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Community Involvement Guides Pine City YHA to Steady, Stable Growth

07/28/2014, 5:15pm EDT
By Mike Scandura - Special to USAHockey.com

The Pine City Youth Hockey Association had served three school districts in east-central Minnesota since the 1970s. For the hockey players in Pine City, Rush City and Hinckley, the association is invaluable to their participation and growth in the sport.

Without the PCYHA, the association’s treasurer Bob Root said, “We would likely have to travel 30 miles to reach the next town that offers a program. Obviously, in Minnesota during the winter, that would pose a considerable challenge.

“I think the diehards would still make that trip. But I don’t think you would see the casual hockey family make the trip. That amount of travel would weed out those folks. Having the association here provides an invaluable opportunity.”

Besides providing an opportunity for kids to learn and play hockey at the youth level, the PCYHA also makes it possible for them to play high school hockey.

“About 90 percent of our kids go on to play high school hockey in the community,” Root said. “Pine City High has boys who play hockey, and so does Rush City High. But because neither school has enough boys to field a full team, there is an agreement with Rush City to field a more competitive co-op team.”

The PCYHA is thriving due to several reasons — not the least of which is that volunteers affiliated with the association built their own facility, the Pine City Civic Center, which opened in 2000.

“We use to travel about 20 miles away to another community to buy ice from another town,” Root said. “It got to the point where we started asking, ‘Why don’t we have our own rink?’ A bunch of hockey families in the mid-’90s started soliciting contributions from local businesses and contractors. We pooled our resources to build something for the kids so they wouldn’t have to travel 20 miles away.

“For example, a local concrete guy came in and laid the foundation. Local electricians came in and did the wiring. It was through the efforts of various businessmen in the community that we were able to get this facility built.”

That stability helped the PCYHA weather the recent recession.

“Through the recession in 2008 and 2009 we maintained the status quo,” Root said. “I checked with District 10 and learned we dropped fewer kids on a percentage basis than any other association in our district.

“Most of the other associations in our district are located in north metro with costs that are considerably higher than ours. Because we kept our costs reasonable compared with some other associations within our district, it enabled the PCYHA to maintain membership at current levels.”

But keeping costs reasonable wasn’t the only reason why the PCYHA was able to continue to grow.

“We have a wide variety [of programs] for kids who want to be ultra-competitive and play at higher levels to those that are out there just wanting to have fun and learning how to skate,” Root said.

Another reason why the PCYHA has grown is its learn-to-play program that spans four Saturdays from mid-October through late November.

Besides offering free ice time, kids can obtain all the gear they need with a refundable $100 deposit, which means families only have to provide their boys with skates and a stick.

“If it turns out that those individuals wish to register, we have a deal where it’s $25 for first-year skaters,” Root said. “It harkens back to why we’ve had success in growing numbers over the years.”

Not to be overlooked is the hockey culture that exists in Minnesota.

“Hockey is very important to the state,” Root said. “From the time we were little kids and the ponds freeze over in November, we strap on skates and skate around on ponds.

“Granted, we have to deal with winter here six months out of the year. But it’s like a snowball rolling downhill. That’s how it becomes ingrained in our minds.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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