The Windermere Valley Minor Hockey Association usually sees registration numbers start to pour in for minor hockey around this time of year.
But there has been serious drop-off in initiation hockey registrations this summer. Brendan Donahue, president of the Windermere Valley Minor Hockey Association, said they are concerned about the low numbers for the 5-6 year old level minor hockey (the first year for the hockey program). Typically by now they have at least 13 to 15 kids registered; right now they only have seven.
Mr. Donahue suggested families may be hesitating to sign up due to myths about minor hockey, such as costs, time commitment or the level of competition. The cost of $110 for initiation hockey makes it an “inexpensive commitment to try hockey,” said Mr. Donahue. For families who cannot afford equipment, Mr. Donahue said there is often ample used equipment available for sale. Manulife Securities Incorporated in Invermere also offers free equipment for those wanting to try hockey for a year.
The time commitment is only two days per week for practice, similar to other sports. As for the competitive nature of hockey?
“Yes, hockey can get serious and competitive at the higher level as that is the goal of any serious athletes in any sport,” stated Mr. Donahue. “But, at the younger levels, it’s all about learning the game and having fun!”
Mr. Donahue commented hockey is not only a great sport, but it teaches kids a lot about life too.
“We live in a world today where there’s been a big push towards individualism in general, and individual sports. I don’t have anything against those, but I think it’s important for kids to join some things where they get mentoring from other adults, where they’re in a rules based environment.”
For families who consider putting their children in when they are older, Mr. Donahue cautioned it can be very hard for kids to catch up after missing two to four years of hockey development at the lower levels.
“Like any youth sport, many of the participants in the older age levels that stay with hockey do so because they have been successful. Starting a child in hockey early is probably the most effective way of ensuring their long-term success and participation in the sport,” he said.
Parent Tanya Roe has two children in hockey, one that started in initiation hockey and one that started later. Ms. Roe said it was a little harder for her child who started after initiation hockey. But now, it is an amazing activity for both her children.
“A team sport is so amazing; you build confidence – that’s what I see with Maddie (her daughter), she’s built a ton of confidence being in hockey.”
Ms. Roe said it has been a great way for parents to make friends too, connecting with other families in the Valley. She has also found hockey to be more cost-effective than some other activities her kids have been involved in here.
As part of the hockey association’s efforts to get more kids involved, they will be hosting a ‘Try hockey for free day’ Saturday, September 16th, from 12-2 p.m. at Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena in Invermere. There will be free equipment on a first come, first serve basis, and representatives will be on hand to answer any questions. Parents can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.