By Glen Erickson /
With much of the media across Canada fixating on professional or Major Junior hockey, it is important to remember that minor hockey programs are moving into full swing from coast to coast. In Kelowna, the powers-that-be have been hard at it for a few weeks now, readying for another busy hockey season.
Registrations on the increase
According to Corrine Reid, Director of Hockey Operations for the Kelowna Minor Hockey Association, membership numbers are headed in the right direction. In fact, total registration this year could reach 1,500 players this season, ensuring that all available ice time will be utilized, and most every team will have a full complement of players. If it is true that in general registrations across the country are either flat or on the decline, Reid says Kelowna continues to see gradual increases.
“I would anticipate about 1,500 kids, but we also have about 300 volunteers in our database as well,” Reid said. “Most every one of our teams is now at capacity, which is 19 players. We’ve added an extra team in Atom and one in Peewee, and we’re up to eight teams in Midget house, which is huge for us. The numbers are looking very good.”
There is a tremendous National Hockey League representation across the Okanagan Valley, with many professional players making the region their off-season home.
“I think there are a lot of reasons here,” Reid said. “We’re running some pretty good programs here. (Head coach) Trevor Erhardt is doing a very good job on the ice with the kids and coaches. We see the kids buying into it and they are really enjoying it.
“But sure, I think with so many NHL players in our community during the summer time and so many ex-NHLers living here, that really ramps up the excitement here. But we have such an awesome group of volunteers here, certainly the majority of the people I have met during my association here have been just terrific volunteers. The kids recognize this, the parents like it and it really keeps them interested.”
Showcase of Champions
You can see Reid just light up at the mere mention of the house division wind up. Last year, KMHA introduced a tournament style playoff round across all divisions, culminating with championship final games played consecutively
“For so long the kids playing house hockey didn’t have playoffs to enjoy, so we’re very happy with how the Showcase of Champions went, last season. It’s something we’ll continue to work on.”
Sponsorships Aid with Program Development
Costs are a reality these days when it comes to enrolment in minor hockey programs. An association can endeavour to find ways to mitigate these expenses, perhaps making the game as accessible as possible for those who want to participate. Attracting corporate sponsors is one way that KMHA to generate revenue over and above registration fees.
“First of all, in relation to other sports, considering hockey runs from September through March, I’m not convinced we are as expensive as some other sports,” Reid said. “Now, we don’t put those (sponsorship) monies toward registrations as much as we do toward making the programs better for the kids.
“As an association, we’ve been doing a lot of promotion in the community and we have a number of sponsors for our house divisions. For Novice and Initiation, it’s Tim Horton’s. For Atom, it’s McDonald’s. For Pee Wee, it’s Paragon Pharmacies and for Bantam, it’s Canadian Tire. Also this year, there will be a clothing line that we will be selling that will result in a rebate to the association from Bauer.”
“This is new this year, I’ve never seen it before,” Reid said. “I guess, across Canada, over 23,000 new helmets are going to be given away to players born in 2006. There has definitely been interest from many of the new players coming into the association, so we’ve been helping them to get the necessary paperwork so that they can get these helmets.”
According to KMHA, all players born in 2006 who register to play hockey in the 2011/2012 season will be eligible to receive a free Bauer helmet. Chevrolet dealers are the key sponsor. Parents can sign up for the program at www.chevrolethockey.ca, then pick up a Chevrolet Safe and Fun Hockey package from a local Chevrolet dealer. There is a certificate parents can redeem for a new Bauer 2100 hockey helmet. In Kelowna, the certificate can be exchanged for the helmets at designated retailers, including Sport Chek, Hockey Experts, Sport Mart and Sports Experts.
OMAHA Scheduling Weekend complete
It’s perhaps one of the most intensive weekends of the year, as associations from across the provinces interior met in Vernon for scheduling meetings. The result is the schedule that covers all division.
KMHA attends, with some high expectations from the membership, is fortunate to have had Reid and president Leoni Popoff attend in the past. It would seem the process, while time consuming, is one where experience can be very helpful.
“We’ve been through it a few times now,” Reid said. “There are always requests to consider, things like avoiding lengthy road trips. Everyone does their best.
Coaching and Officials appointments
Gord Hynes tales over this season as Referee in Chief, while division reps have also been appointed. Key contacts can be accessed through the KMHA website. And KMHA has filled its coaching positions for 2011/12, including Eric Blais taking over as the Midget Tier 1 head coach. Long-time coach Tom Watters will head up the Bantam Tier 1 team, while Brian Cullen is the Pee Wee Tier 1 head coach.