Josh Andrews, vice-president of the Andrews Hockey Growth Programs school at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, grew up in the company his father, Allan Andrews, founded in 1979 and still runs today.
Pandemic travel restrictions are hitting Andrews Hockey Growth Programs during its peak summer training camp season, when 80 per cent of paying customers come into the province to attend.
The Andrews are offering virtual hockey camps and subscription-based skills training videos.
It’s sweltering outside. Tryouts for the next hockey season are more than three months away.
But at Andrews Hockey Growth Programs at the University of Prince Edward Island, this is the busy time of the year. Boys and girls from three to 15 years old come from throughout the world to hone the skills that could take them to the big leagues.
In classrooms and on the ice, Allan and Josh Andrews’ hockey school has been instilling leadership and hockey skills and providing coaching, support and feedback to these kids for more than 40 years.
Now, though, the business is facing a massive challenge. During this make-it-or-break-it time of year, the vast majority of the kids who would normally come to its camps can’t travel to P.E.I.
Due to COVID-19, a big part of the Andrews’ market is simply not there.
“Last summer, we had just over 2,500 kids and about 80 per cent of them were from outside Prince Edward Island,” says Josh Andrews, the business’s vice-president.
These fledgling athletes came from 25 American states and 14 countries outside North America last year, most of them staying eight nights in a hotel or motel with mom and dad and a brother or sister while attending summer hockey camps.
That’s now gone.
But a new type of hockey summer camp has been born.
New kind of camp
Below: A free session offered to give a sample of online training available
Monday, June 1st - Live Puck Control Session. -Puck Slice -Half Moon Through Legs -Toe Drag Walk Around -Long Lean Lateral U -Toe Drag Pass -Wide Moving Fig-8 Now offering virtual camps! https://andrewshockey.ca/virtual-camps/Posted by Andrews Hockey Growth Programs on Monday, June 1, 2020
It’s an online, virtual hockey camp that’s a lot cheaper than the usual one-week training sessions on the university campus. They can be accessed anywhere a boy or girl has a good internet connection and space to practise hockey skills.
It’s also easier on the pocketbook.
“Our (regular hockey) camps range between $300 and $900,” says Andrews.
The virtual camps are going for $99 for a one-week session for a regular player and $199 for a four-week goalie program. The sessions are slated to start in mid-June and run through mid-July.
“It’s quite a bit cheaper (because) we don’t have to rent ice time,” says Andrews.
“During one ice-time session, we would have six to nine paid staff.”
The virtual hockey camps will be run using Google Meet, which will allow the Andrews to coach as many as 250 kids at a time.
It’s unclear how much of a boost the summer camps will get from the decision to cancel the spring hockey season. That move meant no hockey for more than 3,000 young players on about 200 teams.
Many are hungry for anything hockey.
Hungry for hockey
“We have a lot more families from Prince Edward Island that would normally not come to the summer camps that are now signing up,” says Andrews.
While much of this new approach is unknown, it’s already clear many of the company’s roughly 74 seasonal employees will almost certainly not be joining the 11 permanent employees for this season. The virtual hockey camps just don’t require as many coaches and staff.
Beefing up the school’s offerings is the Andrews Sports Institute Skills Vault, a web subscription service that allows anyone to check out roughly 200 videos demonstrating hockey skills for about $10 per month.
“We started working on it before the pandemic and planned to launch it after the spring training sessions,” says Andrews.
“We launched it early because of COVID-19.”
Andrews Hockey Growth Programs is promoting it by offering some videos free on social media.
“We understand families are in a bad spot and the kids are stuck at home,” says Andrews.
Although the videos and virtual camps will not allow for as much one-on-one interaction between the coaching staff and players, Andrews is confident these will be a hit because of their wide reach.
Even after the pandemic ends and travel restrictions are lifted, Andrews Hockey Growth Programs is planning to keep offering the virtual camps.
“The world is going in that direction,” says Andrews.
“I definitely think there is a lot of potential for this.”
UPDATED: This story has been amended to correct the company name.
The Pivot is a regular business feature showcasing an Atlantic Canadian company that is adapting to new market realities with innovative products, services or strategies. To suggest a business, e-mail: email@example.com.