Sept 24, 2013 –
North Vancouver Minor Hockey wrapped up its initiation tryouts last Sunday with over 250 players bound for teams in Hockey 2-4. “It’s a lot of players, a lot of families,” said league co-ordinator Hugh Dawson, “but we have coaches for our teams, and managers in place.”
For Dawson, one of the best parts of working with initiation players is watching them experience being on a hockey team for the first time. “They love it, you should see the smiles on these kids faces,” said Dawson. “They can’t wait to put on their gear for the first time, they can’t wait to put on a uniform for the first time.”
Once on a team, the task of instructing the game of hockey begins. At this age, skating skills are the key area of focus. “We give our kids professional instruction for the first 5 or 6 six weeks,” said Dawson. “Some are beginner skaters and some are advanced skaters, but initiation hockey is basically about mobility and we try to teach them that.”
Dawes knows that initiation years can go a long way to determining player interest and involvement in hockey for years to come. As such, the association works hard to ensure that coaches are emphasizing the right priorities.
“The adult contact that these kids have at this age, you want it to be a positive experience,” said Dawson. “We take a lot of care picking our coaches and making sure players get the best experience they can get. It’s not about winning hockey games. There are no standings, there are no banners, there are no winners and losers. It’s about learning how to skate and have fun, and by and large the parents really buy into that.””
This emphasis on fun has served the association well – perhaps too well – as the waiting list to get on a team continues to grow. “We could probably have another 100 kids playing if we had more ice available,” said Dawson. “They talk about a decline in minor hockey enrolment, but we’re simply not seeing that here at North Vancouver. The growth is there.”