RED DEER - BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, the Saskatchewan Hockey Association and Hockey Manitoba have announced the implementation of standardized alternate season programming for Western Canada.
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.
Participation in structured hockey, other than the traditional winter season that runs from September to March, continues to grow. For the most part, hockey which takes place outside of this traditional season has taken place outside of the minor hockey association system and therefore lies outside the realm of the governing bodies in each province.
This new alternate season programming model addresses questions and concerns from participants as to why the non-traditional season programming does not operate under the governance of Hockey Canada and its member Branches.
“BC Hockey implemented a Spring Hockey Program in 2011 and we are happy to have our Western Canadian neighbours implement the program,” said BC Hockey Chief Executive Officer Barry Petrachenko. “Our hope is to engage spring hockey teams and tournaments across Western Canada in working together to offer greater hockey options to minor hockey players.”
The Western alternate season model will differ from traditional season hockey. Local Minor Hockey Associations will be able to operate an alternate season, or there will be the opportunity for other groups to register directly with a Branch for the alternate season only. Other features of the alternate season will include:
- Registration through Branch and Insurance through Hockey Canada.
- No boundaries or registration regulations pertaining to where players may play, including open boundaries between provinces.
- Tournament registration with flexible rosters for each tournament
- Guidelines for the tryout procedures, with strict violation standards which could impact mainstream eligibility if not adhered to for coaches and players.
“The large majority of hockey players that play in the traditional winter season move onto new activities and sports in the spring and early summer which we totally support and encourage,” said Hockey Alberta Executive Director Rob Litwinski. “For those players, families and minor hockey associations that do wish to continue to play hockey into spring we believe this option will allow them to do this under our governing bodies.”
Hockey Canada and its branches support the Long Term Player Development (LTPD) model which encourages athletes to participate in other sports. However, for participants looking for alternate hockey activities, the goal is to make this experience as valuable, safe and fair as possible through programming support from the governing bodies. This alternate season model is a window for those who wish to continue hockey but ideally not in pure games competitive model. Developing skills remains the intended focus for any organization offering alternate season programming.
“We look forward to extending services to SHA registered players, coaches, officials and families who choose to extend their hockey season into the Spring/Summer Hockey months,” said Saskatchewan Hockey Association General Manager Kelly McClintock. “The goal will be to work together to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all kids whether it be the traditional Fall/Winter season or the Spring/Summer option.”
Alternate season team activities may not interfere with any tradition season team functions of any participant. As well, minimum suspension guidelines for each Branch and Hockey Canada will apply, with alternate season suspensions carried over between the traditional and alternate seasons.
“Hockey Manitoba recognizes that the majority of our members choose to exclusively participate in the game during the traditional winter season, and these tremendous programs are made possible through the dedication of literally thousands of volunteers across the province", stated Peter Woods Executive Director of Hockey Manitoba. Woods added, "Although we are committed to a long-term athlete development model which encourages participation in a variety of athletic pursuits, we are pleased to join our Western Branch partners and provide an alternate season program for interested families with a focus on the development of skills in a safe, structured environment."
Teams that register for the program will provide participants with access to insurance and certification programs for players, coaches and officials. A standard registration fee of $10 per participant and $50 per team will apply across the provinces. Although preparations are underway for the upcoming spring season, registration and sanctioning is still available to teams and tournaments that are already formed for 2016.
BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association and Hockey Manitoba are each member Branches of Hockey Canada.