2021-22 SEASON RECAP, News (Waterford Minor Hockey Association)

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2021-22 SEASON RECAP
Submitted By Adam Howe on Thu 05 26, 22
With the conclusion of the 2021-2022 hockey season we would like to thank everyone who participated, volunteered, supported and cheered on our players throughout the year. It was certainly a remarkable season as we slowly emerged from the pandemic and returned to ‘normal’ programming. It was also an opportunity to begin experiencing hockey programming under the Norfolk Hockey partnership, and assessing the impacts of this change at both representative and local league levels.

Below, please find the joint comments of the Presidents of our minor hockey associations (Norfolk/Port Dover/Simcoe/Waterford) on our situation coming into the season, how our season went, and our priorities going forward:

Vision and Priorities

The Norfolk Hockey partnership was created based on the belief that by running joint programming we will best be able to maximize player fun and development. These two priorities drive all of our programming decisions. If our players are having fun and developing, they will get the most from their hockey experience and are more likely to
continue playing this great team game.

How do you maximize fun and development? There are many ways, however from a program structure perspective there are two ways to best position your hockey offering to achieve these objectives: 1) organize players so that they are playing on teams where the disparity in talent is minimized, and 2) support player growth by offering high-qualify, dedicated development opportunities.

It was believed that by working together our associations could best deliver on these key program attributes by running joint “A” level hockey teams through Norfolk Hockey, composed of players from all three associations, and collaborating to run dedicated development sessions at both the representative and recreational levels.

Coming into the 2021-2022 Season

It is important to remember that the Norfolk Hockey partnership’s first year was the 2020- 2021 season, a season significantly impacted by covid restrictions. Programming was run “in-house”, with cohorts and modified game play.

Despite the challenges the year presented, Norfolk Hockey and the three local league associations made every effort to keep our players playing hockey whenever permitted and safe to do so. By working together and combining our players we were also able to divide our players into representative and recreational divisions, helping to ensure they were playing with players of similar ability.

It is easy to assume that all hockey associations were providing this same level of programming throughout this challenging year. Over time we learned that this was not the case. Our players were on the ice more, and in better-structured programming, than in any other association we are aware of. We thank everyone for your understanding of the necessary program adjustments, and your dedication to the sport and your children’s activity.

Why reflect back on the 2020-2021 season at this time? Because the programming offered during that year laid the foundation for the success of our 2021-2022 season, if only because we kept players playing.

Coming into the 2021-2022 hockey season many other hockey associations realized significant reductions in player enrollment. 20-30% membership reductions were not uncommon, and some associations lost as many as 50% of their players. A key driver of this loss was the fact that they didn’t offer regular programming during the 2020-2021 season. By working together we persevered and managed to maintain our enrollment numbers. We thank you for your support throughout that time and we are proud of our success in keeping our players in the game.

2021-2022 Season

Our season began with a successful development and tryout phase for our Norfolk “A” teams. Independent evaluation panels were used, along with skill tracking tools, to help ensure fairness throughout our tryout process. While everyone won’t agree on all final selections, we believe the practices implemented were a significant step forward to improving the team selection process.

From the time we formed our representative and local league teams to the end of the season, we can only describe the year as a tremendous success. Norfolk teams won many tournaments across the province, we captured Niagara League championship banners at multiple divisions, and five of our seven teams qualified for the OMHA Championships in Whitby. We didn’t know how competitive our teams would be when entering the season – as it turns out, the kids of Norfolk can play!

For our local league teams, across all three associations we found teams with great balance that also realized significant success. From tournament to InterTown title wins, to regularly placing near the top of the standings, our local league teams found significant success. The theory that working together at the representative level would allow for improved team structure at the local league level certainly proved accurate.

We were also extremely pleased with the development programs we were able to offer, with high-quality hockey skills, skating and goaltending sessions being offered to both representative and local league teams and players. Specifically, the uptake on our local league development program exceeded our expectations. A special, huge thank you to Amanda Boyd from the Port Dover Skating Club, Howie Garrison of Waterford Minor Hockey, and On Point Goaltending for working with us throughout the year on these programs. The results in our player’s development was tremendous.

We are also excited to be offering spring development and 3on3/4on4 hockey in Waterford. Both programs filled up quickly and have started with strong success. We look forward to expanding these offerings next spring. Most importantly, the overall feedback we have received from players and parents has been extremely positive.

Fun and development - we will keep driving these priorities in everything we do.

