I’d like to point out a key omission in the Feb. 25 commentary “The ‘State of Hockey’ is excessive.”
As an affiliate of USA Hockey, Minnesota Hockey prides itself on providing every boy and girl the means to reach his or her highest potential. We take pride in our players who reach Division I college hockey or the National Hockey League. We also recognize that even though Minnesota sends more players to those levels than does any other state, most of our kids do not reach those heights.
We consider successful players to be those who continue to play hockey for their entire lives. That could mean high school hockey, Junior Gold or 19U girls’ hockey or adult/women’s hockey. Minnesota Hockey has a place for everyone, whether they are 5 years old or 50, disabled or able-bodied.
One of our fastest-growing programs is the Minnesota Hockey Recreation League. Offering hockey to players at the 12U, 14U and 17U levels, the Rec League offers a low-cost alternative. The coed teams practice only once a week, and play one game a week. There is no checking, and winning ranks behind fun, participation and camaraderie in order of importance.
The Rec League has grown from 70 players in its first year in 2009-10 to 343 this year. As more people learn about the league, we expect its growth to be steady and for more kids to stay in the game when they otherwise might have left. Some players find that playing in the league improves their skills and furthers their love of the game, and they rejoin their local association with new confidence. Other players remain in the Rec League through high school. Either way, it’s a great option.
USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey encourage players to develop into overall athletes. Kids engage in an age-appropriate training model and are encouraged to take time away from hockey to play other sports. This helps to develop them into all-around athletes while guarding against burnout and overuse injuries.
Minnesota Hockey sincerely hopes the commentary writer’s son has a change of heart and decides to give hockey a try. He’ll find that it’s for everyone — and that it’s about learning great life lessons while getting exercise and gaining confidence.
Glen Andresen is executive director of Minnesota Hockey.