Pilot Mound welcomed a group of new kids to the community this September.

The town, located about two hours southwest of Winnipeg, launched a brand new hockey academy for boys with the expertise of a coach who's guided some of the world's best players to the NHL.

With that, there's an extra buzz for the start of classes at Pilot Mound School.

Fifteen-year-old goaltender Veikka Koivisto moved from Finland. He's among 17 new students in the town of 700 attending Pilot Mound Hockey Academy.

"My mom told me, ‘just give it a shot.’ I was like, 'yeah whatever, why not' and then I ended up playing here," said Koivisto.

The academy was started by general manager and head coach Rod Collins.

Collins is from Pilot Mound and coached NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews at a similar, but much larger and more established, school in Minnesota called Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

Collins wanted to bring a hockey academy to Manitoba. The one in Pilot Mound is the first of its kind for boys in the province.

"These boys are in an education-controlled program,” said Collins before his team hit the ice. “They're on the ice daily; they're on the off-ice training daily, so they get a full immersion into a program where they can develop and go on to junior hockey."

As a new hockey academy, Collins said recruiting has been the biggest challenge. He still has room for at least two more players this season.

Collins said the team expects to play 50 to 60 games mostly on the road against other sports schools in western Canada and the United States. Collins said the team was denied entry into the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League.

Billet families, like Rod’s brother Doug and his wife Ginger, have opened up their own homes to give the boys on the team a place to live.

Rod has several other relatives in town who are also serving as billet families; some putting up as many as three students in their home.

Ginger Collins said families receive $500 per player from the academy each month to help cover the cost of food.

She said it will pay off for the town because the academy will help the local economy.

"As far as the community goes, more food, more supplies at the hardware store—I think everybody will show a little more profit by having the kids in the community," said Ginger.

The academy roster includes a Ukrainian player, a Slovakian and two Americans. The rest of the players come from within the province.

Grade 12 student Zach Orchard moved from Oakbank.

"I've always wanted to go a hockey academy like Notre Dame (in Wilcox, SK) and I told my parents this opportunity came up here in Manitoba,” said Orchard. “They were excited to send me because they've always known I've wanted to go."

At $25,000 per year for hockey fees and tuition, and having to move away from home, playing in Pilot Mound is a big commitment for the boys and their families. A commitment Collins hopes will pay off for the kids attending the academy.

"If I can develop these kids to play junior, get them into college or major junior and they have successful careers and get an education that's very important to me," said Collins.

Koivisto said living and playing hockey in a small community will make it easy to focus on school and work towards his dream.

"I want to play college after I graduate so it's important to study hard," said Koivisto.

Living away from family will be an adjustment, but the community has come together to try and make the team feel right at home.