Initiative underway to level hockey field in London

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 PM ET

The No. 1 lesson you learn when dealing with minor hockey in any fashion is you will never please everyone.

The No. 2 lesson you learn is the people you are making happy today, may well be unhappy tomorrow.

The No. 3 lesson is that minor hockey, especially at the competitive level, needs to find a way to make it more fun for its players or it’s going to find it increasingly difficult getting them to participate.

But that’s another story.

Last year the London Junior Knights faced criticism for how they staged tryouts. The basis of the criticism centred on the requirement that players who wanted to play seeded hockey had to go through tryouts with the Junior Knights. If a player did not go through those tryouts, he would only be eligible to play minor development hockey (or as some referenced it, house league).

Even if a player wanted to only play for a team like North London in the seeded league, he was required to tryout for the Junior Knights and if they wished to sign him, that’s where the player would have to play (his only other choice was to play in the minor development league).

The Greater London Hockey Association had some problems with that last year, especially with the Junior Knights having two teams at the AA level, it meant some of the GLHA teams struggled to put a competitive team together.

But both organizations are singing from the same songbook this year. Yes, anyone who wants to play in the seeded league still has to go through the progressive tryout process at a cost of $60 for the AA level.

That’s the-you-can’t-please-everyone part of the lesson.

But the Junior Knights have made some modifications to the number of teams they will be putting on the ice.

“(We’re) going with two teams at each age group,” Junior Knights president Barry Cleaver said. “In most cases that will be one AAA team and one AA team. As part of this transition year we may have two AAA teams at a couple of age groups and no AA team.”

The implication is obvious. With fewer players required to London Junior Knights spots, more players will be returned to the association teams and that will level out the playing field,

“For the most part the GLHA teams, and there were exceptions, had trouble being competitive in that league, which isn’t good for them and not good for some of the stronger teams playing them,” Cleaver said.

“By dropping one team at each age group, the four GLHA teams should be able to reach the level where they can play and compete in the seeded league.”

Ian Dantzer, president of the GLHA, says even though progressive tryouts are a sticking point this situation will be better for his GLHA teams.

“Last year they were forcing everybody up and there was a complete impossibility that everybody would make it,” Dantzer said. “It was one, a revenue driven thing to make money and two, because (Junior Knights) had three teams, they were taking so many good players, there was no point in having an A team but we wanted to keep a competitive level for kids.”

Tryouts dates have also changed. Instead of trying out at the end of the summer, tryouts will now be held in the spring. With tryouts in August, players involved in summer sports had difficult decisions to make to try out for hockey.

It also gives them a chance to enjoy the summer and makes holiday planning easier.

If the players don’t make the AAA or AA teams, they get to try out for the GLHA seeded-league teams in September.

“(All) this took hours and hours of work to get done, and a willingness of all involved to make hockey work in London better than it ever has and we believe it will,” said Kevin Gardner, vice-president of hockey for the Junior Knights.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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