Canadian hockey champs design new social network

ALISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:00 PM ET

TORONTO - Playing college or university sports can be the best years of your life, but only if you’re in the right place.

Tales of U.S. athletic scholarships gone wrong or students stymied by the application process and standardized tests too often result in athletes quitting their sports prematurely, or worse, not getting a proper education.

That’s why a couple of Canadian Olympic hockey champions have devoted “quite a bit” of their own money and up to 20 hours a week to set up a new website, www.AthleticHub.com, to help coaches and athletes find each other in an organized way.

“The best way to describe it is it’s a bit like Facebook for athletes and coaches,” said Caroline Ouellette, a three-time Olympic gold medallist from Montreal. “We did a lot of researching, tried to really understand the needs for the athletes and the coaches.”

The site’s mission is to offer student athletes the opportunity to create a profile online in a professional manner to showcase their academic and athletic achievements to Cegeps (Quebec colleges), American prep schools, and Canadian and American universities.

Talented athletes can receive dozens of recruiting phone calls a week from coaches as early as Grade 9. Especially for francophone athletes, it can be confusing to know where to go. That was Ouellette’s experience before she ended up at the University of Minnesota Duluth, an excellent hockey and academic school.

“For me, going to Minnesota Duluth was the best decision I made in my athletic career,” Ouellette said. “The level of hockey, the coaching, I got the experience of playing with American, Swedish, Finnish, Swiss, Russian players, something so unique. And now when I travel with the national team, I get to see all my friends from college again.

Just to have a coach there [Shannon Miller] who coached the Canadian Olympic team, it was really an amazing experience. In my first year we won the national championship, and compared to my Olympic medal, it’s up there as far as how amazing the women were.”

On the other hand, staying in Canada has its benefits too -– most notably, cheaper tuition costs.

“We want to educate on the process and we want to offer both options,” said Ouellette. “Stay in Canada or go to the U.S. It’s overwhelming and sometimes you’re tempted to go to the school where you have the best connection with the coach.”

Officially online since last October, but in the works for a year, the site was the idea of AthleticHub president and CEO Amey Doyle, a former McGill University player and now assistant coach. Three-time Olympic champion goalie and McGill grad Kim St-Pierre is also on board, along with web guru Kevin Chatel.

Doyle and St-Pierre are examples of athletes who stayed in Canada and loved their university experience.

Free for athletes and coaches, the site now features 250 athletes, 51 Canadian universities and 245 NCAA schools. Services such as transcript translation from French to English, highlight videos, and academic advisory sessions cost extra.

“We want to educate athletes so they start the process early, because they have a lot to do,” said Ouellette. “It’s good to know, am I going to a good school or am I only going to a good athletic school?

“Our biggest dream would be that we get so many student athletes that we never have to put a fee for the profiles and we get sponsors. Right now we’re hoping that it’s going to work, and it’s a bit of a financial burden. But it’s a risk we were willing to take because we believe in the project.”


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