Build arenas with multiple ice surfaces….
Provide better equipment for young hockey players….
Raise the temperature in the rinks to accommodate older fans….
Find new ways to sell the sport to new Canadians….
Scarborough residents had lots of suggestions for improving the state of hockey in Scarborough, the task force researching the problem heard at a meeting at the McGregor Park Recreation Centre on April 17.
The problem is that many of these suggestions may not feasible due to a lack of funding, say local officials.
“Some of them are pie-in-the-sky, but other pie-in-the-sky things in our lifetime have been realized,” said Margo Cowie, a hockey mom and member of the hockey task force created by Scarborough Community Council to investigate on the state of minor hockey in Scarborough.
Cowie believes addressing minor hockey is an urgent matter.
“If we don’t change the conversation soon I think what you’re going to see is the programs will fold, and once they fold it is so hard to start them back,” she said. “I think to rebuild them is a lot easier when they’re still there.”
Scarborough Hockey Association president John Kelloway also outlined his vision of hockey in Scarborough at the meeting:
“One house league with a strong select program, with a middle ground of what we call ‘minor development’ and one ‘A’ club representing Scarborough and if we do our job well enough, one ‘AA’ club,” he said.
“It would be dreamy to have a ‘AAA’ club but there are enough kids playing in the [Greater Toronto Hockey League] that could build that ‘AAA’ club in Scarborough.”
The SHA is feeling the effects of low enrolment and high costs for minor hockey in Scarborough, as the association spiraled into turmoil and eventually merged with the GTHL.
The meeting was co-chaired by Ward 37 councillor Michael Thompson and GTHL executive director Scott Oakman.
“What we are trying to do is research, fact-find and then sit down as a committee to assess the information that we’ve gathered from the public,” Thompson said. “Then to come up with some recommendations and refine those in such a way that we can attempt to meet our mandate.”
Thompson first brought this issue to the attention of Scarborough Community Council after finding it difficult to enroll his son in minor hockey.
The GTHL’s Oakman, who played his minor hockey in the SHA system, said that minor hockey in Scarborough has not changed with the times to accommodate shifting demographics. Oakman said that the SHA’s amalgamation into the GTHL has seen positive results so far.
“The sentimental side of me is sad to see the former structure change, but then the other side of it is that if we don’t change we’re going to get left behind,” said Oakman.
Thompson recognizes he has taken on a challenging cause.
“This is a very difficult job, actually,” he said. “It’s not easy because everyone has their own ideas and formulas to make hockey work. People are very passionate about their hockey so it’s exciting we are going to take on this challenge.”
The McGregor Park Recreation Centre will host another minor hockey summit on April 24.