By Lethbridge Herald on May 13, 2015.
Taking the hitting out doesnâ€™t mean taking the fun out.
At least thatâ€™s one of the goals for the development of Lethbridge Minor Hockey Associationâ€™s new non-contact hockey league for bantam-aged players. Â
LMHA general manager Keith Hitchcock said the new no-hit league will begin operations in the fall, alongside that levelâ€™s existing elite, tier and regular competitive league programs.
He said the LMHA board of directors decided to start this pilot project at the bantam level as it is the age where a significant drop-off in player registration occurs. It is also a natural progression from the peewee level where Hockey Alberta has already removed body checking.
â€œWe drop off (in numbers) quite substantially from bantam to midget,â€ Hitchcock said.
â€œWeâ€™re just trying to find a spot. We just donâ€™t want people leaving hockey because thereâ€™s contact. If thatâ€™s the reason you leave, or one of the reasons you leave, then weâ€™d like to give you a viable option. We found, in talking to some of the kids and parents, they still want to play hockey in a structured environment.â€
Hitchcock recently presented the idea at the Zone 5 provincial meeting, where it was met with approval.
The LMHA has already received positive feedback, as well, as supporters believe it can be a way to have more youth get involved in minor hockey for the fun of it, for the experience of being on a team, and for the love of the game.
Hitchcock also said the local association has spoken with neighbouring minor hockey associations, and that there is a strong interest within a 50-kilometre radius of the city.Â Â
â€œTheyâ€™ve all said â€˜yes, we would love to put it out there.â€™ We launched registration seven days ago and weâ€™ve got three kids registered already,â€ he said.
â€œWe want to tell southern Alberta that this is viable. We expect to hopefully see three or four teams, five teams, this year. I think itâ€™s got potential for growth.â€
The primary registration push for the fall typically occurs in June and August. Current LMHA members who are interested can register as usual and just choose the â€˜No Hit Bantamâ€™ division. Â
Those new to LMHA will need to contact the leagueâ€™s registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 403-892-7816, for assistance in meeting the minimum Hockey Alberta requirements and possibly transferring the player record if they have played minor hockey somewhere else previously.