Everybody knows of some of the academies/schools with some of the best hockey programs around. Schools like Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Culver Military Academy are just a couple of them, where player’s lives are basically school, hockey, and life. Red Bull has recently begun buying into the hockey academy program. The Red Bull Hockey Academy has been around for eight years in Austria and recently opened up a $60-million facility.
Hockey academies are nothing new, they are all over Canada some schools have them in the United States but it is big for a franchise like Red Bull to be putting money into an academy to produce players for the highest level of hockey.
The academy is run by former NHL coach and GM Pierre Page. The teams range from U-6 all the way up to U-16, U-18 and U-20. A few of the best U-20 players can get the chance to play with the DEL or EBEL team. Along with that, the U-16 and U-18 teams will be coming to play in tournaments in North America about once a month.
The main difference between the Red Bull Academy and other academies throughout the United States and Canada is that the Red Bull program is free or at least very inexpensive (around $280 per month) for any player who is good enough to play there. Academies in Canada or the U.S. can cost up to $50,000 per year for a player to attend.
Former NHL player Brian Savage recently moved his family to Salzburg after his 15-year-old son, Ryan, a bantam draft pick of the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, was recruited by the academy. In an article by The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, Savage was asked about the Red Bull Hockey Academy: “It’s basically a Shattuck or Notre Dame on steroids,” Savage said. “And it’s brand new.”
The facility has two international-sized ice surfaces, two skating treadmills and five shooting areas, along with 72 dorm rooms for the players. Along with that, there is an organic cafeteria and a gym. The academy has sports psychologists and sports scientists on staff along with each team having its own physiotherapist, off-ice coach and a dedicated skills coach. Players at the hockey academies in North America are usually only able to practice for a few hours a week. In Salzburg, players are able to practice whenever they want, hours per day instead of per week.
The program already has several North American players on their rosters. Savage’s oldest son currently has the potential to join the U.S. National Team Development Program next season. Along with Savage, two prospects for the 2016 QMJHL draft, Chris McQuaid (cousin of Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid) and Noah Dobson are currently attending the Red Bull Academy.
2016 NHL draft top prospect Auston Matthews is currently playing for the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League A. The Red Bull Academy uses Matthews as a selling point for players, saying they can come and potentially play for the professional teams in the DEL or EBEL. The program hopes the players see the success of North American prospects who go there and will follow along. With a shiny new $60-million facility and being free/very inexpensive to attend, Red Bull is certainly just starting to do the right thing to draw in young prospects.