A Range of Options
As a community minor hockey association the WSMHA’s primary
mandate is to provide our members with the widest possible range of options
when it comes to youth hockey. Key factors in determining the range of
options include, of course, the size of the player pool and availability of
facilities. Within these parameters we currently offer recreational
programs for players aged five to twenty and for most cohorts a choice of two
competitive/representative programs (AA and A) for players seven through
eighteen. More highly skilled Stouffville residents also have access to AAA
programs through our affiliation with the Markham Waxer AAA Zone.
Minor Development (MD)
While the program structure just described has served us reasonably well over the years, some additional complexities were introduced with the advent of a new program called Minor Development (MD). The OMHA defines an MD team as “a team from a AAA, AA or A Centre that participates at a level above House League but lower than Representative Not only is it not considered a Representative hockey program there are currently no OMHA MD Championships (although that may change as early as next season). Most importantly for our purposes here MD, unlike Representative programs, does not permit body-checking U14 and up. It is also residency based; players may only play MD for the centre in which they reside.
The no body-checking rule for MD presents the WSMHA with some tough choices We believe that body-checking is a teachable hockey skill- like skating, passing and shooting. We also believe that a successful AA program is at least somewhat dependant on the ability of players in the 14-17 age group to progress to AA hockey- a task made much more difficult if they have not had the opportunity to develop their body-checking skills. At the same time, we must also recognize that some players might want to play at a competitive level without the physical demands imposed by body-checking. In an ideal world the dilemma would be solved by offering both- an A program with body-checking and a MD program with no body-checking. It’s here that the size of the current Stouffville player pool becomes a major obstacle. Current registration numbers for recreational and representative programs will not support two Rep teams, an MD team and a minimum of four House League teams. In the absence of a larger player pool, two Rep teams and an MD team could only come at the expense of a stand-alone House League program for U15-U16. As a no body-checking alternative to MD we could offer Rostered Select teams for these age groups and maintain a Stouffville House League.
As we have done in the past, the WSMHA will offer body-checking clinics to all players in the U13 cohort to help them make an informed decision moving forward. Once the U14 AA team has been selected we will poll all players trying out for the second team as to their preference- A (body-checking) or MD (no body-checking). We will be guided by the views of the majority. We appreciate that this is not an ideal solution, but it appears to be the only realistic one under the circumstances.