Prince George has become a home to the third centre for skating in British Columbia.
The Spruce City Skating Club formally became the Northern BC Centre for Skating at its AGM on Saturday when the club's director of skating Rory Allen put the initiative, first proposed by Skate Canada, to a vote. The other Centre for Skating programs are in Kelowna and Burnaby.
"Those two centres have had fantastic results due to some coaching models and a little bit of a different approach," said Allen. "We've already started to initiate some of those approaches like team coaching, coaches specializing in certain areas and all the athletes benefit.
"There's not necessarily an ownership on, my athletes versus your athletes, it's more of a collaborative approach," he added. "I think that has been instrumental in building towards becoming a centre of excellence which is the ultimate goal."
Allen said by becoming the third Centre of Skating in the province it gives him and his coaches other sources to go to for information in enhancing the skating program.
"We're hoping to do that more where we can ask for feedback and have their directors of development come up and inspect our programs," said Allen. "They've done some auditing on what type of work we're doing and given us feedback. It's certainly a good way to stay connected because the north can be fairly isolated."
Allen said by changing the club's name it opens up areas for other types of skaters, not just figure skaters, to participate. The club already incorporates the national CanSkate objectives into its program.
"It's called the Northern BC Centre for Skating for a reason, just like the university provides a very large scope of education to the north, we see the Centre providing a large scope of coverage for all athletes in the north," said Allen. "The CanSkate program is just our flagship learn to skate program. It provides the basic fundamentals for all ice sports,whether you plan on getting into hockey, ringette, speed skating, recreational skating or competitive figure skating it all starts with CanSkate."
Skaters are already coming into Prince George from Vanderhoof, Quesnel, Fort St. John, Fort St. James and other northern communities to participate in the Centre's programs, said Allen.
The ice is available to the skaters at the ElkSentre until May 13 this year and then, Allen said they'll move to off ice training and conditioning at the Northern Sport Centre and work with PacificSport on fitness assessments.
Interest in figure skating, and skating programs in general, has gone up recently as the 2015 Canada Winter Games approach.
"We have a lot of athletes coming forward to do goal setting because they'd like to be a part of that," said Allen, who skated for B.C. at the 1999 CWG in Newfoundland. "As an alumni I have to say, the experience is out of this world. To see that light in their eyes and to see it as a potential possibility is just so tremendous and has given them an open horizon in terms of places they can go."
Skaters eligible to participate in the Canada Winter Games are in the pre-novice and novice programs. Two ladies and two men will be chosen from each province along with two pairs and two ice dance teams.
"Having three or four northern skaters chosen for Team B.C. would be fantastic but we'll just have to see what happens," said Allen. "It kind of gives us, as a coaching team, a goal of something to work towards."