Alberta’s youngest hockey players are the focus for a new grant program resulting from a partnership between Hockey Alberta and Pembina Pipeline Corporation.
The organization has adopted an Initiation Program as the formal structure of leagues for players ages 6 and under. The key element of the new program for tyke and novice players is to put these young, learning skaters on smaller ice surfaces. In this way, the players get more opportunities to touch the puck and learn positions on a surface more fitting for their size and abilities.
Pembina and Hockey Alberta have established a grant program to cover the financial burden of the program that would otherwise fall on Minor Hockey Associations across the province. The funds will be available for Initiation Programs for the 2016-17 hockey season, for the purchase of foam rink divider boards, offering a safe and effective way to split the ice surface for players.
“Practicing and playing on a smaller ice surface helps in skill development. More associations having access to divider boards increases the opportunity for these young players to touch the puck more often, and develop the essential basic skills such as skating, shooting and stickhandling,” said Justin Fesyk, Senior Manager, Hockey Development for Hockey Alberta.
Lloydminster Minor Hockey announced the implementation of this Initiation Program in the Fall last year. The organization put on an information session and a conference for the new program called, Shrink the Rink. The announcement was met with quite a bit of negative feedback from both parents and organizers from Lloydminster and area.
“Hockey is one of the only sports that has 5, 6, 7, and 8 year old children playing on the same sized ice surface as the NHL pros. It makes no sense to do that,” said Darrell Wagner, general manager of Lloydminster Minor Hockey.
“It’s not just the smaller playing surface, it’s smaller nets, it’s the lighter pucks, it’s everything about the multi-sport athlete and player development.”
The grants will be available in June, and Minor Hockey Associations who are looking to apply are encouraged to go to hockeyalberta.ca/players/