Cut­ting down the an­gles

Bay Arena mi­nor tak­ing unique ap­proach to at­tract­ing goal­tenders

The Compass - - ORTHTE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE COM­PASS

Find­ing — and keep­ing — young goal­tenders can be a tricky busi­ness in mi­nor hockey, es­pe­cially at the younger lev­els.

Ei­ther the player is not too fond of hav­ing pucks fired at them at high speeds, or the con­stant scru­tiny goal­tenders face to­day, even at the low­est level, is a de­ter­rent.

With that in mind, the Bay Arena Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion has in­tro­duced a unique new ini­tia­tive for first-time goal­tenders, which it hopes will ad­dress the ten­der short­age, and help on par­ents’ pock­et­books.

Dubbed the goal­tender in­cen­tive pro­gram, it fo­cuses on ath­letes in the lower di­vi­sions of mi­nor hockey — squirt, novice and atom.

Here’s how it works. When a first-time mi­nor hockey player signs up as a goal­tender, and then plays the full year, the house league fees for that year — some $300-plus for the first child in a fam­ily — will be re­im­bursed.

“That is to help off­set the cost of buy­ing goalie equip­ment,” said Bay Arena mi­nor pres­i­dent Brian Drover.

That does not mean par­ents have to go out and spend a great deal of money on goal­tender gear, since the as­so­ci­a­tion has its own in­ven­tory of equip­ment.

For Drover, the idea is looked upon as a “proac­tive ap­proach” to a prob­lem that has been a thorn in the as­so­ci­a­tion’s side for a num­ber of years.

“Goalies are al­ways a pre­mium and in short sup­ply,” he said.

The as­so­ci­a­tion has long of­fered dis­counts to goal­tenders as a way to help en­cour­age chil­dren to step be­tween the pipes.

But, he be­lieves this is the first time such a deal has been struck.

“We’ve al­ways had dis­counts, but noth­ing like this,” he stated.

Craig Tulk, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor with Hockey New­found­land and Labrador, said the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ing body is in full sup­port of what Bay Arena mi­nor is do­ing.

“We sup­port any pro­grams an as­so­ci­a­tion does that helps pro­mote that po­si­tion,” he said.

Find­ing goal­tenders at the lower lev­els of mi­nor hockey can be a chal­lenge for any as­so­ci­a­tion and Hockey NL ac­knowl­edges that it could be hap­pen­ing else­where.

“We haven’t done a study or any­thing like that, just by word of mouth, but I would spec­u­late that it is,” said Tulk.

Real teach­ing of the goal­tender po­si­tion usu­ally does not hap­pen un­til the atom division, he added.

This can present a prob­lem in get­ting chil­dren in­ter­ested in play­ing the po­si­tion.

“It’s a catch-22,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, if you have a child who is five or six and has an in­ter­est in the po­si­tion, we should do ev­ery­thing we can to com­ply with that re­quest, but also re­al­ize that if they don’t stay there, they have to be in­volved in skill de­vel­op­ment as well.”

With the sup­port of Hockey NL, it would ap­pear that Bay Arena mi­nor is mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion to at­tract new play­ers to the goal­tend­ing po­si­tion.

nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/the Com­pass

Bay Arena Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Brian Drover.

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