After years of trying to work out some kind of deal, Kimberley and Cranbrook Minor Hockey have reached an agreement for the 2020/21 season that will see that players from both associations can play at their skill level.
Kimberley Minor Hockey President Trevor Woynarski says that the idea had been discussed for a few years, but came to reality this past spring when they finally decided to pursue it for the 20/21 hockey season.
“What started the discussion was the fact that both Associations felt it was best for kids to play at their appropriate skill level,” he said. “The option of joining would also increase the overall numbers of the age groups involved.”
In the past, players seeking to play competitive hockey were leaving the area to pursue elite hockey at academies at young ages.
“KMH and CMH needed to work together to offer more locally, to offer more competitive options,” said Carson Loftsgard of KMH.
The new agreement means that starting at U13 (formerly PeeWee) and older, Kimberley players can now access three levels instead of two, increasing the likelihood that they can play at their skill level.
Players can choose from multiple tiers of competitive hockey, or play at the recreational level.
“The teams are broken down the same way as if there were no integration,” Woynarski said. “All players are involved in the tryout process,and teams are selected from there, without city of residence taken into account.
“This opportunity does allow for all players to play a higher tier of hockey if they make the team. This also allows for a bigger coaching pool. Ice times for practices and games will be divided between each City based on the quantity of players on the team from that location.”
Loftsgard says feedback from families in both communities has been overwhelmingly positive to this point.
The agreement took compromise on both sides, Loftsgard says, but the goal of creating better opportunities for local kids drove the collaboration forward.
There are still hurdles, one being access to ice time, he says.
“KMHA typically ices six teams comprised of all Kimberley players, but now that there are Kimberley players on 13 different minor hockey teams, the demand for ice times between the two communities has increased significantly from past years. This has created an obstacle in that there is limited ice availability.”
Kimberley’s second arena in Marysville was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic along with the Civic Centre. The city has since reopened the Civic Centre, but ice has not gone in yet in Marysville.