Whistler, Squamish minor hockey associations vote for changes 

Sports briefs: Whistler BMX season starting May 28; Welsh's Spruce Kings fall in final

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - NEW ADMINISTRATION The Whistler Minor Hockey Association voted to put its midget and bantam'A' Teams under BC Hockey Administration as part of its Zone Program.
  • File photo by Dan Falloon
  • NEW ADMINISTRATION The Whistler Minor Hockey Association voted to put its midget and bantam'A' Teams under BC Hockey Administration as part of its Zone Program.

The minor hockey associations in both Whistler and Squamish have worked closely in recent years to help ice teams in older age groups that neither would be able to put together individually.

But both recently voted to implement changes for their midget (17-and-under) and bantam (14-and-under) A-level programs beginning with the 2019-20 season.

The two associations, which had recently combined to run teams in those programs, both separately voted to bring those programs under the administration of BC Hockey through its BC Hockey Zone Program, which allows players to join a team from a wider boundary to compete at higher levels. The provincial organization has done similar work in other jurisdictions around B.C.

"What's happened in the past when we've had shared teams is you would each pay your own association and the executive from each association would have to work really hard on figuring out how to share the costs, working out schedules," said Whistler Minor Hockey Association (WMHA) president Anita Cote. "We had a lot of issues in the last couple years making it work between the needs of the two communities.

"BC Hockey agreed to come in. Originally, they were just helping facilitate our discussions, and then it became 'Why don't we operate it?' That takes away the politics and the time and management needed."

In particular, Squamish and Whistler have shared a midget team in recent years, with the associations generally alternating which one hosted from season to season. Last season, the associations also agreed to share a team at the bantam level, though it fell apart in the late stages.

"We want to work together, but obviously, both associations have a little bit of a different perspective. We want to do what's best for the kids in the corridor, so that's how (BC Hockey) got involved," Cote said.

Squamish Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) president Emma Moses said while there have been successes when Whistler and Squamish work together, there have also been challenges. With the provincial association taking the lead with these particular programs, she's expecting a smoother flow.

"They're two completely different organizations trying to marry teams. That's sometimes difficult with rotating board members and different visions, so the reason for it was, with the support of BC Hockey, we would ensure the longevity of shared teams, rather than have it dependent on the board of the season," she said.

In addition to handling constant change, Moses noted balancing ice time in Squamish and Whistler and considering travel arrangements for the parents involved is a factor.

Another benefit, according to Cote, is that with a combined player pool, more kids will get the opportunity to stay in rep hockey either at the A1 or A2 levels.

"The goal is to have two teams at each division, an A1 and an A2, and then you'd have your house teams," she said. "What happens in small communities is one year, a first-year kid might not make the rep team—or maybe they do get on—but sometimes, year to year, you don't know who's going to get on these teams.

"In the city, they can have four or five teams at a given age group, so if you don't make the top team, you've got a spot on the next team and you can play competitive hockey."

Cote said the Whistler association is not considering any changes at lower levels, as the player pools are large enough to keep teams in house in the younger age groups.

Cote said the WMHA did a cost analysis before voting on the change, determining that the majority of registration fees go to cover ice time, officials and coaching.

"It doesn't really affect our bottom line," she said.

Moses said while the change is expected to make Squamish's registration a bit more expensive, the board felt the trade-off is worthwhile.

"It does come with a slight increase in costs, but that actually comes with more resources and a higher calibre of coaching. We now have the experts running it, rather than local boards, so the benefits are definitely worth the cost," she said.

Cote added the new arrangement is already up and running, as tryouts were held earlier this month.

BC Hockey spokesman Keegan Goodrich said in an email that the organization runs the Zone Program to benefit players as well as minor hockey associations (MHA).

"BC Hockey is helping administratively on those ends but work with each MHA to try and make sure ice times are split (when possible) between the two centres. But players register through our zone program registry, and assist in hiring the staff. This allows MHA's to remain focused on grassroots programming, recreational-level hockey and try hockey programming," he wrote.

