MONTREAL, MARCH 12, 2012 – While there is no such thing as glass skates, the Royal Vale hockey team was nonetheless the Cinderella story of the 2011 – 2012 elementary school season as the team defied all odds to finish the year in third place and qualify for the playoffs for the first time in school history.
Led by Head Coach and parent Daniel Fox, Royal Vale’s incredible season began on the right foot as from the onset, both players and parents believed that this season was going to be different.
“We had a very talented group of boys who don't try and steal the spotlight and all worked together,” said Anouk Benzacar, parent and team manager. “In the background, there was Norman Katz, Daniel Fox, Les Lansberger and myself who all showed each of the players that they are vital to our success. We encouraged them to try their best as a team and to have fun.”
“The best part was that the players saw that we were competitive at the beginning of the year,” said Physical Education teacher and team organizer Norman Katz. “It was nice to finally be good, to play and have a chance to win. It was always exciting.”
Filled with experienced players, nine from Grade 6, the majority of the team was immersed in Royal Vale’s development program for three years. While the results on the ice for the past two years were not the greatest, the seasons nonetheless gave the team the opportunity to learn the sport and develop at their own pace.
On the ice, the team was led by Isaiah Fox, who led the team offensively all year, including pitching in a show-stopping game in which he scored six out of the team’s seven goals. Fox is a testament to the school’s development as 2011 – 2012 marked his fourth year in the hockey program.
“We were hanging tough in third or fourth for most of the year,” said Katz. “Our break out moment was in the Lower Canada College Tournament where we finished third. That the best that we’ve ever done. Throughout the season, we would play against private schools that generally have more numbers, more support, and more opportunities for development.”
As the only English Montreal School Board elementary school with a competitive hockey team, Royal Vale is leading the way as a shining example for others. Joining them for the 2012 – 2013 will be Gardenview Elementary School from St. Laurent. Currently, Roslyn Elementary School in Westmount has a team that only plays exhibition games.
“It takes a lot of commitment for a school to join this league, so it will be nice to have a sister school next year in Gardenview,” added Katz. “This is an independent league run by the Physical Education teachers, so you need support. Our administration has always been highly supportive and they trust me to run a responsible and good program. It also could not be done without our parents. It’s truly a parent-driven team; they have to work hard with to coordinate schedules, driving the students, carrying their gear. It’s a true team effort each and every day.”
Yet, for Katz, while this year was special, he has already begun setting the foundation for next season. While he envisions a number of Grade 3 students making the team next year, he believes that the rejuvenation of the program is a unique selling point for Royal Vale, one which could potentially attract hockey players with a passion for the game.
“We’re not a hockey specific school, but we’re an opportunity for competitive athletes in the community to get extra ice time, improve their skills and join not just a team, but a new family.”
“We were a dedicated and talented team who enjoyed playing with each other both at school and on the ice,” added Benzacar. It was all great teamwork and I think that as long as we continue to have dedicated parents, support from the Administration and Norman Katz, as well as kids who are proud to represent Royal Vale on the ice, this program will stay strong.”