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.
March 27, 2017 | When USA Hockey implemented its American Development Model in 2009, one element of the nationwide age-appropriate training blueprint sparked more debate than any other: cross-ice hockey for 8U players. In the years since, an abundance of evidence, both data-driven and anecdotal, has proven the developmental advantages of cross-ice hockey.
This week, Hockey Canada announced that it too will introduce its players to the game through cross-ice play beginning in 2017-18.
“Re-sizing the playing surface to cross-ice or half-ice means more puck touches, which result in more chances to practice puck control and shooting, as well as overall more movement and motor skill-development – twisting, turning, balance, coordination, agility,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada, in a release today. “Their field-of-play matches their size, and these players hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”
The Grassroots Show on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 weighed in on the decision. Click the audio link below to hear how Canada is embracing cross-ice hockey for the coming season and beyond.
Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, appeared on the Grassroots Show to discuss the nationwide shift to cross-ice hockey, beginning this fall for 5- and 6-year-olds and expanding to all of Canada's Novice (8U) level in 2018-19.
“When you see 10 or 12 or 14 or 16 kids out on the ice in between periods and they’re playing 200-by-85 and 3 or 4 kids touch the puck in that whole six minutes, yet there’s people in the stands clapping and thinking it’s wonderful, I just can’t help but think about the 95 percent of the children that didn’t even touch the puck or get from one end of the rink to the other and I ask myself what are we doing when the opportunity is certainly there to have 30 kids on the ice playing cross-ice and everyone is having a much better opportunity to touch the puck, skate a shorter distance and really play. It just boggles my mind,” said Renney.
“We completely embrace, at the Initiation level and the Novice level, cross-ice hockey and we have mandated that in the Initiation program and we will mandate it across the country in Novice hockey.
“This is about the pure enjoyment of the game, and your first connection with it has to be something that’s pure fun, on a surface of play that is conducive to much more participation and joy.”
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