Hockey is supposed to be fun. That is what Brent Talsma has been trying to instill in Lacombe Minor Hockey during his first year as president.
Talsma said that the object of minor hockey should be to instill a love for the sport in players and make the game fun for them. He added sometimes that is lost among the structure of the game, such as rules and strategies, that players are introduced to at such a young age.
“You take a six-year-old kid, all he wants to do is touch the puck and put it in the net,” said Talsma.
Of course, it is important that rules and other aspects the make up the structure of hockey are introduced as well, said Talsma. However, he added there is a tendency to focus on the structure before developing the player, taking the fun out of the game for many kids.
Minor hockey tends to focus on the elite, said Talsma. As such, weaker players are pushed out of the game.
There is so much focus on competition that leagues are tiered at younger age groups and players learn that they have to be good to be successful. Players who aren’t good stop playing hockey because it becomes work instead of play.
In addition, Talsma said there are always lots of volunteers for coaches at the higher tiers of minor hockey, like A and AA, but it is more of a challenge when finding coaches for B, C and D teams. A lot of those coaches are not very experienced and so the development of those players suffers and they don’t get better.
Talsma said it is a good thing to have competition and tiers to support elite players. He added there is nothing more frustrating than being the best player on the best team of the best league in the area and still being yards ahead of everyone else.
However, Talsma wants everyone, not just the most skilled players to enjoy the sport. He said his goal as president is not to put ‘x’ number of players in the NHL, but to give everyone an opportunity to play the sport. If those players end their hockey careers by playing in a recreational league, Talsma still views that as a success.
Talsma added he believes Lacombe Minor Hockey has made progress to move in that direction. He said he plans to continue as president of Lacombe Minor Hockey in order to see through some of the plans he has put in motion this year.