Ames Minor Hockey Association president Stacy Woodward considers what might have happened had the AMHA not been established back in 1976-77 in the Iowa college town.
“Boys would have to travel to Des Moines, Mason City, Iowa City, Waterloo or Cedar Rapids,” Woodward said. “They all have teams. Des Moines ‘only’ is 30 miles away. But Iowa City and Cedar Rapids are 1.5 hours away.
“When you’re going every night for practice, it’s a long drive. We serve central Iowa and fill a need.”
This season the AMHA filled a need for more than 2,500 families in central Iowa. And according to Woodward, the AMHA has plans that should enable the association to entice new players to register next season.
“We’re working on growing the program through a new learn-to-play program, which we’re implementing next season,” Woodward said. “It’s not a new concept, but we’ve found the interest in hockey is growing around the area.
“We have a new minor league team, the Iowa Wild [the Minnesota Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate]. Having the Iowa Wild and all the promotions they’re doing has sparked interest in youth and parents in the game. And the Olympic year sparks interest.”
The Iowa Wild play in the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, and AMHA teams are familiar with that venue.
“Our Mites and Squirts play cross-ice, mini-games during intermission at Iowa Wild games,” Woodward said. “Kids have been exposed to the AHL experience.”
Another reason why the AMHA could register more players is its try-hockey-for-free day.
“We had a try-hockey-for-free day, which attracted over 100 kids who registered for that in February,” Woodward said. “We’ve had it before, but that was a couple of years ago. We plan another in September prior to the start of the season; we’ll have a fall and spring try-hockey-for-free day.
“We had a great turnout. If we get 10 percent of the kids to come back, that would be great.”
This season the AMHA fielded Tykes, Mites Squirts Black and Orange, Peewees White and Orange, Bantams and a club team that came under the association’s umbrella. Woodward said that team is the equivalent of Midgets.
“Hockey isn’t a big sport around here, which makes it difficult to recruit new members,” admitted Woodward. “Basketball is a big sport around here.
“We draw from other communities. We’re based out of Ames and draw from communities from 30 miles around. It’s a neat thing, especially when you’re in high school and playing with kids from different schools to create one team. That’s not uncommon in a metropolitan area. But in a small town, it’s unique to draw from so many communities for one team.”
One noteworthy goal of the AMHA is to develop boys to play for Ames High School. And if some boys develop the skills to go on and play juniors and perhaps college hockey, that would lend more credence to the association’s mission.
“The mission of the AMHA is to promote the enjoyment and competitive benefits of youth hockey to Ames and the surrounding communities,” Woodward said. “It is the goal of the AMHA to teach the fundamentals of hockey, sportsmanship, teamwork and character development and, additionally, to encourage players to strive for improvement in their personal development and to have a positive experience.”
Several reasons other than those mentioned also factor into AMHA players having “a positive experience.” One is the strong parental support throughout the association.
Another is the ability of the volunteer coaches to develop players from Tykes through high school.
And the fact the association is well organized and well run eliminates problems before they occur.
In addition, the AMHA has developed a positive relationship with Iowa State University’s club hockey team.
“They host clinics for us in the fall,” Woodward said. “They offer summer camps that kids pay for. They attend events like our try-hockey-for-free-day. They come to our Fall Faceoff, which is our kickoff event.
“They attend fund raisers and donate jerseys, ice time and certificates to attend camps. That’s a definite plus and is unique for our association.”
Woodward has been affiliated with the AMHA for eight years and relishes how kids have come to love the game of hockey, how the volunteer coaches develop players and the friendships players have made.
“I’ve derived satisfaction from the friendships my kids have made through the years with their teammates, which transcends their classes at school,” said Woodward. “They’ve developed life-long friendships.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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