Looking Forward

With all that went well during the 2021-2022 season, there are also areas where we believe we can take further steps forward, and other changes we expect to see. Find a few of these below:

Home Games

When the ice schedule was developed for the 2021-2022 season first priority for ice selection was granted to local league play. We don’t regret the principle of this decision, however one consequence of the process was that the majority of Norfolk “A” team games were played in Talbot Gardens. This was due to the need to have hours of continuous game ice to ensure we could schedule referees and timekeepers. We heard feedback from members that it is important to have Norfolk “A” team games played more evenly across all arenas. We agree. Going into next season this will be a strong scheduling priority.

Norfolk Teams in Every Division

At the Norfolk “A” level we were unable to field a U14 team this year. This was due to low player tryout turnout and concern over the competitive level of play. With the success of the Norfolk Knight’s season and the continued development of our players, we are confident we will field a team for this birth year – and all birth years – for next season. (note: 28 players attended both U14 and U15 spring tryouts for next year’s teams, and 37 players attended U16 tryouts – a great early start towards a strong 2022-2023 campaign!)

“Middle” Teams

We proved in the 2021-2022 season that we have many talented players. It was realized that we have players who didn’t make the Norfolk “A” teams who had significant skill and desire to play competitive hockey, and that we also had many local league players who were eager to develop their skills with the prospect of playing competitive hockey in the future.

One way to satisfy these player ambitions is to form select teams composed of local league players. These teams would have additional practice time and participate in select team tournaments. Local league associations did run select teams this year, however we believe this programming could be significantly expanded in the future (ice availability permitting). Our associations are looking to do so in 2021-2022.

A second way to address this issue is to run single-year Norfolk “A” teams (as we do) and then also offer dual-year “B” teams (two year teams, like those offered by our associations prior to our partnership). We believe that if we could offer these additional teams, where we could jointly offer “A”, “B” and local league programming, we would have a great, comprehensive program offering.

When the possibility of such expanded programming was identified as being of interest, the Norfolk board held discussions with Delhi Minor Hockey regarding their interest in partnering with us. We believe such a partnership would be of significant benefit to the programming of both associations. For Norfolk, this would ensure we would be able to run “B” teams at each at division, thereby offering the strong, comprehensive program we envision. We have also made initial connections with other neighbouring hockey associations to see if they have interest in partnering.

We will very shortly share the full details of a one-year Memorandum of Understanding we proposed to Delhi Minor Hockey and which is with their Board for consideration. We will also outline specifically why we believe this direction would improve our hockey program. In the meantime, we will continue to be engaged and open to discussion in this respect with Delhi as well as other possible partners.

Possible League Change

With many hockey associations partnering, as we did two years ago, we are seeing significant changes within the OMHA hockey leagues (InterTown, Southern Counties, Niagara League etc.). For example, we congratulate Caledonia, Cayuga and Dunnville minor hockey associations for the recent approval of their partnership, which will result in a neighbouring Haldimand Hockey “A” centre.

We have been informed that new targets for maximum average travel times will be implemented in the coming year(s), as well as an OHF initiative to possibly see OMHA and Alliance teams play in the same leagues during the regular season. All this is to say that there is a strong possibility that the Norfolk “A” teams may soon find themselves in a newly- formed league (i.e. leaving the Niagara League) and having their travel times reduced. We
support such directions and will update everyone as soon as we learn of such developments.
  
Concluding Remarks

While we remain in the early days of our partnership, the programming impact of our cooperation has been remarkable. We couldn’t have done it without each other and without your support.

We are without a doubt seeing the impact of our joint programming on our players – in both their skating and their smiles.

We thank our respective boards, and most importantly our members, for having an open mind to the possibilities our cooperation could offer, and the courage to take this important step.

As we move forward, we understand that our memberships will again need to vote to support the continuation of our partnership. We have asked the OMHA for direction on this step and will notify our memberships when this direction is received. In the meantime, we ask for your continued support as we take this journey to continually
improve our hockey programming. Together, let’s celebrate our successes to date, while also looking forward to the exciting program enhancements we aim to deliver.

Thanks everyone for a tremendous season.

Go Knights! Go Pirates! Go Warriors! Go Wildcats!
 
Marty Jefferson
President
Norfolk Minor Hockey Association

Mary Kay Vary
President
Port Dover Minor Hockey Association

Adam Howe
President
Waterford Minor Hockey Association

Gordon Malo
President
Simcoe Minor Hockey Association
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