JUST A NUMBERS GAME
Hockey Calgary boundary shuffle seen as ‘necessary evil’ for player balance
As the 40th annual Esso Minor Hockey Week kicks off, Hockey Calgary is once again re-examining boundaries for its associations.
The group, which last looked at boundaries in 2015, said the changes made then had the desired effect for “the first couple years,” but have once again outgrown the changes.
“The challenge is that the City of Calgary grows in many different ways and the demographics of the city don’t always align, so to speak,” said Kevin Kobelka, executive director of Hockey Calgary.
In 2015, the changes affected 10 associations across the city, one of which was a merger of the Shaw Meadows and Southland associations. There were 13 Calgary communities that saw players transfer organizations that year, while new communities like Stonegate Landing, Cityscape and Belvedere were added to an organization.
One of the biggest challenges Hockey Calgary is faced with is the way hockey players are unevenly distributed across the ever-growing city — some associations have fewer than 500 players and others have over 1,100 players.
It’s an issue that creates discrepancies in competitive balance, seeding, evaluations, volunteer burn out and access to ice, Kobelka said.
“There is a disparity and it’s quite the bit of imbalance,” he said. “People are very loyal to their associations and it makes it tough. All the associations have a seat at the table and they’re aware of some of the things we’re looking at.”
Nothing is set in stone when it comes to changes, Kobelka said, but there have been active discussions going on for months.
“There’s been no decision made, and there’s numerous scenarios. The whole goal is to try to balance equitability and give everyone the same opportunity,” he said.
“It’s a necessary evil and not a fun process, but we’re doing our very best so every player in Calgary has the equal opportunity to succeed. Some families will be affected more than others, but we want to do it for the greater good of all hockey, not just a few families.”
This past year was the first season in which Hockey Calgary introduced half-ice hockey for novice level players, a change that has been welcomed, Kobelka said.
“There’s been some great wins and a few hiccups … but overall we’re quite happy with the program,” he said.
“The biggest thing is we’re seeing kids getting more ice time, we see the kids getting more puck touches, more shots on goal, passes completed.
“That’s the important thing — it’s about developing them for the future. We feel, along with Hockey Canada, that this is the right move going forward.”
Minor Novice Division 3 - Northwest Warriors’ Christopher Howell takes a shot on Benjamin Degenhardt of the Lake Bonavista Breakers during the opening of Esso Minor Hockey Week on Saturday at Flames Community Arena.