By Tina Comeau
This weekend will be a typical one at the Mariners Centre as a steady stream of minor hockey games and practices will hit the ice starting in the early morning and ending late in the day on both Saturday and Sunday.
But what will be different about this weekend is the Yarmouth County Minor Hockey Association will be marking Minor Hockey Weekend on Jan. 26 and 27.
This annual event shines a spotlight on minor hockey and is aimed at giving recognition and saying thanks to those who participate in, and contribute to, minor hockey in Yarmouth.
This includes players, coaches, parents, team sponsors and volunteers – and with volunteers those who help out both on and off of the ice.
“It’s a celebration weekend,” says association president Sonya Breton.
Players will have their names announced as they head onto the ice for their games and sessions and there will be a hospitality room upstairs for minor hockey families. Families are asked to bring a couple of plates of food for this. The association will supply hotdogs for the players.
There are around 500 players registered in minor hockey in Yarmouth, a number that has remained steady over the years. Players participate on house league teams, which don’t travel for games, and rep teams, which travel all over the province to play and to represent Yarmouth.
This season many of these rep teams have been sitting in first place in their respective leagues, or sitting near the top of the pack.
In the younger age groups in minor hockey – such as Timbits – the emphasis is on development as opposed to competition.
Overall, player and coaching development is something that the minor hockey association has been putting more emphasis on in recent years. Aside from weekly practices for the teams, some of the extras offered on the ice include Monday skills development sessions with the junior A Mariners, girls’ hockey development sessions for players new to the sport and power skating sessions.
“We’re also looking at trying to offer clinics for female referees,” says Breton. “We have female teams now so it would be nice to have some female referees. Right now we only have one in our association, so we’d like to increase that number.”
There is also an economic benefit to minor hockey in Yarmouth. Rep teams bring in teams from other parts of the province every weekend. Sometimes these teams will overnight here.
Later in the season two major minor hockey tournaments are being hosted in Yarmouth. The peewee AA Mainland tournament will be held in Yarmouth the first weekend of March and involves eight teams. This tournament is the qualifier for the peewee AA teams that will advance to provincials.
Female bantam A Mariners provincials are being hosted in Yarmouth March 22-24. This is a five-team event.