Re: “What’s with minor hockey?” (Dec. 21.)
I felt the need to write this letter in response to the narrative provided by Willy Benn regarding the Mustangs hockey program.
I grew up in Whitehorse and played in the rep program as a youth. Upon returning, I have helped coach in both the rep and house league programs, so my views are definitely biased by history. That being said, I’d like to address the key points in Mr. Benn’s letter.
He says having rep teams playing a division up causes issues (eliminates contact, etc.). This has been the model in the Yukon for at least 20 years and is the only mechanism to expose the development teams to suitable competition. The non-contact aspect of house league, from what I understand, is an initiative that Whitehorse minor adopted specifically for the house league to encourage participation.
When there was a healthy midget house league, the bantams played there and the midgets played in the now-defunct men’s senior league (contact). When coaching rep, we tailor our practices to simulate games and encourage battle situations.
Bottom line is that there isn’t an easy solution to not playing contact. The alternative you suggest would keep the hospital busy as there is a huge discrepancy between the rep players and house players. In your world you would be sending out little Bobby who just loves the game but is a little wobbly and can’t stickhandle without watching the puck against Johnny who, even at 12, can smell an open-ice hit across Olympic-size ice.
Let’s look at the developmental aspect of the argument to have players playing in their age group. By putting everyone in the same environment you stunt the development of the rep players. In house the rep players forget hockey strategy and just rag the puck until a rep player from the other team gets it from you … and what happens to little Bobby the house player?
He goes from being a part of the game and maybe even potting a couple goals, when it’s a house league, to skating up and down the ice watching the rep players skate around. Does this help Bobby? Does it feed the fire that is his love for the game?
Nope. In fact, Bobby quits at 14 and takes up snowboarding because he gets way more action thansticks ‘n pucks and can go when he feels like it … oh ya and nobody crushes him with an open ice hit while he’s trying to find that puck he never gets at his feet.
When I came through Whitehorse minor, we were lucky to have one player playing junior somewhere. In the last decade we’ve seen a steady stream of players move to the junior ranks, three Yukoners play NCAA (Adam Henderson, Derek Klassen, Jared Tuton), two players stick with major junior teams (Dave and Ted Stephens), and a two time NCAA national champion (Reid Campbell). I think we’re doing something right.