Minor hockey season winding down - Mar. 14, 2013
Brian Mumford/Courier file
Cole Handeland of Charlotte County tries to turn and fire the puck while checked by Grace Huys of the St. Stephen Grizzlies during a Jan. 26 game. The Charlotte County squad claimed a 4-3 win.
It’s crossover week, time for minor hockey teams to prepare for what may be the last games of the season. In a few weeks, the rinks will be devoid of action, ice soon to be removed.
With games yet to be played, St. Stephen Minor Hockey Association president Joe Peters is happy with what he’s seen.
“The peewee C Moffitt Dodge Storm finished first in their division and did really well,” reflected Peters.
Also, the two St. Stephen bantam teams finished first and second in their division.
The big difference between this year and last year rests in the association’s stance towards amalgamation. In the spring of 2012, Peters and others were pushing hard to merge St. Stephen with the struggling groups in Saint Andrews and St. George/Blacks Harbour.
“We’ve decided we’re not going to look at it, this year,” said Peters.
“We’ve got a new arena coming,” he explained, adding that the formative Charlotte County Minor Hockey Association (CCMHA) has had “some growing pains,” albeit “nothing they can’t handle.”
“We’re going to let them get another year under their belt.”
A majority of St. Stephen parents were against the merger, put to a vote at last year’s annual general meeting.
Peters said he still sees benefits, in terms of players being better able to find teams matching their skill levels, but “that would be a minority of the players.”
Across the county, CCMHA co-president Corey Spear said that the door is still open for St. Stephen to merge, providing the CCMHA membership approves such a prospective move.
He believes he understands the primary reason for St. Stephen parents to avoid amalgamation.
“I’m pretty sure they do not want to travel. They are getting a new arena, and I think that’s a big part for them.”
“If you were to go to St. Stephen to Blacks, for a practice, that is quite a commute,” he said. “It’s a 45- 60-minute drive, for some people.”
While acknowledging a few niggles and bumps that came with blending the former Fundy and Saint Andrews minor hockey groups, (“It was definitely a learning experience,” Spear stated) the benefits became obvious if for no other reason than the merger allowed use of W. C. O’Neill Arena during the time the Fundy Arena ice was unavailable, awaiting repairs to its ice-making equipment.
“I don’t know where Fundy Minor would have been, had it not (been amalgamated.) It was sure a benefit, that way, for sure,” said Spear.
He anticipates further growth in the CCMHA, in part due to the adoption of the first-year-free initiative first plied a few years ago in Saint Andrews.
“The free hockey really helped to bring people in ... I think you’ll see growth.”
Peters confirmed that a much-awaited move to the Garcelon Civic Center currently under construction, is part of the reason to push amalgamation discussion forward at least a year.
“The ice rental rate has modest increases and no big jump,” he said. “It will be good.”
“Obviously, the rink is going to be warmer for the spectators, better seating, and better dressing rooms.”
The SSMHA annual general meeting date has yet been finalized, but one thing is certain: the association will have a new face at its helm.
Peters stated he will not be seeking re-election to the executive.
“This year, I didn’t even have a kid in St. Stephen minor hockey,” he noted, pointing out that one child is playing with CCMHA, and another with the St. Stephen Spartans high school hockey team.
“It’s time for somebody else … fresh ideas,” he said. “We’ll be looking for new members of the executive.”
Forthcoming crossover games on local ice surfaces include a bantam C clash between St. Stephen and Grand Manan at Border Arena, 12:10 p.m. Saturday; an atom C tilt Sunday, 12:15 p.m. at Fundy Arena; A Sunday bantam C game when St. Stephen hosts Lancaster at Border Arena with a 3:15 p.m. faceoff; and a peewee C game slated for 2:05 p.m. at Border Arena, with St. Stephen hosting the KV Canadians.