RED DEER – The implementation process is underway to restructure the operational model for Female Hockey at all levels in Alberta.
When complete, Hockey Alberta’s new Female Hockey Model will provide a standardized, province-wide pyramid system of hockey and the opportunity for female players to develop and progress from a strong foundation of Grassroots programming through to the Elite and Midget AAA levels and into Team Alberta’s high performance programs.
The first step in the implementation process for the new Female Hockey Model is announcing six communities selected by Hockey Alberta to host Midget AAA franchises. The communities are Calgary, Edmonton, Lloydminster, Okotoks, Red Deer and St. Albert.
The six communities selected to host Midget AAA franchises were chosen based on a comprehensive process that included a review of regional demographics for female hockey, and an application, interview, and in-person presentation process coordinated by an Elite Female implementation committee. There will be no defined boundaries for Midget AAA teams, with players able to choose the team for which they wish to try out.
In addition to hosting AAA franchises, the six centres will host Midget Elite and Bantam Elite teams. The Midget and Bantam Elite divisions each will have 12 teams. These teams will be located strategically in communities across northern, central and southern Alberta to ensure players have access to an Elite division program within a reasonable distance from their homes. Elite division teams will have defined geographical regions that determine the team for which a player is eligible to try out. Hockey Alberta is in the process of confirming host locations for the remaining six Midget and Bantam elite teams based on current female hockey programming, geography, and registration demographics.
Establishing the structure and numbers of teams for the Midget AAA, and Midget and Bantam Elite divisions was an integral part of the work that has been undertaken over the past three years by the Female Hockey Review Committee. Providing the best environment for athlete development was the overarching goal of the committee, which included members representing a cross-section of levels, leagues and communities.
“Ultimately, the final decision in establishing the locations of the Midget AAA and Elite division teams was based on three pillars,” said Greg Nesom, a member of the Female Hockey Review Committee. “First, it was imperative to establish a model where teams are set up for success, where the athletes play with their peers in skill and age. Second, by playing within an appropriate level division, our athletes will have better opportunities to advance to higher levels of competition. They will develop enhanced fundamental skills through more puck touches, quality ice time, and system play.”
“The new model provides each female player in Alberta with the chance to start playing in her home community, then progress to a regionally-based Elite team at Bantam or Midget, and potentially move to the top of the pyramid at Midget AAA,” Nesom said.
The Review committee determined that approximately 10 per cent of all female hockey players in Alberta should be playing at the Midget AAA level. For the Midget and Bantam Elite levels, which are designed as a bridge between the Grassroots and AAA Midget programs, it was determined that approximately 20 per cent of players, or 12 teams, should be playing at that level.
The remaining approximately 70 per cent of female hockey players would play within a grassroots model of tiered divisions. Grassroots Female hockey would see approximately 60 teams playing at each of the Atom and Peewee level across the province, with approximately 40 Bantam and 35 Midget grassroots teams, in addition to the AAA and Elite teams in divisions.
“With the new model, female hockey players across Alberta will be able to develop their skills by playing in consistent leagues that will better prepare them as they strive to advance to the highest level of competition in the province,” said Mel Davidson, Hockey Canada’s general manager of national women’s team programs. “Players will now have the opportunity to excel from the grassroots level in their local communities through to the Elite and Midget AAA levels where they will be able to develop by competing and practicing in an appropriate division against the top female talent in the province.”
Specific recommendations regarding the new structure for Grassroots Female hockey are being finalized by Hockey Alberta’s Grassroots Implementation Committee. The focus for the Grassroots committee is to provide the opportunity for female players to access teams within close proximity to their home town, while also ensuring that peers are playing with peers in age and ability.
Work has been ongoing for three years on developing a new Female Hockey Model. A third-party report in 2013 stated that participants within the game felt very strongly that an overall structural change was required to facilitate the growth of the female game. In 2015, recommendations from a Female Review Committee were approved by Hockey Alberta’s Board of Directors leading to the creation of the Elite and Grassroots committees, with a goal of having a new structure for Female Hockey in place for the 2016-17 season.