The Scarborough Hockey Association will not be closing its doors at the end of this season.
A survey taken at Commander Park Arena and Don Montgomery Arena showed 90 per cent of the respondents wish to keep the league alive. With such overwhelming support, the executives of the SHA would not have the authority to merge the league with the Greater Toronto Hockey League.
Only 670 players enrolled in the league this year according to the SHA. So few players enrolled in the minor atom (age nine) and atom (age 10) age groups that these teams have already been forced to merge into the GTHL.
“We know (the decline in enrolment) has been happening for a long time,” Ward 37 councillor Michael Thompson said. “The SHA itself as an organization should shoulder some of the blame and responsibility, because I don’t think they were doing enough to reach out.”
If the league were to collapse into the GTHL, there would be only enough room to accommodate 180 to 210 players, according to the SHA. The rest of the players would be forced to move down to the Scarborough Youth Hockey League, a house-league that does not offer the same competitive level as the SHA.
Parents of SHA hockey players have also been concerned about the added costs and time commitment that would result if their children have to play in the GTHL. It costs an average of $1,200 to play a season in the SHA, compared to $2,500 in the GTHL.
The SHA has created a five-year plan to market itself to local cultures and communities in their own languages. It is also creating a program to grant $24,000 annually to underprivileged youth, giving them the opportunity to play.
“I think it has to be a model that fits the desire of the parents, and the desire of the players in Scarborough,” Thompson said. “A lot of parents don’t want to travel across town to play hockey.”
With low initial enrolment figures, the SHA may have to continue to merge some age groups with the GTHL, but league officials are still hopeful that five-years from now they will be back on track, meeting their goal of 1,050 players.