Minor hockey zone program --- is it working?

By Earl Seitz
January 12, 2018 - 3:39pm Updated: January 12, 2018 - 6:04pm

KAMLOOPS ---- This is the second year of a B.C. Hockey pilot project that has rep teams categorized as zone teams.   It affects teams at two age levels.  Now in its second year, it's been met with borth pros and cons.   In Kamloops  rep bantam and midget teams fall under the pilot zone program.   In theory it's designed to give players an opportunity to play with and against players of their own skill level.

Jon Pankuch is the president of Kamloops Minor Hockey and says  "It's really the intention of this program to get kids to play at the level they belong to play at --- we talk about outlying associations."

What it means is players from Merritt, Clearwater and other small associations get the opportunity to play at the highest level.

"Last year was my first year coming over to play on this team as a first year and I thought it was a great experience to bring my hockey to a higher level from tier three hockey and now allowing myself to play at this highest calibre I can play at." says Chase Cooke, who is from Merritt, and plays for the Thompson Zone tier one bantams.

At the tier one level it's meant the zone team for the most part plays against better teams, in better tournaments and get a broader hockey experience.    In October the Thompson Zone tier one bantams made a road trip to Whitehorse to play the Yukon Zone.

Trevor Streek is the manager of the Thompson Zone team.  "It was a great experience because normally we would'nt head up to the Yukon, but this year having them in our league was just a good opportunity to see an area of the world we probably would'nt go to -- so I think it's going to be a lot of fun for the kids going up there each year."

But it hasn't been a great or enjoyable experience for everyone.    Some of those affected by the change to zones don't necessarily see it as a positive.

"It's become apparent that with the change to the zone system we no longer have the advocate that we used to have with Kamloops Minor Hockey" says Rich Denis, who is the treasurer of the Thompson Zone tier two midget team, "so we have to fight our own battles now."

Parents and those involved with zone teams say there are also other issues -- like cost, practice time and scheduling.   They feel they're not getting the bang for the buck.

"The difference in the cost" says Denis "it's double from what it was in Kamloops Minor Hockey, so what was a $1000 program before under Kamloops Minor Hockey is now more than $2000 under B.C. Hockey.   And we have gotten actually less delivered to us by B.C. Hockey under this program."

Seanna Proulx is a hockey parent, "We're not playing as many games as we have in the past --- this season we have 16 games, we're paying twice as much, approximately, as we were with Kamloops Minor Hockey --- so our fees are doubled and our ice time is less."

When it comes to communication with B.C. Hockey over things like the discipline process, not having a local advocate has been painful.

"We got two players who are going through that right now" says Denis, "really at times it seems like it's nothing better than a kangaroo court.  So it's tough to see what is the value particulary at the tier two level in the zone program"

The zone experiment is in year two in the test tube.    Will it stick, or be thrown into the chemistry trash pile?

"I think the long term goal of this program" says Jon Pankuch "is to figure out if B.C. Hockey should be managing or controlling the leagues at the elite level --- and have grass roots hockey be controlled from the minor hockey level."

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