President's message on the motion to, “Remove Rep Level Programming from PSMHA, News (Port Stanley Minor Hockey)

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President's message on the motion to, “Remove Rep Level Programming from PSMHA
Submitted By Rick Lalonde on Monday, August 10, 2020
President's message on the motion to, “Remove Rep Level Programming from PSMHA"

While the main focus of the Executive Team has been to ensure we are ready to get back on the ice as soon as we are able I have received numerous phone calls, texts and emails asking what the, “Motion to Remove Rep Level Programming from PSMHA” means. 



President's message on the motion to, “Remove Rep Level Programming from PSMHA"

While the main focus of the Executive Team has been to ensure we are ready to get back on the ice as soon as we are able I have received numerous phone calls, texts and emails asking what the, “Motion to Remove Rep Level Programming from PSMHA” means. 

I have been pretty brief in my explanation, stating simply that the passing of this motion would make Port Stanley a Local Centre only.  We would not have rep teams at any age group.  Those wishing to play rep hockey would need to register in the next closest centre offering rep programming, for most players that would be St Thomas. Parents of younger players and those new to the association then ask clarifying questions.  Rather than me having numerous segmented discussions, I thought I would post the most common questions on our website for all to see. 

1. Why would you allow someone to submit a motion to fold rep programming?

Our constitution sets the rules for making motions at the AGM.  Board members may have an opinion and get to vote on motions, but they do not have the authority to decide what gets voted on.  This motion was submitted within our framework for motions and it will be decided by the members (simple majority of those in attendance, tie votes defeat motions).   

2. What would Port offer if the Motion to Remove Rep won the vote at the AGM?  

As we do now, we would offer Local League programming at the same age groups we currently do. Local League is open to everyone - regardless of their boundaries. We currently have many players from other associations playing LL in Port by choice. 

3. Can’t players already try out in St Thomas?

Yes, but the OMHA has rules specifying how this occurs;If Port Stanley doesn’t have a rep team at a certain age, the team folds and players who registered for try outs are given what is called a 3.5 release, with it you can try out just like players that live in St Thomas.  If Port Stanley does have a rep team and you are U13 or older, you can try out as a Non-Resident Player (NRP).  AA/A centers can take up to 3 players in this category per team.  If Port Stanley does have a rep team and you are younger than U13, you are not permitted to try out in St Thomas. 

4. Is St Thomas a higher level of hockey?

Yes, St Thomas plays in the Alliance A/AA loop – at the beginning of the season the games they play are for seeding purposes.  The top teams play in a AA loop and the bottom teams an A loop.   Port Stanley plays in the Shamrock league that is made up of centres ranging from BB to DD. 

5. What are the letters all about?             

Associations are ranked based on the size of their registration/player pool. 

AAA is the highest level of minor hockey, in our area that is typically the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs, but sometimes players will travel to Chatham, Sarnia or other AAA centres so that they can play at the highest level against the best competition.  The Chiefs can draw players from all of the centers that play in the Shamrock League. 

AA/A is the second highest, in our area that is the St Thomas Jr Stars, it is rare for players to go to another AA/A centre.  OMHA rules give AA/A centers the ability to select up to 3 players per team from centers ranked BB-DD (NRP’s)   

All centres below A are assigned a letter by the OMHA based on registration numbers.  In our area BB centers include (Strathroy, Dorchester, Mount Brydges, St Mary’s), (CC include Belmont, Lucan, Parkhill, Exeter, Aylmer…) (DD include Port Stanley, West Lorne, Dresden).  Our rep teams play in the Shamrock loop that is made up from BB to DD centres, we don’t usually have to play the BB teams and are rarely competitive with them when we do, we play the majority of our games against the CC teams (as the majority of teams in the Shamrock League are in this category), we are usually competitive, but lose more than we win, we play the balance of our games against the other DD teams, where we are highly competitive.  When making up OMHA seedings, only the teams at your same level count (ie for us only the DD games).

A Port Stanley team that is .250 or better in Shamrock should compete for an OMHA Championship.      

6. I see a “Preservation of PSMHA” link on the webpage, is that what this is about?

Sort of;  To give a brief history lesson

10 years ago registration was down considerably (Sterling truck had just closed, Ford was winding down) and many rep teams were barely viable (12-15 players signing up at each age group), there were many heated discussions and hard feelings when teams folded last minute and players were left scrambling for a rep team to play on, parents lied about their addresses, parents who thought the jump from CC (Port Stanley was a CC centre back then) to AAA was too large and were desperate for another option. 

The OMHA attempted to address this with the “NRP rule” where the AA/A centres could take up to 3 players from outside their residential boundary.

