By Kris Captanis
California Rubber Magazine, Published on Oct 16, 2019
Over the past four years, Carlsbad’s Pacific Ridge School has been quietly changing San Diego’s youth hockey landscape. And building a powerhouse team in the process.
Back in 2015, youth coach Todd Cadieux saw an opportunity to build a unique program combining the competitiveness of club hockey with an emphasis on academics and balance. He teamed up with Pacific Ridge’s former athletic director Hans Richter and longtime youth hockey coach Juan Trevino to create the Pacific Ridge Hockey Club (PRHC).
“We’ve seen so much imbalance in players’ lives and educations because of club hockey,” said Cadieux, now PRHC program director. “We envisioned a program that would address these issues, and Pacific Ridge was the perfect partner.”
PRHC is currently the only San Diego high school whose players are all enrolled students at the school. The school plays in Division I of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL) and will compete in the North American Prospects Hockey League as well.
For players, skating for their school is a big deal. “It’s great being able to go to class with your teammates, eat lunch with them – everything you don’t get to do with a club team,” said Patrick O’Donnell, a senior who was last year’s ADHSHL Goalie of the Year. “We’re more than just teammates. We’re friends here and the bond goes deeper.”
Last season, the varsity team won the ADHSHL Division II regular season and reached the Division II finals of the CAHA tournament. Several factors make playing for PRHC and attending Pacific Ridge appealing to players and their families.
Balance: A practice schedule similar to other high school sports and a rink 10 minutes from campus gives players more time for studying, socializing, family, and sleep. The team holds three on-ice practices and two cross-training sessions per week, with games on weekends. Essentially, Pacific Ridge allows hockey players all the same benefits other varsity and JV athletes enjoy.
Opportunity: Beyond athletics, the school provides ample opportunities for extracurricular activities such as clubs, service learning, musicals, etc. Pacific Ridge builds these activities into the school day, thus giving players a chance to pursue a variety of interests.
Cost: Being a private school without religious affiliation, Pacific Ridge charges a typical independent school tuition and offers substantial tuition assistance to families with a wide range of incomes. Because of the availability of tuition assistance and because hockey is integrated into the total costs of a comprehensive independent school experience, hockey costs for families are greatly diminished.
Academics: Most important is Pacific Ridge’s academic program. The school deliberately embraces the terms “student-athlete” and “scholar-athlete,” as academics come first, and athletics are an integral part of the whole. Instead of sitting in rows of desks facing a blackboard, Pacific Ridge students sit with their teacher around a large, oval table, called a Harkness Table, where everyone is in “the front row” and actively develops speaking, listening, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. An average class size of 15 ensures that students are fully engaged.
“Classrooms at Pacific Ridge feel like teams,” said varsity head coach Juan Trevino. “Students get the support and feedback they need to excel.” Arguably the most popular part of the school’s curriculum for students is global travel. At the end of each school year, roughly 90 percent of Pacific Ridge’s 615 students travel around the country and the world for academic, linguistic and cultural study.
Pacific Ridge also offers individualized college guidance services to students – services that are available to players before and after they play junior hockey. “We continue to push the Pacific Ridge hockey program to offer the best possible combination of competition and exposure for our players, all while keeping education first,” said Trevino. “You don’t have to sacrifice your academics and high school experience in order to play top-tier hockey, or vice versa,” added Cadieux. “We’ve got the whole package.”