vale foster one with Concordia University.

One of the coaches at Rapid Hockey Development knew Marc-André Element, the coach of the hockey team at Concordia and asked if some of our students could go see a game, recalled Katz. 

Plans call for  Royal Vale students to  attend a hockey game at Concordia University on February 12 Im hoping about 100 students could make the game, but it will depend on the parents, said an enthusiastic Katz.

Elaborating on Royal Vales growing relationship with Concordia, Katz went on to say that its something he welcomes. I think like in anything it has potential to lead to other things," he said. "The connection with an elementary school and a university is an interesting one. Many of these kids may even end up going to Concordia in the future. Concordia has sent a number of athletes to their Jump Rope for Heart Day while a number of Royal Vale students attended a womens hockey game last year."

While not even Katz can predict where his program will go in the future, one things clear: When it comes to elementary school athletics, Royal Vale is doing things right and represents a model for others to follow.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016


The English Montreal School Board is pleased with news that agreements in principle have been reached between its unions and the Quebec government and that the ban on extra-curricular activities will be lifted.

While these agreements still must come to votes in the weeks ahead, EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini said she welcomes a return to normalcy.

“I commend all parties for coming together,” said Ms. Mancini. “As the parent of a high school student, I know what a hardship it was not to have those extra-curricular activities in place. We value the work done by all of our employees and know that all parties concerned are delighted we can get back our regular routines of athletic competitions, field trips, school plays and many other activities.”

Ms. Mancini said she will be part of meetings next week with the Quebec English School Boards Association and the Comité patronal de négociation pour les commissions scolaires anglophones (CPCNA) to hear the summary points of the agreements reached with each unionized group.  “Once information and details become available, we will have more to say on the subject,” she said.  

Peter Sutherland, president of the Montreal Teachers Association, issued this statement: “As you are probably aware, we have reached agreements in principle with the government on both sectorial and inter-sectorial issues. We will be having a special general meeting in a couple of weeks in order to ratify the agreement by vote. You will receive detailed information about both agreements before then. In the meantime, we are suspending all actions related to our negotiations, including the 32-hour workweek and boycotting of extra-curricular activities. Put simply, those extra-curricular activities can resume.”

Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
(514) 483-7200, ext. 7243