The topic of changes to the structure of hockey within the City of Hamilton has been an on-again, off-again conversation between the various Minor Hockey Leagues in the city over the past 13 months. Recently, there have been rumours and speculation in the hockey community in Hamilton, including some media coverage. We are hoping to answer some of the questions you may have and ask for your feedback.
The topic of changes to the structure of hockey within the City of Hamilton has been an on-again, off-again conversation between the various Minor Hockey Leagues in the city over the past 13 months - as was communicated by our previous AMHL executive board. Each organization in Hamilton face challenges, some unique - some similar. All are looking for solutions.
In Ancaster, we have held many discussions both as a board and with the broader membership over the past 3 years. Our organization voted on a switch in Member Partner (under the Ontario Hockey Federation - OHF) to the Alliance, and decided to stay with the OMHA where we have operated for 50 years. Last year, we discussed an amalgamation of our organization with Dundas Minor Hockey, and our membership voted to remain independent. It has long been the approach of the AMHL to approach potential changes as openly as possible, and with the input of our members.
More recently, there have been a great many rumors and speculation out in the hockey community in Hamilton, including some media coverage. We are hoping to answer some of the questions you may have as a result of this and ask for your opinions and communications on the subject.
On December 27th, this article appeared in the Hamilton News.
We would like to address some of the questions raised by this article as well as some of the rumors out in the community.
In Ancaster, we have taken a bit of a different approach to the issues facing our local associations. We have some very real concerns about an “open borders” approach across Hamilton - from the geographic “weak spot” Ancaster finds itself in (with both Chedoke and Flamborough offering Double-A rep programs on our doorstep which would likely pull more players OUT of our organization than IN - jeopardizing our ability to field rep teams at each age group), to the potentially negative side-effects that we feel could result - a weakening of the House League organizations within our communities.
House League needs to be the foundation of any changes that we discuss in Hamilton. It is the core of our programs, and the roots of our sport.
In this article, the Dundas/Flamborough/Stoney Creek/Huskies organizations were quoted pointing out the inflexibility of the current geographic boundaries. Moving an organization from the OMHA to the Alliance does not address these issues. Both the OMHA and Alliance have made it clear that geographic boundaries exist under both organizations.
The importance of House League and the effect that some of these changes may have on our Local League teams was not touched on in this article. Opening up the borders between associations may have the unfortunate result of seeing more Rep Teams assembled out of the same (declining) number of players - that does not make good sense, or end up with a better outcome. We are all for our players playing at the Rep level, but only where that level is up to the level of the competition. If we field a team “just because” we risk that team not competing and the players losing their passion for the game. As was pointed out in the article, our local girls associations do not have these boundaries to stop player movement.
What was missed in this article was the House League impact of this freedom. Many of the age divisions in the girls associations are running with two, or maybe three House League teams in each community - and 3 or 4 Rep Teams. This equates to an inter-lock House League schedule with Ancaster girls playing house league games in St. Catharines, Port Colborne, and Haldimand. This would not be the desired outcome of this “no border” change, in our opinion. Having our kids spend more time in the car going to and from games and practices does not seem like a good use of their time, good for their development, or very enticing to “would be” parents in our community.
We don’t need MORE rep teams in Hamilton. We don’t have the open, available ice in Hamilton to support the additional ice needs that this would bring. We need to make hockey more accessible, community focused, and FUN.
In Ancaster, we have held discussions with our neighboring associations - Flamborough and Dundas to look into the possibility of working together in a slightly larger geographic area to address issues facing both Rep and eventually House League scheduling. We would be open to this conversation with any of our neighboring OMHA associations. In our vision, the City of Hamilton needs fewer organizations (rather than the current 12 or 13) to be able to field competitive, TRUE Rep Teams and a healthy and vibrant House League program.
This past weekend, members of our executive attended a meeting in Flamborough with representatives from each of the local Hockey organizations in Hamilton, the City of Hamilton, as well as the OMHA and Alliance. We discussed the issues facing each of our organizations, and looked for common threads. At the root of these discussions, we are looking to build strong Hockey communities that can support the next 50 years of hockey in Hamilton. The AMHL is a special and vibrant hockey community - we have a great many strengths that need to be celebrated and encouraged.
It is only with the support and input of our membership that we will continue to thrive - and I ask anyone that would like to give their input (or ask questions) on these subjects to email me directly at [email protected].
See you at the rink!