Posted By: Michael Cecchin
For some time now those involved with Canadian hockey at all levels have understood the various obstacles that many Aboriginal players face as they work towards a life in hockey. On top of the challenges they face on the ice, the various ongoing problems circulating through many First Nation communities have become a serious cause for concern and a problem that consumes most of the youth looking to find their place.
For former NHL enforcer, Brantt Myhres, this problem has hit too close to home as he too embraces his Native background. Myhres played professional hockey for 15 years, playing both in the NHL and overseas as a regular ‘tough guy’. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2nd round of the 1992 Entry Draft and went on to play for five other National Hockey League teams. Following his retirement, he noticed a trend upon his arrival home that he felt he needed to change and he proceeded working towards that change by creating the Greater Strides Hockey Academy, which is catered towards First Nation hockey players and their education.
“My uncle is the Grand Chief of Treaty 7 out in Alberta and I went to him with a proposal,” Brantt said. “I started looking at the hockey academies around the province and there weren’t any hockey academies that were based on reserves and there wasn’t a top Ivy League charter school for the top Aboriginal students in the country to go to,” he explained.
“I had a resolution passed by all the Chiefs to support the Greater Strides vision, which now we’ve got two after school programs working in the communities and we’re just basically constructing the business and the feasibility.”
Operated like an Ivy League school, the Greater Strides Hockey Academy has elite standards similar to those of a Harvard or Princeton, but for the top Aboriginal students of North America. For many young hockey players the journey to success holds numerous ups and downs that can easily derail ones road to ultimate success. One of Brantt Myhres and the Greater Strides main priorities is preparing the athlete for the ups and downs on the journey to success by combining athletics with academics.
However, Greater Strides is more than just keeping First Nation hockey players on the right track in regards to the sport. Leadership and responsibility in his or hers own environment is a trait Myhres looks to pass on to the students.
“The Aboriginal society is becoming one of the fastest growing populations around and we understand that there’s going to be people that will be placed in leadership roles and we want them to flourish in our school and go back to their communities and make a difference,” said Brantt.
By providing a proper facility and the opportunity for elite achieving student athletes to excel and blossom, Myhres hopes to enable the youths growing process and prosper in whatever walk of life they choose down the road.
“I have Native background so when I was growing up I got to see that the talent level with the Aboriginal hockey players were as good or better than a lot of the kids they were playing,” explained Myhres. “But there’s that crucial age where they fall off the grid and you don’t hear from them again. They turn 13 or 14 and start choosing to go down the wrong path and then they waste their God-given talent on the wrong decisions they make,” he elucidated.
“To me, it was important to focus on saving some of these kids that can be saved and keeping them on the right path. So our goal at the end of the day is not really to make NHL hockey players, but to build leaders and people that can make a difference in their communities,” Brantt concluded.
To learn more about Brantt Myhres and the Greater Strides Hockey Academy, visit www.greaterstrides.ca