A female varsity player fires a shot on goal during a game at West Coast Hockey Prep Camp in Port Alberni in 2021. This year, the girls’ camp will be expanded to two weeks. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

A female varsity player fires a shot on goal during a game at West Coast Hockey Prep Camp in Port Alberni in 2021. This year, the girls’ camp will be expanded to two weeks. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

West Coast Hockey Prep Camp to renew deal with City of Port Alberni for five years

Girls’ hockey camp expands to two weeks of four-week elite coaching experience

West Coast Hockey Prep Camp is here to stay in Port Alberni—for another five years, at least.

Nate Leslie, the director of West Coast Hockey Prep Camp, says the camp has reached an agreement in principle with the City of Port Alberni that will extend the camp’s contract in Port Alberni for an additional five years.

The annual elite hockey development program draws hundreds of players, from PeeWee level to college prospects, to Port Alberni for an overnight camp experience. In addition to the use of the Alberni Valley Multiplex, West Coast Hockey Prep Camp also transforms the next-door Alberni Athletic Hall into a dormitory, complete with a catered kitchen.

Leslie says the new agreement in principle is similar to previous agreements with the city. But, for the first time, players at West Coast Hockey Prep Camp will be able to take part in some of the recreation services offered by the City of Port Alberni, from swimming at the local pool to hiking local trails to kayaking at the lake.

“There’s a great balance between our needs as a camp and what the city needs from us,” said Leslie. “This is in both of our best interests—finding things for campers to do while they’re here.”

West Coast Prep Camp goes back 25 years with the city, although Leslie has been a director since 2009. For the last few years, said Leslie, the camp has been getting “great support” from the city.

“We only spend four weeks a year here, but it feels like home,” he said.

Shawn Bourgoin, city recreation services manager, says that the agreement is currently being revised, but both parties hope to move forward by the end of April.

“It’s been a very positive partnership.”

In addition to the benefits it provides the city, the camp also benefits local restaurants, hotels and Airbnbs, said Bourgoin.

“It provides local businesses with the opportunity to see an influx of a few hundred families for the few weeks that they are here,” he added.

West Coast Hockey Prep Camp is scheduled to take place this year from July 11 to Aug. 5. It will look different, as the elite girls’ camp is expanding from one week to two for the first time ever. While previous years have featured one week of girls’ camps and three weeks of boys’ camps, this year’s camp will be split equally between the girls and the boys.

Leslie said the elite girls camp has been gaining popularity every year. In the last year before the pandemic hit, the camp drew 200 female hockey players to Port Alberni.

“We’ve become known in North America as one of the premier high-performance overnight camps on the girls’ side,” said Leslie. “We thought it was time to take the risk and expand.”

For the past two years, due to COVID-19, West Coast Hockey Prep Camp has been running as a day camp. Leslie said the plan this year is to offer overnight dorms at the neighbouring Alberni Athletic Hall again.

“Worst case scenario, we’ll pivot to [day camps] again,” said Leslie.

The last two years have also been limited to Canadian coaches and players, due to travel restrictions, but Leslie is hoping to see more international participation in 2022. Flights have already been booked from as far as New Zealand and Hungary, he said.

To learn more about West Coast Hockey Prep Camp, or to register, visit www.prepcamp.com.

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