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Major changes coming for minor hockey

In this 2013 file photo, Dylan Guy, 11, of the St. John's Ice Breakers, is foiled on a scoring chance by goaltender David Nash, 30, of the Northern Huskies from Labrador. Looking on from left are Huskies Matthew Grouchy and Dalton Saunders. Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador are exploring the possibility of amalgamating a number of associations in urban and rural areas following a report which suggested there could be great efficiency at the minor hockey level.
In this 2013 file photo, Dylan Guy, 11, of the St. John's Ice Breakers, is foiled on a scoring chance by goaltender David Nash, 30, of the Northern Huskies from Labrador. Looking on from left are Huskies Matthew Grouchy and Dalton Saunders. Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador are exploring the possibility of amalgamating a number of associations in urban and rural areas following a report which suggested there could be great efficiency at the minor hockey level.

There are changes coming to provincial minor hockey which Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) president Jack Lee calls inevitable, while others are calling the moves unnecessary and potentially harmful.

“As an organization, you are always looking to the future,” said Lee. “If you don’t, you’re in trouble.”

Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s Strategic Planning Document outlines several scenarios, options and proposals HNL may adopt for the 2016-17 season.

The 31-page report, written by Tom Clift, associate professor at Memorial University’s Faculty of Business Administration, indicates that, “from a demand perspective, HNL is in good shape,” but goes on to note, “unfortunately, there are a significant number of minor hockey associations where the total number of registrants is considered below the minimum efficient size required of a quality program.”

According to the report, amalgamation, restructuring or reorganization may be required to help ensure the long-term viability of current programs in certain areas.

On a positive note, it says there are regions of the province where demand for minor hockey programs outstrips the supply of ice time, most notably in the St. John’s, Conception Bay Regional (CBR), Clarenville and the extended Gander region.

It notes in the document, “At the present time, it would appear that an amalgamation of the various associations that operate in the St. John’s metropolitan area would like to see the emergence of 6-7 associations, each with between 600 and 750 members.”

Then there’s an option that would allow for four “super associations” that would include the merging of St. John’s and Celtics and merging Goulds, Southern Shore and Mount Pearl associations while leaving CBR and Northeast as separarte entitities.

A number of advantages and challenges are suggested with this proposed setup.

One is that a larger average association resulting from re-alignment allows for administrative efficiencies, while one of the challenges is that it does not allow for additional growth potential, the report points out.

How many of these options or proposals will be implemented in a couple of years is open to conjecture.

One thing is for sure: changes are on the way.

Related story

HNL and elected group at odds over proposed Paradise minor association

The HNL board of directors met six times between June 2013 and December 2014 to establish their priorities for the next five years, and to consider the current challenges facing the organization.

Consultant Clift was hired over year ago, and the planning document was just completed in February.

Lee said minor hockey is in a “growing area” in Eastern Avalon, such as St. John’s, Northeast, Mount Pearl, CBR, Southern Shore and Paradise, but it isn’t growing in other areas, specifically in some rural parts of the province.

“Sometimes change is welcome,” Lee said, “and sometimes it isn’t. We don’t want to turn the ship upside down, but we want to be ready for change when it comes. There’s a lot to consider in terms of associations and towns.

“This is about survival in rural Newfoundland. You can’t operate a program with six or 10 kids. If you are in close proximity with an association with 300, then you are better off combining the programs.

“As an organization,” he said, “we need to know where we’re going to be in five or 10 years. We need to be proactive instead of reactive.

“Our executive committee met and mapped out a direction we think is right for our organization,” said Lee before adding, “It’s premature to make too many comments on it because the process has only started.”

He said there are obvious discrepancies.

“We’ve got some associations with less than 70 kids and some in the 800s and 900s.

“We made our presentation to seven associations in the St. John’s and surrounding areas, including Southern Shore, CBR, St. John’s Capitals, Avalon Celtics, Goulds and Northeast. We’ve also talked with Harbour Grace CeeBees and we’ve had some preliminary conversations with the Bay Arena Rovers in Bay Roberts.”

He went on to say there are more people HNL hopes to be in touch with over the next few months.

“We’ve basically have to do that throughout the entire province.”

Some of the objections to what is being contemplated include accusations that HNL is merely trying to cut down on the number of provincial tournaments which the governing body for hockey in this province deems insignificant.

To that, Lee replies: “We don’t want to decrease membership. We want to offer better programs.”

Then there is a complaint the current HNL executive feels there is no need for less skilled players or players from smaller associations having a right to play for a provincial banner.

To which Lee replies: “Tell that to the 6,000 kids playing in tournaments this week.”

And to the claim this is forced amalgamation which is narrow minded and is being brought on without consultation with the associations, parents or players, Lee says, “That’s 100 per cent false. We welcome feedback. We’re not dictators.”

