Big Time minor hockey rejected in KW

I see that last night Waterloo minor hockey parents rejected a proposal to merge their bantam and midget AAA teams (boys) and form 4 (instead of 8) super teams from KW. The new teams were to have coaches chosen and bankrolled by the Kitchener Rangers, the local Junior A team.

I suspect there were quite a few reasons for the negative feelings about this proposal:

– Big guy (Kitchener) appearing to swallow up little guy (Waterloo)
– Who are the Kitchener Rangers and why are they doing this?
– Why would you remove the opportunity for 60 or so kids to play at the AAA level?
– Backlash to elitism at its seductive finest.

As with any group of people with conflicting interests at stake, it is difficult to see the whole story or even trust that what you are hearing people say is actually what is going on. The big argument in favour of this proposal is that pushing the “elite” players to an even more elite level will benefit someone – presumably the elite players.

Twenty-five years ago I was involved fairly heavily in our local (Woolwich) minor hockey association, and I remember hearing arguments very similar to this back then. We were encouraged to let Kitchener or Waterloo take our best players and let them play at a more “elite” level so they could get better coaching, more ice time, better competition, yada, yada, yada.

I don’t know if that proposal ever went anywhere. But I do know that many of the “elite” players in our organization made it to the Junior A ranks, and some played in the NHL. As far as I know they did it without the helping hand of the big city coaches and organizations.

Virtually every one of those players, by the way, were the stars of their teams when they were 7 or 8 years old. Apparently, deficient coaching and lack of big city opportunity did not hold them back.

I’ve also been involved in minor sports organizations where lack of numbers – players, coaches, organizers – meant lack of opportunity for the kids. If there isn’t a critical mass of players, coaches and organizers the organization will be mediocre at best, and will probably struggle for its own survival.

But that’s not Waterloo. There is a point where smaller is better, and, personally I think Waterloo is at that point.

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