Minor hockey delegates gathered in Gander for Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s fall planning meeting approved the formation of a provincial peewee (11-12) and bantam (13-14) hockey league beginning in the 2014-15 hockey season.
HNL Minor Council chairman Arnold Kelly said the league would be comprised of teams from six zones — St. John’s, Tri-Com (Mount Pearl, CBR, Northeast, etc.), Tri-Pen (Clarenville, Bonavista, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace, Placentia, etc.), Central, Western and Northern.
“There are still lots of details to be ironed out,” Kelly said, “but we got the approval from delegates to move forward. The next step is to put an executive in place.”
Kelly said the leagues will run similar to the provincial major midget operation. But it’s one thing to have 15- and 16-year-olds travelling across the province as the midget-aged players do; it’s quite another to expect the same of 11-year-old peewees.
“They’re doing it now, really,” Kelly said. “There are warmup tournaments now, and the provincial tournaments.
“Question is, how many more tournaments will we have? Six? Seven? That will depend, I guess, on the number of zones who choose to compete. We may not have all six zones competing.”
Kelly said the primary goal of establishing elite AAA peewee and bantam leagues is to develop the skills of players within those age groups by further exposing them to the best competition in the province.
“It allows the elite players to play each other without tearing apart the associations,” said Kelly.
Players on the AAA teams, Kelly said, would be permitted to play for their associations in the provincial tournaments scheduled during the Easter break.
The Goulds Minor Hockey Association will play host to the 2014 AAA peewee championship Feb. 14-16, while the Gros Morne Minor Hockey Association will stage the 2014 Bantam Irving Oil AAA championship Feb. 21-23.