Minor hockey a community affair in Prince Edward County

This story was published in the Fall 2022 edition of Total Sports Quinte magazine

Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte

Prince Edward County Minor Hockey is about communities coming together. Local arenas are the meeting place.

In fact, that’s how the association was started as a result of amalgamation between the former Picton Minor Hockey Association and Wellington Minor Hockey Association for the 1990-91 season. Both organizations had less than 350 active players by the late 1980’s. Three years following the merger, the number of players had grown above 550.

Players are getting set for the 2022-23 season at Lehigh Arena in Wellington and the Prince Edward Community Centre in Picton.

“We are very excited to hopefully have a more normal hockey season here,” said PECMHA president Heather Zantingh. “We have started tryouts for rep hockey and dust off the rust skates for local league players.”

Rep tryouts began in early September for some Prince Edward County Kings teams and concluded late in the month. The Kings compete in the OMHA’s Eastern Ontario Minor Hockey League at the U11, U13, U15 and U18 age levels.

In 2020, the Kings won the Ontario Minor Hockey Association U15 ‘B’ championship as COVID-19 was emerging and the following season was disrupted.

Three teams (U11, U15 and U18) from Prince Edward County advanced to last year’s new OMHA Championship Weekend with the U18 group playing its way into the semifinals. The Kings teams are looking forward to another successful season.

House league, known as Local League, had registration open until Oct. 1. from under-7 to under-18.

Local League teams in the County compete against Stirling, Deseronto, Napanee, Gananoque and Loyalist.

“Local League teams practice and play in what we have named ICHL (Inter-Community Hockey League) to give them more exposure to other teams and make it more fun for all our players by doing some travelling,” Zantingh said, adding that a lot of the coaches enter their team into at least one tournament during the season.

PECMHA hosts tournaments of its own as well, starting the 11th annual Prince Edward County Milk Tournament, sponsored by Recharge with Milk, from Oct. 28 to 30.

All divisions are full as the tournament was offered to teams from U11 to U18 and in the rep categories of BB, B, CC, C, DD and D.

“There will be some great hockey from players U11 to U18,” Zantingh said. “It takes great volunteers to make this event and we are very grateful to the milk producers for sponsoring us for the 11th year.”

Sponsors are so key for organizations to run. For instance there’s the atomMC divisions sponsored by McDonalds.

Of course, has Tim Hortons has been a longtime sponsor of the U7 players, known as Timbits.

“We are committed to making a meaningful difference in our communities. This includes our Timbits Hockey program that has been running for over 30 years now,” said Paul Massey, owner of Tim Hortons restaurants in Picton and Wellington. “More than 96,000 players participated last season, with over 2,100 right here in the Quinte and Northumberland region alone. As the hockey season kicks off, we’re on track to surpass that number already!”

Zantingh added “we are lucky in the County to have great sponsors for all our divisions.”

She also lauded the work of all volunteers from executive members to coaches, bench staff and more “that work endless hours to make our season great.” She noted the popular U5 – Intro to Hockey program that fills up fast each year and is run by Darren and Debbie Yuill.

“They are amazing volunteers who have run this program for so many years for us,” Zantingh remarked. “We could not do it without them and they have started so many young players into hockey.”

Check out more about the association at www.pecmha.com