Governing body decides to restructure elite U15 hockey in Winnipeg
Elite hockey in the city is getting a facelift with a major restructuring of what was once known as AAA bantam hockey.
Last week, the Hockey Winnipeg board of directors voted to combine the 13 and 14 age groups under the U15 banner for the 2021-2022 season.
“It brings us closer to the rest of the country,” former Hockey Winnipeg president Chris Hall said Wednesday. “We are one of the last cities to have one age group, so this is the last of all age groups to have two ages in the city.”
As part of the restructuring plan, the city’s three main regions will contain three AAA teams, each with central trials used to store each team in the watershed. A similar format could also be implemented for AA hockey in the city.
“This is what has been proposed,” Hall said. “Obviously we still have to work on the details on everything. The idea is not to reduce the opportunities for the players because currently between the two age groups there are eight teams. So what we’re just trying to do is line things up with the three zones that we currently have for our U18 program. ”
On the surface, adding a team may seem insignificant, but the combination of two previously separate groups will cause controversy. The process is likely to dilute the overall talent level of the U15 league, with greater disparity between the best and the worst players. Training players at an elite level might become more difficult.
“At one point, when we had a large number (of registrations), it all made sense. Now, as the numbers go down, or I guess level off, bringing back the double age group just brings us back to the rest of the province and others. of the country, ”Hall said.
Competition for players from various hockey academies appearing in Manitoba and across Canada also had an impact on the decision.
“We’ve been doing the same thing for many years,” Hall added. “With the level of competition across the country, we need to put more emphasis on development, providing more to those players who play in our programs. There are a lot of options out there right now and we (need to) start evolving and start offering more and providing more of a development model. ”
Tyler Riel, who has coached the AAA U15 Warriors for the past three seasons, is eager to see how the new system works. Teams from Brandon and rural areas also participate in the AAA league.
“I come in with an open mind,” said Riel. “There are certainly pros and cons. The pros are that you have more players who will have the opportunity to be more exposed and more development. Also, there will probably be less travel, because you have nine. teams now instead of four in Winnipeg. So less travel, which in turn could lower costs and make them more affordable for the average family. ”
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