Sport Experts forward James Nemeth tries to put the puck past Scotiabank goalie Owen MacDonald during a peewee game at the Canada Games Centre on Sept. 10. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association expands development program to peewee and bantam

“We’re just taking over from the great work that was done by the previous board”

Fall is here and that means only one thing — the return of hockey season.

Tanya Mackenzie, director of communications for the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association (WMHA), said things are looking good for the upcoming season.

“We’ve still got a couple of kids that are still registering at this time, but we’re definitely growing from previous years,” said Mackenzie.

The tyke division, for example, is close to 80 players this year — up from an average of between 50 and 60 skaters, said Mackenzie.

At the other end of the age scale, the midget league has grown to 40 players on three teams after not existing two years ago.

Off the ice, Mackenzie said things are also looking good.

“The number of coaches that have registered this year was great,” said Mackenzie. “We didn’t have to go looking for individuals to fill those spots, so it seems parents and coaches are really eager to be a part of the program.”

Last season, the WMHA started a development program for atom players looking for something more competitive than house league. This year, the program is expanding to both peewee and bantam as well.

“It gives those kids that are hoping to maybe go on to programs like the Mustangs a bit more of a competitive edge on the rink,” said Mackenzie of the atom program. “They stay in the Whitehorse league — they still play in atom — and we divide the development program (players) up amongst the teams.”

Players in the atom program get an extra practice and game, as well as one or two trips to Outside tournaments.

The Mustangs program run by Hockey Yukon is still the top tier for peewee players in the territory, but the new peewee development program fills the gap for players looking for something more than house league.

“We had over 30 kids try out,” said Mackenzie. “We’ve selected the team so they will be playing some of the bantam house league teams as well, just giving that bit of a competitive spirit.”

In bantam, the growth of Hockey Yukon’s Rivermen shows the market for a more competitive program and the WMHA is hoping the development program again can fill that space.

“There are a significant number of kids that weren’t fortunate enough to make the Rivermen program but still want to do something more competitive than the regular house league,” said Mackenzie. “So that’s pretty exciting.”

Mackenzie said the WMHA has a new board this year looking to continue the work that has already started.

“We’re just taking over from the great work that was done by the previous board,” said Mackenzie. “I’m new to the board myself, but it’s a very committed community of families and volunteers within the (WMHA) and I think it’s only going to continue to grow.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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