Storm family welcomes newcomers
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | July 31, 2016|
A number of young athletes are joining the Highland Storm hockey league for the first time, says Rich Smith, executive member of the hockey organization, and he is excited about the road that lies ahead for the young athletes.
“It’s going to open up a whole new world for them,” Smith said. “As they develop on the ice, you can see that confidence in themselves grow.”
That confidence trickles down to life off the ice as well, he added, and that even if a child has never played hockey before, the Storm will make sure they feel comfortable on a team.
“I’ve heard parents tell me, ‘people ask me why I pay for my kid to play hockey’,” Smith said. “And they respond with, ‘I’m not paying for them to play hockey, I’m paying to see them have fun and build character’.”
The Storm’s two hockey leagues accommodate children’s different dedication levels to the game. The rep league, a competitive scene where players play for a playoff berth, is complemented by the more casual local league, which recently endured some changes to its format.
Smith said the local league has a more structured format that will hint at more competitive play, but ultimately won’t take away from the league’s casual nature.
Travel will not be an issue, he added.
“It basically increases opportunities for the kids to develop their fundamental skills,” he said.
“We realize that children have different levels of commitment to the game, so we have these two systems that might light a fire underneath these athletes to keep working on their game, build character and make friends.”
A survey last year revealed that players in the local league were happy with the atmosphere, but simply wanted a little bit more structure.
“They want to play hockey the way their heroes do on TV,” Smith said.
First-time registrants benefit from a $100 registration fee, and it has helped attract new people to the game, Smith said.
“Our numbers are up thanks to this incentive.”
The rebate applies to any age group within the local league.
Smith is currently coaching a girl’s hockey team from Bancroft, and the transformation of his players on and off the ice is why he continues to remain involved with hockey.
“Sometimes you see kids come into the league who are insecure and lack confidence in themselves, but I want them to be fearless,” he said. “Hockey is a great tool that helps develop those things.”
Opportunities to play hockey in August will be available through various camps in Haliburton. Visit camphockeyhaven.com for more details.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.