By Kaia Scholtz
Murray Middle School eighth-grader
Supposedly Minnesota is the “State Of Hockey.”
However, roughly 60 percent of kids across the USA drop (http://www.espn.com/nhl/notebook/_/page/buccigross_101129/producing-elite-us-players-starts-bottom) out of hockey after the Pee Wee level (when checking starts). Why? Commitment, safety, cost, and accessibility are a few of the big reasons kids don’t stay on the ice. The same is true in Langford Park.
Which is why—with lots of support from both Courtney Moriarty at Langford Park Rec Center and Scott Hamilton, director for the Langford Park Hockey Association—a few families came together this fall to create a coached teen hockey club that meets for indoor and outdoor practices and informal pick-up games.
This club is co-ed, non-checking, and focused on fun. For my family, no checking was a big factor because of all the research that reveals the adverse impact of concussions on players’ lives. In 2011, for example, USA hockey banned checking at the Pee Wee level because of research on the dangerous and lasting effects of even minor head injuries.
Our club includes everyone from beginners to those who have played up to 8 years on organized teams. Those who have played a lot before simply have other interests and commitments that don’t match the intense schedule required by other leagues for this age group. For those who haven’t had a chance to learn to play before, it’s a fun way to test out “the greatest sport on the planet.” (OK, I’m biased.)
“The fact that we encourage first-time players to join is almost unheard of at this age,” Moriarity says. “All teen programming is important, especially in this day and age where young people can just stow away in their rooms with phones or computers and never create real connections with real people.”
Derek Ricke, vice-president of administration for the Minnesota Hockey Rec League, agrees.
“There’s really a nationwide trend across all youth sports of dropping participation because of the increase in intensity and commitment levels at younger ages.” In contrast, the hockey rec program, which includes more than 600 players spread out across 41 teams, matches Langford’s focus (on a much larger scale) on the importance of low-cost, co-ed, lower commitment, non-checking options for teens.
What the Minnesota Hockey Rec League offers is weekly refereed games for those who love a little more competition and a few practices. Hamilton worked with the Minnesota Hockey Rec League to make sure that teens on the Langford Club, who wanted officiated games against other teams, could all be on the same rec team.
Eric Hedblom, president of the Minnesota Hockey Rec League, made it clear that he and others are devoted to this alternative model of growing hockey in Minnesota.
“Our goal,” he said, “is for every player to have a fun and safe experience playing hockey, while hopefully developing lifelong hockey players who play it because they love the game!”
“We may just be scratching the surface of the actual demand for this type of hockey option,” Ricke added.
Thanks to Hamilton, Moriarty, Minnesota Rec Hockey, and the teenagers who play for the club team for making all of this possible! We have so much fun and you should join!
For further information:
Langford Teen Hockey Club
Practices Tuesdays and Thursdays 5 p.m. at Langford Park Rec Center, 30 Langford Park, weather permitting (with occasional indoor ice)
MN Hockey Rec League