Greater Trail Minor Hockey Association teams take to the ice in earnest this week, and although this year’s registration is down from the approximately 350 registered last year, GTMHA continues to look for solutions to bolster its numbers.
“Every division can use more kids,” said Park. “Realistically, we’re making teams as small as 11 or 12 kids where ideally you would rather be around 14 or 15.”
While numbers have yet to be finalized, the Junior Novice or Initiate division attracted fewer first-time players for the second year in a row at its opening evaluation Saturday.
“The last count I heard was in the mid-50s but I’d rather see it in the 70s, because 50 or 60 kids in Junior Novice is 40 or 50 in Bantam,” said Park.
Nevertheless, the GTMHA is taking steps to attract young players and get more parents involved.
In the Junior Novice division, for five and six year olds, rather than make separate teams and run a full season, all players practice as a group with the focus on skill development and fun, with the season divided into two sessions.
“We’re trying to prevent it from being four-or-five day a week hockey all the time for the little kids,” said Park. “It is skill development . . . we’re trying to get to an almost hockey-school format where you’re breaking your ice into zones, and developing your skills, and then having fun scrimmages.”
The Junior Novice player is guaranteed one ice time during the week and one slot on Saturday, with an optional hour of skill-development offered on another weekday.
More importantly, the association is trying to establish consistent ice times in an effort to ease both first-time player and parents into Greater Trail’s rich hockey culture.
“The whole idea is to introduce kids to hockey, not over-commit them . . . you don’t want to create a situation where the parents are doing a dance when the kid says, ‘I want to quit’.”
The first session will run to Nov. 16 for a fee of $125, that includes a wind-up tournament on the final weekend. The second session runs from Nov. 22 and ends with the Novice tournament Mar. 1.
As for the Senior Novice, Atom, Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget house teams, evaluations have also begun and will continue until games start next week.
Of the five divisions, GTMHA has seen its biggest jump in numbers in Midget.
“We’re currently dealing with a little bit of a bumper crop of Midget-aged kids that have come back to hockey, so we might actually end up with a third House team,” said Park.
Players are also required to have their Sports Passes in order to play at the Cominco Arena, and despite the additional red tape, GTMHA is working with the City of Trail to expedite the process.
The GTMHA will ice Tier 2 Pee Wee, Bantam, and Midget Rep teams, which will again participate in the Okanagan Mainline Hockey Association (OMAHA), a competitive league with teams from Penticton, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Salmon Arm, Kamloops, and Vernon.
“It’s been a good experience. I think it’s four years now since we’ve been doing OMAHA, and it’s been very good for the teams.”
There will also be a Pee Wee Tier 3 team playing against West Kootenay teams.
The rep teams play in their own West Kootenay playdown in an attempt to qualify for their respective Tier 2 provincial championships.
While costs for any sport can be expensive and often prohibitive for some families, GTMHA offers a program to help ease the burden on those with financial barriers.
“What we do is we piggyback with KidSport and Jumpstart, and ask those individuals to apply for those programs first and if they are awarded money through those programs then our Cinderella fund will match additional monies to cover things like team fees,” said Park. “So kids who have those challenges still have a shot at playing hockey.”
The association is also on the lookout for qualified referees to officiate at the various levels. For college students, it’s a great opportunity to earn some extra money, as refs make between $20-40 per game. Adults are also required to ref the more competitive OMAHA matches. It’s a great mentoring process, in addition to supporting local minor hockey. The GTMHA will also reimburse refereeing-clinic cost after a certain number of games.
Upcoming Home Games:
For more information or to register go to the Greater Trail minor hockey website at gtmha.com.