This story was published in the Fall 2022 edition of Total Sports Quinte magazine
Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Members of the Quinte West Minor Hockey Association welcome a return to normalcy, but they’re not satisfied with the status quo.
They’re stepping up the competition.
There are eight Golden Hawks rep teams from U10 to U18, plus a U9 development team, in the Quinte West organization, which is considered an ‘A’ centre. The U13 team has played at the higher ‘AA’ level the past couple of seasons and now the U11 and U12 Golden Hawks are joining them as well.
“Eventually likely we’ll move to be a double-A centre totally…but we’ve been pretty strong in those younger age groups so we’ve decided for them to all move up to the double-A level this year and see what kind of success they have,” said Quinte West Minor Hockey president Mike Boates, noting there’s been strong development of players in the organization.
“Really, to be honest, in Ontario there’s us and Grimsby are the only true ‘A’ centres left so those would be centres where ‘A’ is your top team,” Boates added. “A lot of other centres have triple-A and double-A and then an ‘A’ team after that. It likely won’t be long until we’re probably going to be a ‘AA’ centre anyway so it’s nice to get the younger kids involved at that level now so they’re not getting dumped in there at U15, U16 when they’re introducing contact and the game speeds up enough on its own without moving up a level.”
Boates said registration numbers were down last year, but the organization is seeing a return to the number of players involved before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
House league hockey is shaping up to be strong again and grading to form the teams was taking place as this story was published.
“There’s usually between 30 and 40 house league teams we have in Quinte West so it will be another strong year this year from under-7 right through to under-21 so really 5-6 years old right up to 20.,” Boates said. “Always a good success between the season and there is a couple house league tournaments.”
Quinte West Minor Hockey will once again run its Highway of Heroes Tournament during the Christmas break and the Snowball Express Tournament during the March Break.
Due to uncertainty last fall leading up to more minor hockey shutdowns in December and January, the Highway of Heroes Tournament was cancelled in 2021. The organization was able to go ahead with its Snowball Express in March.
“The plan is to go full steam ahead on both tournaments this year,” Boates said. “The City helps us out with some ice there. It not only makes some money for our organization, but it brings a lot of money into the community as well.”
In the meantime, rep teams are starting their Ontario Minor Hockey Association Lakeshore League seasons with house league to come shortly.
Boates said it’s also great to get young kids introduced to the sport through the Jr. Macs program.
Also, the organization has been able to offer the First Shift program for about the past four years. The program gives children the opportunity to try the sport through development sessions and get outfitted with the necessary equipment, all for a reasonable cost.
When the program ends, players can transition into the house league system if you they choose or perhaps wait until the next year. The First Shift program fills up fast, as it did this year. Watch for announcements from the Quinte West organization around June or July, Boates noted.
Boates is looking forward to an exciting year in Quinte West.
“Really just excited to get back to more of a normal season,” he said. “I’m glad to see the numbers back up to where they were and getting as many kids in as we can.”
Check out www.quintewestminorhockey.com