Lee said 10 per cent of the HNL’s minor program’s 10,000 members are considered “elite players” and the rest are recreation and house league players.

“Implementing this program would only enhance that (grass roots) level of hockey,” explained Lee. “It won’t have an effect on our high performance, all-star programs.

“Myself, as HNL president, and minor hockey chairman Arnold Kelly aren’t forcing anything on anybody. We’re just putting facts and figures on the table and saying here’s what it is and here’s what we recommend because you always have to plan for the future.”

 

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

“As an organization, you are always looking to the future,” said Lee. “If you don’t, you’re in trouble.”

Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s Strategic Planning Document outlines several scenarios, options and proposals HNL may adopt for the 2016-17 season.

The 31-page report, written by Tom Clift, associate professor at Memorial University’s Faculty of Business Administration, indicates that, “from a demand perspective, HNL is in good shape,” but goes on to note, “unfortunately, there are a significant number of minor hockey associations where the total number of registrants is considered below the minimum efficient size required of a quality program.”

According to the report, amalgamation, restructuring or reorganization may be required to help ensure the long-term viability of current programs in certain areas.

On a positive note, it says there are regions of the province where demand for minor hockey programs outstrips the supply of ice time, most notably in the St. John’s, Conception Bay Regional (CBR), Clarenville and the extended Gander region.

It notes in the document, “At the present time, it would appear that an amalgamation of the various associations that operate in the St. John’s metropolitan area would like to see the emergence of 6-7 associations, each with between 600 and 750 members.”

Then there’s an option that would allow for four “super associations” that would include the merging of St. John’s and Celtics and merging Goulds, Southern Shore and Mount Pearl associations while leaving CBR and Northeast as separarte entitities.

A number of advantages and challenges are suggested with this proposed setup.

One is that a larger average association resulting from re-alignment allows for administrative efficiencies, while one of the challenges is that it does not allow for additional growth potential, the report points out.

How many of these options or proposals will be implemented in a couple of years is open to conjecture.

One thing is for sure: changes are on the way.

Related story

HNL and elected group at odds over proposed Paradise minor association

The HNL board of directors met six times between June 2013 and December 2014 to establish their priorities for the next five years, and to consider the current challenges facing the organization.

Consultant Clift was hired over year ago, and the planning document was just completed in February.

Lee said minor hockey is in a “growing area” in Eastern Avalon, such as St. John’s, Northeast, Mount Pearl, CBR, Southern Shore and Paradise, but it isn’t growing in other areas, specifically in some rural parts of the province.

“Sometimes change is welcome,” Lee said, “and sometimes it isn’t. We don’t want to turn the ship upside down, but we want to be ready for change when it comes. There’s a lot to consider in terms of associations and towns.

“This is about survival in rural Newfoundland. You can’t operate a program with six or 10 kids. If you are in close proximity with an association with 300, then you are better off combining the programs.

“As an organization,” he said, “we need to know where we’re going to be in five or 10 years. We need to be proactive instead of reactive.

“Our executive committee met and mapped out a direction we think is right for our organization,” said Lee before adding, “It’s premature to make too many comments on it because the process has only started.”

He said there are obvious discrepancies.

“We’ve got some associations with less than 70 kids and some in the 800s and 900s.

“We made our presentation to seven associations in the St. John’s and surrounding areas, including Southern Shore, CBR, St. John’s Capitals, Avalon Celtics, Goulds and Northeast. We’ve also talked with Harbour Grace CeeBees and we’ve had some preliminary conversations with the Bay Arena Rovers in Bay Roberts.”

He went on to say there are more people HNL hopes to be in touch with over the next few months.

“We’ve basically have to do that throughout the entire province.”

Some of the objections to what is being contemplated include accusations that HNL is merely trying to cut down on the number of provincial tournaments which the governing body for hockey in this province deems insignificant.

To that, Lee replies: “We don’t want to decrease membership. We want to offer better programs.”

Then there is a complaint the current HNL executive feels there is no need for less skilled players or players from smaller associations having a right to play for a provincial banner.

To which Lee replies: “Tell that to the 6,000 kids playing in tournaments this week.”

And to the claim this is forced amalgamation which is narrow minded and is being brought on without consultation with the associations, parents or players, Lee says, “That’s 100 per cent false. We welcome feedback. We’re not dictators.”

Lee said 10 per cent of the HNL’s minor program’s 10,000 members are considered “elite players” and the rest are recreation and house league players.

“Implementing this program would only enhance that (grass roots) level of hockey,” explained Lee. “It won’t have an effect on our high performance, all-star programs.

“Myself, as HNL president, and minor hockey chairman Arnold Kelly aren’t forcing anything on anybody. We’re just putting facts and figures on the table and saying here’s what it is and here’s what we recommend because you always have to plan for the future.”

 

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

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