Whistler BMX season starting May 28

Rippers of all ages can get pumped for the 2019 Whistler BMX season.

Weekly racing at the local track, located at Cheakamus Crossing's Bayly Park, will begin on Tuesday, May 28.

Registration will run from 5:30 to 6 p.m., with half-track racing for run-bikers and young pedal bikers kicking off at 6 p.m. Full-track racing gets underway at 6:30 p.m.

Race fees for half-track options are $3 while full-track is $7. Annual membership in BMX Canada, meanwhile, is $65.

"We're attracting such a diverse group of riders, it's awesome. From tiny two-year olds on run bikes, to rippin' dudes on dirt jumpers and moms and dads elbow-to-elbow on cruiser bikes, our races are fun for everyone, spectators included! It's an exciting sport to watch—almost as much fun as actually racing," Whistler BMX president Jody Hallett said in a release. "For those who love bikes, dirt, adrenaline, friendly competition and a great team culture, Whistler BMX might be the perfect fit for you!"

The club is also set to host clinics for new BMXers every Wednesday night in June beginning on June 5. The clinics run from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and have experienced Whistler BMX coach Erin Tierney at the helm. Registration is $10 per session or $30 (plus a free race) for all four.

Also new at the track are some improvements to the course, including a newly paved start hill and finish area, tuned-up corner berms, and adjustments to the first berm to lower its height and make the entry grade mellower.

For more information on the club, visit www.whistlerbmx.com.

Welsh's Spruce Kings fall in final

The Prince George Spruce Kings, featuring Whistler forward Nolan Welsh, took care of the Brooks Bandits during the Doyle Cup series between the respective British Columbia and Alberta Jr. 'A' champions, winning the best-of-seven series in six games.

Normally, that would mean Prince George would be done with Brooks, but with the Bandits hosting the National Jr. 'A' Championship, they once again stood in the way of Welsh and his squad. Brooks ended up taking home the national championship on May 19, edging Prince George 4-3. Welsh scored in the game's final minute to cut the lead to one, but the Spruce Kings couldn't find the equalizer. It was Welsh's second goal of the tournament; he also tallied in a 5-1 win over the Portage Terriers in round-robin play.

Whistlerites excel in local squash tournament

The Whistler Squash Club wrapped its 2018-19 campaign in style over the May long weekend.

The club held its annual year-end tournament at the Meadow Park Sports Centre from May 17 to 19, hosting local players as well as those from Squamish, Vancouver and Seattle, though Whistler players held their own.

In the women's 'A' final, Whistler's Holly Cox topped local Grade 8 student Sage Eberhard. Eberhard had beaten a pair of players she had never won against before in Heather Lynskey and her own mother Carol Eberhard. As well, the weekend prior, Eberhard was fourth in the women's 'A' division at the BC Championships at Hollyburn Country Club.

In the men's 'A' final, club president Ben Thomas eked past club administrator Rob Eberhard in five games, while Ben Day topped fellow Pembertonian Matt McNamara in the men's 'C' final. As well, Tim Ng won the men's 'B' consolation final.

Lastly for the locals, Adam Corless got past Mackenzie Bland in the men's 'D' final. Both are Whistler Secondary School students who only recently started playing through the school's intramural league run by the Whistler Squash Club.

There was a treat for spectators at the end, as the pro draw featured Canada's highest-ranking professional, Shawn Delierre, and South African touring pro Tristan Elsele in the final. Ultimately, Delierre, a Pan Am Games gold medallist in 2015, earned the win.

Motocross action coming to Pemberton

Future West Moto is bringing motocross racing to Pemberton's Green River Motocross Park this Sunday, May 26.

As part of the fourth stop of the BC Championship Series, racing will be offered in 26 different categories, including open pro.

Practice on race day starts at 7:45 a.m. with racing commencing soon afterward.

Admission is $10 per person up to $40 per family. Children five and under are free.

For more information, visit www.futurewestmoto.ca.

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