California's 1st hockey prep school in Tahoe turns 2 years old

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KABC) -- In the past 11 years, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings have combined for three Stanley Cup Championships. It's helped fuel youth hockey in Southern California, and two years ago, the state saw its first hockey prep school open in South Lake Tahoe.

"We wanted to think outside the box. We said, 'How can we take a hockey player and ensure he develops to his full potential?' So we wanted to look at all training programs across the world," said Leo Fenn, the president of Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy.

The high school students board at the school. They're on the ice five days a week.

The younger team plays in the top division of the Anaheim Ducks High School league.They finished second both years.

The upper-level prep team plays all over the nation, including a showcase league in Minnesota.

"For us, it really is about developing good-character people first," said prep coach Mike Lewis.

The prep team also plays in the NAHL - the North American Hockey league. It's there that you'll find college and pro scouts at every game.

"Showcasing is pivotal. Scouts and coaches want to see guys who are just right there. We are on the left coast, the West Coast, we are very far from anyone, from any eyes," said Lewis.

The 40-plus students living at the school eat meals, prepared by a chef, to fuel sports performance. The school also has a partnership with Tahoe High School for classes both at the school and online.

"We feel that the more confidence we can develop with them and get them confidence in themselves and their ability, the better they perform academically, the better they perform athletically, and it also helps in the character building," said Fenn.

Former Duck Hall of Fame star Teemu Selanne is good friends with Fenn.

"We have the Selanne Foundation. The sole purpose of that is to help students get to college through structured sports," said Fenn.

Their foundation was a finalist for hoping to buy the U.S. Olympic Training Center in San Diego, but private investor Mike Seacrest and his wife offered to finance the multi-million-dollar project in South Lake Tahoe and create a student athlete scholarship foundation. All they had to do was convince Fenn to make his first visit to Tahoe.

"I spent two days up here. I called Teemu. I said, 'Teemu, forget the training center, we're doing this,'" recalled Fenn. "This is everything I dreamed about."

The hockey culture in California is such: If players want to advance to the next level, most need to leave the state. Players are leaving to the East Coast faster than pucks slide on ice. But Tahoe Prep had built an alternative.

Former King and NHL Hall of Fame star Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." Tahoe is taking its shot.
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