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Youth Hockey – Coming to an Arena Near You!

I’m not good at winter. Mostly, this is because I hate driving in snow, but I also like to hibernate a lot in the season. Hunkering down during winter storms is my jam. Yet, there is one thing that drags me out of the house in the winter without fail. Hockey.

Thank goodness for hockey. I would venture to say that there are many of us that need hockey to sur-vive the winter. It’s something to look forward to for those who love to play and those who love to cheer them on. I will drive through quite a bit of snow to go watch hockey.

Youth hockey registration opened early for both Two Harbors (at the beginning of August) and Silver Bay/Grand Marais (mid-August). Those who have been eagerly awaiting the season hopped online to sign up to play. Over 100 young players have registered as of early September. The earlier open registration allows for better planning for the season ahead.

Planning ahead is important to both the Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association and the Silver Bay Blue Line Club in more than one way. To sign up for tournaments throughout the state, the teams need to ensure they will have participation in each division. An average of 160-180 youth sign up for hockey and in the past, before the wide spread adoption of online registration, coaches and board members would proactively reach out to families to inquire about plans for the season.

Also, Two Harbors and Silver Bay/Grand Marais need to deter-mine their combined teams. Last year, an agreement was made that the associations would partner together to form teams and provide players. Each association runs their own Mites but when the kids reach Squirts U10 (9 and 10 years old), the teams are formed from both programs.

The partnership has many advantages. “The larger the numbers the better,” said Shawn “Lundy” Lundgren, Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association Director. “There are particular age groups where if the two communities were not combined there would not be a team in that particular area.”

It also provides an opportunity for players to grow up together. “By the time they hit high school, they’ve had an opportunity to play together for six years,” Lundy told me. “These players are able to form relationships, friendships, the ability to skate together and grow together as they get older.”

“The communities complement each other very well,” Lundy added, calling the partnership a “win-win.”

Another “win-win” is the agreement with hockey parents that it is required to provide volunteer hours for the teams. This helps to keep costs down. In other com-munities, registration can be in the thousands. The help of the parents and other volunteers means less outsourcing and the programs have been able to keep registration costs in the low hundreds. With the costs of traveling and equipment, the more affordable fee means more families can be involved in hockey.

 “We say the team on the ice is only as good as the team off the ice,” Lundy said. Having parents and volunteers involved creates a supportive community for the players. Otherwise, according to Lundy, “There is no way in heck we could do it.”

Adding to the affordability of the local hockey programs, first year players are free and there is some help with the equipment, as well. “We provide equipment as needed and based on what we have available,” Nick Bjerken, of the Silver Bay Blue Line Club, wrote in an email to me. “We ordered ten new sets of equipment.” This is in an effort, especially, for younger kids (who grow so fast) to give them the chance to see if the sport is for them.

For some, hockey registration may feel like RSVP’ing for a family reunion. Players are excited to soon be back on the ice with their friends. Newbies are ready to meet the family and learn how to hockey. Hockey parents, too, may be looking forward to seeing other hockey parent friends. It’s a family formed of communities that love the sport, and I can’t wait to cheer along with the crowds.

Lundy urges players to sign up ASAP and Nick advises to register by end of September. For Two Harbors visit www.twoharborsyouthhockey.org  and click on the registration tab. For Silver Bay and Grand Marais, log onto www.silverbayhockey.com.  The information is on their home page. You can also email silverbayhockey@gmail.com  with questions. Have a great season, teams!

Feel free to reach out to sarahwritesnsj@yahoo.com  with any news we should news about!

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