The Bonnyville Minor Hockey Association (BMHA) is seeing higher registration numbers at the younger ages than in previous years.
“In initiation we’ve got the most numbers we’ve had ever,” said Darcy Skarsen, president for BMHA.
Initiation is the youngest age group for minor hockey, comprised of players who are just starting to learn the game. They are also starting to play in tournaments and games on the road as the New Year starts.
This season BMHA has around 300 kids signed up for the 18 teams, as well as the Lakeland Jaguars, which is the female program for both Cold Lake and Bonnyville. They also have 48 players registered for the AA program.
“In general our numbers are the same as last year. We’ve got larger numbers in the bottom portion with the initiation, novice, and atom age groups. We’ve never had any season before where we have four teams in each of those divisions. It has definitely grown,” explained Skarsen.
In terms of the on-ice play, BMHA teams are having a successful season all across the board.
“In general all of our teams are doing fairly well. Most of them are kind of in the middle of their leagues,” said Skarsen. “We’ve got four Jaguar teams that are also doing really well.”
Teams that are atom and above will begin their provincial play downs in the coming weeks, including the four girls teams. League playoffs will start in the next month.
Skarsen is also pleased with the success of the new AA program, which is going into its second year of existence.
“It’s really starting to get a good foundation. They are having some success this year as well now.”
The only concern within BMHA is the size of the younger girls teams. Previously, the numbers had been high, but last year the youngest team, which is atom, had a tough time filling the roster.
“The peak was after (the national women’s team) won gold at the winter Olympics. We are starting to get a decline in new girls registering. The bantam and midgets have big numbers but the atoms struggled to put a full team together,” explained Skarsen.
He added, that he has seen the numbers increasing in baseball with the success of the Toronto Blue Jays. But, now since the Canadian Women’s team hasn’t been in the news recently the numbers of girls registering for minor hockey is lower.
“I think they go hand-in-hand when the kids see the pros have success, locally that helps the program,” said Skarsen.
BMHA is working on some programs to try to improve these numbers.
“We’re working on a few initiatives to get hockey back in the girls minds and Hockey Alberta is as well, to keep those programs going.”