JUST A NUM­BERS GAME

Hockey Cal­gary bound­ary shuffle seen as ‘nec­es­sary evil’ for player bal­ance

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - ZACH LAING 403.250.4122 [email protected]­media.com @zjlaing

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.”

AL CHAREST/POST­MEDIA

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.

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