Hockey registration in Morden is on the rise.
Morden Minor Hockey (MMH) held their AGM on April 7, and president Steve Mullin said the organization is in a good place.
“We are very happy with where we are,” he said. “Our biggest concern right now is trying to find enough ice, because we had 21 teams this past year and our best guess says we might bump that up next year.”
As MMH shares the two ice surfaces at the Access Event Centre with the senior league, high school team, regional teams and the Figure Skating Club, Mullin said the ice fills up quickly.
“To me that’s a great problem to have,” he said. “It means we’re using the facilities that the city has for us and it means we’re growing in popularity, so we’re doing something right along those lines.”
Over 200 kids registered to play hockey this past year, which was the first time the number of registrants has been that high.
“From those 200 we formed 21 teams,” Mullin said. “We were very busy and very happy to be busy with those teams.”
This year, Mullin said MMH put more of a focus on girls’ hockey. “We were able to have a girls’ team at every age group right from Novice through Atom and Peewee into Bantam,” he said. “Outside of Macdonald, which is a much bigger region than the City of Morden is, we were the only association that was able to do that in the Pembina Valley.”
“I think that’s where our numbers are growing,” he added. “As Morden grows so too will our numbers, but our big jump is coming with girls’ hockey and we’re really excited about where that’s going and what that is leading to.”
Mullin said MMH doesn’t measure their success by how many gold medals their teams bring home, but mentioned that one of their Peewee teams and a female Atom team brought home provincial championships.
Mullin said the biggest highlight for the organization was moving their five- and six-year old players to an ‘Initiation’ house league instead of having them travel around the region.
“We just had our teams in Morden play against each other,” he said. “That increased our registration by about 12 or 13 kids over the last year, so that was a big positive for us.”
Mullin said economics had something to do with it, as there is a fee to play hockey in the league. “We’ve had four teams the last two years and a lot of the times were paying that league fee to have our teams play against each other essentially,” he said. “We could travel out of town and play other teams as well, but with the five- and six-year-olds you’re not playing a real comprehensive schedule.”
The other reason was the availability and opportunity to be able to sustain the Initiation players within Morden. “Once you start hitting a certain number it just makes sense that you reduce the cost for parents and increase the opportunity for kids,” he said. “When you throw all the factors together it made sense that we made that move and as soon as we announced it, it became pretty obvious that was a popular decision.”
MMH celebrated a successful first year with the First Shift program.
The program, open to any children between five and six years old who had never been part of a minor hockey program before, offered six hour long ice sessions and provided a full set of hockey equipment for players that had never tried the sport before.
“It was an outstanding success,” Mullin said. “We registered to bring 30 kids in, we topped that number at 38 kids coming and trying it out for the first time. It’s amazing what you can do over the course of six hours on the ice, just where kids come along to.”
Outside of Brandon and Winnipeg, Morden was the only other location in Manitoba to host the First Shift program.
“It was one of those things where we thought we would try it,” Mullin said. “We hadn’t really planned on doing it again right away, but it made it a necessity to start that conversation of ‘Do we want to do this again?’”
While there is no obligation for kids to move from the First Shift program into MMH, Mullin is hoping the program sparked the love of the sport in some kids.