If you’ve been melting in the recent heat wave, the Hope Arena is now about the coolest place in town to get a break from it.
The ice was officially opened for use last Monday and a handful of local youths were there to lay down the first grooves in the pristine surface.
It used to be tradition to wait until after Brigade Days before laying down the ice — but in recent years, the rec centre has been bringing the opening into mid-August, making it possible for the Hope and District Minor Hockey Association to start their practices a week after schools reopen.
The early ice also gives kids a chance to test out their gear and see if it’s going to need replacement before the season begins. Hope Minor Hockey is helping in that regard, by holding an equipment swap and sale meet at the arena mezzanine on August 31 from 4:30-8:30 p.m.
“If kids have outgrown their gear, they can bring it and trade it or sell it,” said the club’s new president, Pete Lang. “There’s no charge for participants.”
Starting on August 27, the HDMHA is holding daily one-hour clinics — except for Wednesday when a special event is using the ice.
“Hockey 1 to 4 will be working with Michelle Inancsi of the Hope Figure Skating Club,” said Lang. “Their focus will be on skating skills, in full hockey gear, with sticks.
“Atoms and peewees and bantams and midgets will be working with Paul Nicolls of Chilliwack,” said Lang. “Paul is the owner of the Xceed Training Centre and he’s also the development coach for the Chilliwack Chiefs. Those kids will be drilled on hockey skills such as shooting, stick handling, passing and skating.
“The cost is $80 per player,” added Lang, “but they have to be registered with Hope Minor Hockey, for insurance purposes.”
Mini-camp registration forms can be downloaded from the club’s website at www.hopeminorhockey.com. See “hockey camps” in the main menu on the left.
The arena’s big midweek event is the preseason clash between the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Merritt Centennials on August 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 and are available at the rec centre’s reception desk.
Early registrations for Hope Minor Hockey have given the executive a good picture of where numbers are needed. It has been typical to have two teams in each of the divisions from atom through midget — but it has to start at the bottom and so far, the numbers in Hockey 1 to 4 are sparse.
“We only have 11 registered in Hockey 1 to 4,” said Lang, “and only one of the 11 is in the H1/H2 age. Ideally, I would love to double these numbers and have an H1/H2 team and an H3/H4 team.
“In atom, we have 20 skaters and two goalies. This is not quite enough for two teams,” explained Lang. “At least four more forwards are needed there.
“We had a very successful atom rep team last year but lots of them moved up to peewee and the way the numbers shook down there weren’t enough players for a rep team in either division — so some of the peewees are trying out for rep in Chilliwack. Peewee is the earliest that you’re allowed to try out in a neighbouring association,” said Lang.
“We’ll see who makes rep in Chilliwack,” he added. “They’ll still be welcome to take part in any mini-camps that we hold during the season.
“Peewee currently has 24 skaters and two goalies signed up,” said the president. “At this point, this is barely enough for two teams, depending on how many kids make rep in Chilliwack. We would like to see a few more registered. Thirty skaters would be ideal.
“Bantam has 13 skaters and one goalie, which is barely enough for one team,” figured Lang. “There is room for more there — and midget has 21 skaters and three goalies. This is a tough one. There are not enough for two teams — but too many for one.
“We are currently only counting on one midget team, thus we are wait-listing players and goalies. If we can get some more players, we can ice two house teams and nobody will be wait-listed.”
Lang noted that the league has voted to eliminate all body-checking from house or “C” hockey, so this may attract players back to the game. It will also be easier to attract Interior teams to tournaments, as they had earlier moved no body-checking.
Lang is also open to icing a joint team with Chilliwack, if they end up with wait-listed players in certain divisions.
“Especially if you live in Rosedale, you can be at the Hope rink in about the same time as it takes to get to Twin Rinks,” he noted. “And we don’t need to have morning practices.”
Lang is looking forward to a successful season.
“We’ve got a great new executive — though we’re very fortunate to have Jessie James and Lui Talarico staying on, as they have so much knowledge and experience.”