The teenagers he works with simply call him Senior with sincere affection and collectively describe the man and his approach to coaching as “super” and “awesome.”
Although he’s reluctant to talk about himself, Len Barrie isn’t speechless when it comes to describing the opportunity the Sooke School District’s Hockey Canada Skills Academy provides for youth.
At a time when the cost of keeping kids in recreational sports keeps rising, Barrie is happy to sing the praises of a program that includes boys and girls from Edward Milne Community and Journey Middle schools.
He believes the local option offers the same high-calibre and development at fraction of the cost of enrolment in a private academy, which can cost upwards of $10,000 a year.
While there is an emphasis on improving the five core skills of skating, passing and receiving, shooting, puck control and checking, Barrie says the local academy offers rewards that extend far beyond the rink.
“What I like is that the program supports player and skills development for kids in Sooke, and they can stay at home with their parents and attend school with their peers,” Barrie, 66, noted during an interview at SEAPARC Leisure Complex.
“I’m so impressed by the quality of the kids. They’re all very polite and focused. The kids and their parents and the teachers deserve a pat on the back for the quality of preparation.”
Hockey roots run deep throughout Barrie’s family. He played major junior for the Victoria Cougars in the Western Hockey League in the 1960s. He has coached with Team B.C. at the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland in 1999 and with Team Pacific in Truro, N.S. in 2001, and spent two years scouting for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His son Mark launched the Sooke Hockey Academy with a girls program in 2004. Another son, Len, played for five National Hockey league teams during a career that spanned parts of 10 seasons. His grandson, Tyson, arguably one of the top young offensive defenceman in the NHL, has been with the Colorado Avalanche since 2012.
Barrie never pushed his sons towards hockey.
“I put them in a sport I enjoyed to see how they liked it,” he said.
“It’s rewarding as a parent and grandparent to see what they have accomplished.”
Barrie spends about 25 hours a week working with the academies from both schools, and continues to be impressed by the commitment and quality of the kids who participate.
“The level of care and development is exceptional,” he said.
“The off-ice training at Edward Milne, for example, is amazing. Mark sets high standards for those kids and they work very hard to achieve them. The reward for me is the quality of the program and the chance to see these kids develop.”