For the first time in this century, Hope and District Minor Hockey is fielding an Atom rep team — and the boys are already showing that they are competitive in their tier.
“The last rep team we had was five or six years ago,” said head coach Ric Hampton. “There hasn’t been an Atom rep since I’ve been here and I’ve been involved for 15 years.”
Hampton’s kids have graduated from minor hockey but he says he loves coaching so much that he keeps on coming out. In fact, he also took on the first vp’s position. It’s not as if Hampton lives next door to the rink either. He lives way up the east side of Harrison Lake, near Sasquatch Park.
“Jesse James did a lot of the leg work this summer,” said Hampton. “He got 15 kids interested in it and asked me to be the coach. They’ve got 13 on the house team. The interest has come from Agassiz-Harrison and Hope.”
The Atom team is the only rep team in Hope and Hampton said the league is run in a different way than the Bantam and Midget rep teams of past years, when Hope teams had to travel to Whistler and the Sunshine Coast to play teams from similar-sized ‘single-A’ associations. This allowed the smaller associations a chance at making it to provincial championships against teams of similar abilities.
“There are no Provincials in Atom, so they do it a little different,” explained the coach. “We have four tiers in the Fraser Valley conference, which goes as far as Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. It was called ‘Developmental’ for at least the last five years. Now they’re back to calling it Atom rep.”
Travel – especially on school nights – was an issue for past rep teams from Hope but Hampton said their latest weekday start is 7:30 p.m. for home games on Thursdays.
“Before tiering, we played six exhibition games,” said Hampton. “We tied 3-3 and lost 3-2 against a Tier 4 team, lost 4-0 and 4-1 against Tier 2 teams and only lost 3-2 against a Tier 3 team.
“The league is starting us out in Tier 4, because we haven’t been involved for such a long time. I think they’ll be very competitive in Tier 4 and I hope we’ll get to Tier 3. These kids can skate!”
A smooth skater in his Hope Minor Hockey days, from 1989 to 1996, Jeremy Fossum came back as a hockey dad, starting as a coach and then moving up to club president.
Fossum said the club got squeezed on numbers this year in Pee Wee, Bantam and Midget, partly due to ten Pee Wee and higher players going to play rep hockey in Chilliwack and Abbotsford. This left the local club too short on players in some divisions to form a second team.
“Due to the lack of numbers, we were forced to waitlist a few players,” said Fossum. “As we had enough numbers for just one team in most divisions we arranged a ‘joint team’ agreement with Chilliwack to allow these waitlisted players an opportunity to play this year.
“Compared to last year’s 145 registrations, the club has signed 116 this year.
“We’ve been trying to find ways to increase registration for next year — or at the very least maintain our current numbers,” said Fossum. “For one, HDMHA has a raffle for those who sign up during early registration at our AGM and the prize is paid registration fees for the upcoming season for one player.
“Our fees are the lowest in the Fraser Valley East, and have not been raised in years,” added the president.
Hope Minor Hockey’s series of annual tournaments is a great way to keep hockey in the public eye and the public are welcome to attend the events at no charge.
First up is the Atom C (house) tournament, from November 4 to 6.
The PeeWees are next, from December 2 – 4, followed by the Midgets on January 6 – 8.
The Atom reps are hosts from January 13 – 15, 2012 and the Bantams have their house tourney from Feb. 3 – 5, 2012.
Hockey 2 and 3 have their big event from Feb. 24 – 26 and the Hockey 4s close out the tournament schedule from Mar. 9 – 11, 2012.