This year Saint Andrew’s has partnered with Universal Players, an educational consultant group based in Finland, and the South Florida Hockey Academy (SFHA) in order to provide a one of a kind opportunity for young hockey players around the world: a mix of a top-notch private education in the beautiful and sunny South Florida and a chance to play and practice hockey in a professional environment surrounded by committed athletes.
This program is a process of over six years in the making, but it wasn’t until more recently that the creation of this elite hockey program materialized.
“[Universal Players] came up with the concept because they had connections in Florida. They wanted to create this high-level hockey program and they wanted to do it with international boarding students, but they needed a place for those students to live and to go to school,” said Mr. Kravchuk, Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid. Saint Andrew’s, being one of the few boarding schools in South Florida, naturally became one of the best options.
Nine of the thirteen SFHA hockey players go to school, sleep, and eat most of their meals here on campus as boarding students. A shuttle takes the hockey players from school to Glacier Ice Rink in Pompano, where they have practice most days after school for two hours. “Hockey is a big focus for them. They take playing [it] very seriously,” said Mr. Volpi, the Director of Resident Life.
Because the SFHA is a travel team, the players have tournaments almost every weekend and have already traveled to Boston, New York, Detroit, and Chicago. According to Mr. Volpi, if they have a weekend tournament, the players usually leave Thursday night. “Their Friday classes have been adjusted so that Friday is their lightest day because we knew that they would miss a certain number of Fridays,” said Mr. Volpi.
“Every once in awhile we have a weekend off,” said Seth Manning ‘19, but these players certainly have their plates full. Manning, unlike a majority of the hockey players at Saint Andrew’s, is a day student. A Raleigh native, Manning moved here from North Carolina over the summer after hearing about the SFHA from a mutual friend.
“I was planning on going up north, but down here the program was way better and the coaching and the school seem[ed] so much better, especially [because] it’s private,” he said.
The unique combination of Saint Andrew’s top-notch academics and the SFHA’s elite hockey program is a key element in these players’ lives. Committing to a college or university, like for many other student-athletes, is an important goal for them, most of whom have been playing hockey since they were four-years-old.
“I want to keep my hockey education and school education together so I don’t mix one apart from another. I want to be committed not just for hockey, but for academics too,” said Artem Shlaine ‘20, a Moscow native.
The players seem to be enjoying their time here in America and at Saint Andrew’s. “It’s a nice and friendly place,” said sophomores Sami Jokinen and Leo Harkimo.
“[There are] so many opportunities, like you’re in the eyes of all the scouts. You can get committed [sic] to universities- it would be really nice to be committed. Also, you can learn new languages, make new friends. There are great opportunities in school here,” said Zigi Lasak, a sophomore from Slovakia.
A non-profit, independent, co-educational school for grades JK - 12, Saint Andrew's School is both a private day and boarding school located in Boca Raton, educating the best students from across Palm Beach County, Florida, the United States, and throughout the world in the Episcopal tradition.