PORT HARDY—Next Tuesday marks back-to-school time for North Island students. The following day, it’s back to the ice for rep hockey hopefuls.
The North Island Eagles rep hockey program kicks off annual tryouts Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena in Port Hardy. And, thanks to a late flurry of registrations, the club expects to field teams in all four competitive classifications for the 2013-14 season.
“We’re excited,” said Anne Dumonceaux, longtime association volunteer. “We were thinking we might only have two teams, so to have four is wonderful.
“We crunched the numbers and, if everyone returns who played last year we should have good numbers at the house level, too.”
Tryouts will continue through the weekend of Sept. 14-15, with all sessions in Port Hardy. The tryouts have taken place at Port McNeill’s Chilton Regional Arena in recent years, but that arena will host the annual fall fair Sept. 7-8 and will be unavailable for hockey.
Based on enrolment numbers, the Eagles should have teams in the midget, bantam, peewee and atom development divisions. If so, it will be just the second time in the last five seasons the program has been able to fill all four classifications.
And, said Dumonceaux, the program could add a fifth team in the form of a bantam girls squad that has competed the past two seasons under the umbrella of Tri-Port Minor Hockey.
“Technically it’s a recreational team, but they will travel, and we felt it best fit under the Eagles program,” she said of the Wild Ones, the girls team coached by Boni Sharpe and managed by Miles Trevor.
Ironically, while the large turnout for rep hockey will ensure many games scheduled in North Island arenas this season, it could strain an already-thin pool of available referees.
“We’re required to have four officials for every game at the upper levels, and I’m scared we won’t have enough officials to do this,” said Dumonceaux. “We’re putting out the call to anyone who’s gone through our system and played, coached or refed, to get off the sidelines and get back into it.
“It’s hard on the smaller associations, to get that many people.”
One notable change to rep hockey this season will be a ban on body checking at the peewee (age 11-12) level, mandated by Hockey Canada.