KILLALOE – In August of 2011, 17-year-old Kaylie Welk was enjoying summer and preparing to return to Madawaska Valley District High School to complete her senior year when opportunity came knocking.
Kaylie was talking to a former teammate from The Ottawa Valley Thunder who mentioned that she should check out a new facility in Ontario for young hockey players focused on their training.
Canadian International Hockey Academy (CIH) is located in Rockland, Ontario – about 30 minutes from Ottawa – and provides a high school education administered by the Upper Canada District School Board along with top level hockey training and conditioning in a co-ed boarding facility.
This is the first year of operation and Kaylie will be a part of the first graduating class. Athletes can apply to the institution and must complete an application and meet certain standards both athletically and academically to be accepted. There are also scouts within the academy that travel to watch young players and approach them with information about joining. Kaylie however, is what is known as a walk-on. Little did she know, she had already been scouted and the academy was interested in her.
The education program is delivered through correspondence courses but there are teachers on campus available to assist students during their sessions. All of the staff at the academy, including the “house parents” has, in one form or another, been involved in professional sports.
There are a total of four teams – three boys and one girl team – that fill the CIH roster. Kaylie plays on the first line as a forward. The girl’s team is in the Midget AA division which is the highest level of women’s hockey in Canada.
Kaylie travelled with her parents, James and Catherine Welk, to Rockland in August to tour the facility.
With state-of-the-art facilities and an NHL-sized ice surface in the new arena, Kaylie was most excited about walking a few steps to practice rather than having to drive up to an hour.
When everything was in place for Kaylie to attend CIH for Grade 12, it was October and she had a month and a half of classes and training to catch up on. She moved in with her roommate, a grade nine student, and began her studies and practices.
As an example of the calibre of athletes she is living and training with, her line mate is a player from the Czech Republic who plays back home for the Women’s National Team.
On her own time, Kaylie has begun power skating lessons with Paul Lawson, the Montreal Canadiens Skating Coach, who also works with various other NHL’ers during the off season. Welk says that it’s great to have good hands and be able to move the puck but skating is what can put you at the top of the pack and get you noticed.
This story continues in the February 23, 2012 issue of The Valley Gazette.