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Valley youth get Elite Skating instruction

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It’s always wonderful to see new families move into the Swan Valley, and it’s even nicer to see the people strive to get involved in the community right out of the gate.
Fifty-three year old Paul Chahivec moved to Swan River in August, bringing with him a wife and two young daughters. But, he also brings with him a passion to get involved with youth sports and particular set of skills that are coveted in the hockey community.
Chahivec, a first-generation Canadian born and raised in Toronto to Ukrainian parents, had the dubious privilege of being trained to skate by the renowned Dr. Yasha Smushkin, a former National Soviet Union coach who defected to Canada in the early ‘70s, and opening a school in Toronto in 1975.
Chahivec remembers the harsh methods that Smushkin used to use while teaching him advanced skating techniques.
“He hit us over the head with a stick and kicked us in the pants,” he said. “He made me chew on a puck skating around the ice and put toilet water in my water bottle. And, this guy loved me. I’m still traumatized and I don’t know whether to strangle him or hug him.”
Chahivec noted that this Russian skating training is invaluable at the professional level, in a sport that is increasingly difficult to break into.
After receiving extensive training from Smushkin, as well as other Soviet-style training in ballet and gymnastics as a child, Chahivec has made a career out of teaching children what he has learned, developing them to a stage where they stand out among their peers.
“I’ve created a progression, with six categories and about 2,100 skating techniques,” he said. “Any child who can do all of my skating successfully can skate with anyone in the world.”
Chahivec has brought the legendary style to Swan River, where he recently held a six-day skating workshop starting on Monday (Sept. 14), teaching the young and moldable players of Swan Valley Minor Hockey.
“I don’t typically teach children under eight years old,” he said. “Scientifically and biomechanically, they’re not ready for it. It’s a little bit too advanced for them. I’ll teach advanced seven year olds, but nothing under that.
“I love passing this crazy old Russian stuff to children and seeing them progress. Then, scouts are looking at them because of their skating. You have to skate first before adding the stick and the puck and the teammates. It’s very difficult to make the NHL and the pro leagues now, but if scouts can see that players can skate multi-dimensionally, that’s huge.
“One thing I’m good at is breaking bad habits, because there’s a lot of them,” Chahivec continued. “(My program) is a lot of running lanes up and down the ice, until you don’t have to correct anymore. Then, (the players) don’t think, they just do. It takes time and there is a lot of repetition.
“Some children get discouraged because they can’t do (a certain technique), but I tell them that there is something that they are better at doing than others. Just focus on yourself, we’re not competing here.”
With the workshop, Chahivec hoped that the local players would see their skills get better after the week of instruction and practice, but also hoped he was able to make it fun for them as well, making sure not to use anywhere near the harsh methods that he was subjected to as a child.
“I joke a lot with them, and if I’m really hard on a player, I make sure to point out when they’re doing something well,” he said. “My stuff is really difficult and they’re going to be challenged.”
While Chahivec plans on settling in Swan River long term with his family, he also hopes that he can teach older players how to instruct as well, so that the knowledge can continue to be shared throughout the season.
Chahivec looks forward to getting to know the community more as he already feels right at home.
“We are hoping to live and thrive in this beautiful farming community,” he concluded.

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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