SHA ready to hit the ice after rocky offseason

After a tumultuous season last year that saw the remaining competitive Scarborough Hockey Association teams folded into the Greater Toronto Hockey League, the SHA is ready to turn a new page.

But not without a few minor glitches first.

In the offseason, the SHA attempted to launch a minor development league to replace the now-defunct A-level league.

But on July 24, the development league was benched before it ever got a chance to hit the ice.

“It was just the numbers, the same plight as we have been dealing with for some time now,” said Ed Wahl, SHA president.

The planned development league was to give kids in Scarborough the opportunity to play competitive hockey without having to travel to North York or Toronto proper to find a team.

While the league was unable to get going, it wasn’t for lack of effort.

“The decision comes after the SHA spent approximately $5,000 on promotion and advertising of the new program,” Wahl said in a press release this summer. “We mailed information packages to every player registered in the SHA during the 2009-10 season, conducted two public information sessions and held 13 registration nights in an attempt to recruit youth to the program.”

At the time of the decision to cancel the league, only 44 players had enrolled — 152 were required. Wahl still hopes to one day establish the program.

“It’s not off the table,” Wahl said. “We’ll bring it to the parents next year and see what the level of interest is like.”

Last year, after several years of insufficient interest and steadily declining numbers, the SHA finally could no longer support its competitive hockey league, forcing amalgamation with the GTHL.

“You can’t run six competitive organizations when you can’t even get 100 kids together,” Wahl said.

Regardless of these setbacks, Wahl said the future is bright for the SHA and the league still strives to provide affordable hockey for both competitive and house league players.

“Registration has been very strong this year,” Wahl said. “Hopefully the growing pains are over.

“All the publicity we’ve had, bad or good, it brought attention to what we’re trying to do here.”

Wahl estimates the SHA will run 60 house league teams and cater to approximately 1,000 players this season through its Scarborough Youth Hockey League.  Players who want to play competitive hockey can enroll in the Scarborough Ice Raiders, which will compete in the GTHL.

“Practices are held at our facilities in Scarborough, but the games will be held in North York or some of the GTHL arenas,” Wahl said.  “It is absolutely more expensive, but it’s still the cheapest hockey in the city.

“As much as things have changed, we still try to provide the most accessible, economic hockey in the city,” Wahl said. “It’s still a work in progress but things are coming together.”