When it comes to minor hockey in the east end of Toronto, West Hill is a hotbed of hidden talent.
Phil Carter, the West Hill Golden Hawks general manager, knows about hockey in the community.
“West Hill is very strong for hockey players,” Carter said. “At the young ages we are deep with good players. The future is going to be very bright.”
However, the future of the club was not always positive. The Golden Hawks have been through a lawsuit, a league change, an executive change and a calibre change in the past three years.
The Hawks, which once belonged to the now dismantled Scarborough Hockey Association, fought tooth and nail against a league that sought to fold all teams and create one massive Scarborough organization.
“The SHA, trying to save their league, decided in a last-ditch effort that they wanted to save some kind of a rep league and were going to fold all the clubs in Scarborough into one giant Scarborough house league,” explained Carter.
“We totally were against that … We took the liberty of polling our parents and voting … We had 99.9 per cent backing from the parents to leave the SHA,” he said.
After winning the lawsuit with the SHA to obtain the exclusive rights to the West Hill Golden Hawks club, they wasted no time in joining the Greater Toronto Hockey League at the A level.
“Most of the coaches and a lot of players wanted to go to the GTHL anyway which is more competitive,” said Carter.
With the Golden Hawks in the GTHL and competing against more A teams across the city, pushing for higher AA level teams was now in their sights. When they were without West Hill AA teams, many players had to go to other Toronto clubs to compete at the proper skill level.
“Part of that is getting AA. We started automatically with A teams [in the GTHL] and we are doing our AA gradually, so it makes a huge difference because that’s where you lose most of your players,” Carter said.
The progression of the Golden Hawks club over the past three years was a daunting task. But now that they have put a legitimate GTHL club back in the east Scarborough area, the challenge is to bring back the players and families who left the community organization.
“We have great loyalty, when our families leave, they usually leave reluctantly because there is no option for them,” said Carter. “It doesn’t happen overnight, usually they come back if you are successful and you have good programs. Good players follow good programs, so we have been trying to build our programs up.”
Perhaps the West Hill Golden Hawks’ most challenging endeavour is yet to come. Carter would like to create a AAA team in the east end of the city, but that is a venture for sometime in the future.
“It’s down the road. I would love to bring that to the east end of the city. There should be an east-end AAA team. There’s 700,000 people in Scarborough, they can support it, there is just not a lot of understanding of Scarborough from the rest of the GTHL,” explained Carter.
Carter’s hope is that local players will have a club to be proud of once again.