It’s South Delta Minor Hockey’s own version of “Saturday Night Live” and it’s keeping kids in the sport who otherwise wouldn’t be.
When a group of SDMHA Bantam coaches realized a significant number of players didn’t plan on continuing on to the Midget age level this season, they wanted to come up with an alternative.
Part-time jobs, school work and other sports can provide plenty of conflicts for 15-to-17-year-olds. But would about an option that required just a one night commitment per week in the same venue each time?
The SDMHA’s SNL program was born.
“We were looking at the numbers coming up and how many would be dropping off. We tried to come up with something that would allow this age group to continue on playing hockey,” explained Rick Albus, one of seven former coaches involved in the new program. “We have based it on a typical senior men’s league with all games and no practices. The kids end up playing as many games as a regular house team does.”
A game slot was secured at 9 p.m. on Saturdays at Tilbury Ice. Sometimes the start time is moved up if SDMHA’s make-up ice time is available that week. There are a total of 20 weekly games with the player cost being around $250 for the season.
Given the program wasn’t launched until after SDMHA’s 2018-19 registration dates, the initial response has been excellent with boys and girls signing up, mostly 15-year-olds.
Groups of five are created and are moved around to form teams of 10 to create a variety of opponents throughout the season. The games are officiated and penalty shots are awarded instead of two-minute minors.
“We keep it light hearted. We have found the game itself is a lot more offensive,” continued Albus. “Kids get to practice their skills more.
“There’s an extreme wide variety of skill levels here. Everything from beginners to kids who were playing rep who decided it was too much. Guys are getting a chance to play with each other for the first time since they were younger.”
Albus praised the efforts of SDMHA president Ken Elmer and administrator Tracey Derrheim who have endorsed the program and made sure it has run smoothly. A list of available house players has been created if the numbers are a little short for a particular week.
Albus would like to see more goaltenders coming out to play, however, they are confident more kids will come onboard next season.
The Tilbury Sports Grill has even extended its hours so parents and friends can watch the action from upstairs.
“We want people to know this now exists as another option for hockey to keep playing kids in the game as long as they can,” addd Albus. “The nice thing (as parents) is knowing this age group is here on Saturday nights playing hockey.”
There are six more sessions left in the current season. Any former SDMHA midget age players wanting to come out can reach Rick Albus at email@example.com.