Western Canada Minor Hockey Looks To Score With A Spring Season


It looks like Western Canadian minor hockey associations are trying to wade into the Spring hockey experience! In my opinion this is an epic fail on the part of these provincial hockey associations.

Announced today:

The four Provincial Branch organizations of Hockey Canada have adopted programming and policy for alternate season hockey in their respective areas, standardizing the registration of alternate season or spring hockey teams across Western Canada. Alternate season hockey activities are those that occur from April 1-July 15.

Hockey Alberta. Hockey Alberta, 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <http://www.hockeyalberta.ca/news/recent/western-branches-announce-alternate-season-program-offering-354/>.

I really cannot say I am surprised that this happened; I only wonder why it took so long to try to get a foot in the door.

The article is quick to let you know that the numbers of Spring hockey are increasing & that this hockey season falls outside of provincial minor hockey jurisdiction. I am certainly not trying to be overly cynical however and maybe I am jumping to conclusions; but what I see are several associations (whose parent frowns on non-sanctioned hockey) trying to get involved either for financial gain or to try to control something they have no access to.

…addresses questions and concerns from participants as to why the non-traditional season programming does not operate under the governance of Hockey Canada…

Hockey Alberta. Hockey Alberta, 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. <http://www.hockeyalberta.ca/news/recent/western-branches-announce-alternate-season-program-offering-354/>.

Well, that is because Spring hockey programs run under a different set of guidelines. Spring hockey is about competitive development and advancement.

Sorry everyone, the LTDM (Long Term Development Model) is an absolute must for youth sports, however at some point those players who want to compete with others at their level need to get on a team that will allow them to really push their ability… even if it is only for a few months.

The regional boundaries set by local hockey associations are one of the driving forces that leads players to the Spring season. Players being forced to play where they live as opposed to where they could compete at their level (for the younger age groups) is a focal point that shouldn’t be ignored.

It is mentioned that this new Spring season will remove boundaries for the player; I have to ask then why should you have two different rule sets based on the time of year? This tells me that the organizers are more interested in ‘getting in’ with Spring hockey then understanding the reasons and benefits behind it.

Another key talking point is the mention of insurance coverage for players if you participate with this new Spring model. One of the more common arguments against Spring hockey has always been the (incorrect) idea that there is no insurance coverage for the season.  Even the Hockey Alberta Referee Committee site posted the following last year:

Spring/Summer hockey is NOT sanctioned by Hockey Alberta or Hockey Canada.

NOT sanctioned means you have no insurance in the event you get hurt so you are on your own for any medical bills or lost income.
NOT sanctioned means you have no insurance in the event a player gets hurt, so if the injured player sues you will be personally responsible for any judgement against you – possibly millions of dollars depending upon the injury.

“Spring Hockey – Do’s and Dont’s.” Http://www.northzone.ab.ca/index.php/spring-hockey-do-s-and-dont-s. North Zone Referee Committee, 18 Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.

What is commonly overlooked is that if traditional winter hockey pundits would investigate further they would find that indeed teams & tournaments DO carry sport insurance….. often it is even of higher value and benefits than that of Hockey Canada.

What parent would send their child into a sport/activity without first looking into insurance coverage?

In a free market society it is ‘buyer beware’ and ‘success breeds success’. Spring hockey is not a closed group where one doesn’t know what to expect. Tournament rosters, coaching staff, tournament wins/losses are archived on just about every major event site. A parent looking to enroll their child with a Spring team has FULL resource to locate & evaluate which team is right for them. The winter model is broken as it prevents just that by regional boundary restrictions!

I like the continued reference this article makes about a safe, structured environment. This would lead the reader to assume that Spring hockey leagues are the ‘wild west’ or are all fly-by-night organizations. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Teams are built for tournaments, coaches lose their job if they are unsuccessful and are replaced. It costs a lot of money to get involved with a Spring team as there is little in the way of fundraising and the tournament costs are higher. When you pay more money you pay more attention.

Parents who see their children striving for excellence will spend more time trying to locate a suitable team. Winter hockey completely misses this point by instead telling a player that they have to play on their local team until Bantam age.

It’s obvious my disdain for the provincial associations to attempt to convince the reader that they can fix the Spring hockey model ….. when in fact there is generally nothing wrong with it; quite the opposite.

I think it would be better suited for the provincial hockey associations instead to study what works with the Spring Hockey model and perhaps adopt more of its strategies once they fully understand the reasons why players are drawn to it.

A final question is who or what committee will be arranging all this? Hopefully when it happens they remain true to the highly competitive nature of the season and bring in key organizers from successful teams/tournaments to better educate them on what is expected of a Spring hockey organization.



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