This was somewhat successful, as the best of the those who did not make AAA had a higher level to play at, but players soon realized that competing with all of the other players in Shamrock was almost as hard as making the Chiefs.  Those who didn’t make it started looking for another way.  

For smaller centres like ours, teams that were barely viable before were significantly impacted (their best players from U9 went to AAA, and now the really good ones started leaving for A/AA).  Teams that barely had enough players for a team were very uncompetitive (losing all but 1 or 2 games, losing by double digits every game, players started signing up for rep and declining a roster spot if the team wasn’t folded – ie they only signed up so they would qualify for a 3.5 release to play elsewhere).     

Registration had started to recover, but we still had several birth years of low registration, and no real plan to get back on track. 

The board decided to do 2 key things based on the principal of Doing What Is Right For All Players. 

1.  Invest heavily in skills for all players.  The idea was if we lost players to AAA and AA/A, we would develop others to fill those roles, players would see our commitment to development and want to play here, and regardless of what level you played at you would improve.

2.Move our registration deadline for rep hockey to line up with the AA/A tryouts in St Thomas.  If teams were not viable we would fold them in time for impacted players to try out in St Thomas on 3.5 releases, which gives them the same shot as a player who lives in St Thomas.

This has been highly successful.  Our registration numbers have steadily improved each year, players who come from other associations are impressed about the commitment to skills and player development, we have won many tournaments, OMHA and Local League championships and in general are much more successful.  Players who were significantly impacted by late folded teams could now try out in St Thomas and the negativity about being stuck without a rep team to play on largely died out.  When I go to watch a game in St Thomas I am proud to see the 3-4 kids from Port and am often thanked by their parents for the board helping to make it possible.    

7. Why has this popped up again? 

I am pretty sure we voted this down two years ago.While the decision to fold teams back then seemed difficult at the time, we simply didn’t have the numbers to be viable.  The issue is popping up again because the 2009 and younger age groups all have numbers that should support rep teams.  It is highly unlikely that teams will fold based on low registration numbers (even with the COVID uncertainty there are over 20 U11 and U13 players who want to try out for the rep teams).    

8. How would this impact our Local League Programming? 

In theory it shouldn’t.  We would retain our local programming, skills program, ice schedule…However, St Thomas will only take the top rep players, the rest will be free to sign up for Local League wherever they want (as local league players can now).  If they come back to Port this should make our Local teams very competitive.  However, as we have learned from Point Edward (who is 100% Local) and our own experience at the ages where we have folded our rep teams, other teams in the league do not like seeing so many “rep players” on Local Teams, some local players feel intimidated by “rep players” who join their teams, and the wide variation in skill of players leads to a temptation to stack or tier local teams, which is not permitted in our League.  It may create a whole new set of issues.      

9. I have heard we should fold because the rep teams are not competitive.

This really depends on your perception. At PSMHA we believe that our program should focus on ensuring; as many children as possible have fun playing the game we all love, players improve each year they participate and that they do so in a safe, supportive environment.  The competitiveness of a team can change significantly from year to year, but with the right coaching staff the others goals can be accomplished regardless of the win/loss record.  

U9 will no longer have playdowns in any centre – this was always our strongest team, as AAA doesn’t start until U10.  Some centres (including ours) may cling to rep teams for this age, but the focus of these teams will be on player development.  The Long-term player development plan frowns upon playoffs of any kind for players this young.    

U11 struggled in the 2019/20 season, but they had 6 players from their OMHA championship winning team make AAA.  There isn’t a team in the country that wouldn’t struggle if you removed their top 6 players.  Predicting who will come back, move into our association or have a breakout development year is hard, but our commitment to developing all players will help close the gap. 

U13 this would be our first year to bring this level back. This is also the first year that players are eligible to try out as NRP’s, so there is a good chance we will lose some more of our top players.      

10. I have heard some parents talk about DD level hockey dying off.

Over the last few years we have seen several DD centers merge with other centers which has reduced the pool of teams in our division.  However, there are many teams in the Shamrock league that we are competitive with and our numbers and competitiveness have increased steadily as most other associations are seeing a decline.  It is possible that DD will die out and we will have to move up to CC, but it is just as likely that CC centers will continue to decline and drop down to DD.  We regularly see weak CC centers apply to drop into our playdown loop already and some may want to make this more permanent.            
11. Why don’t we merge with someone?

We have had many discussions over the years, primarily with St Thomas.  After much discussion we agreed on the key foundation;

“Players in all areas should play at the level where their ability and desire meet”

Our ideal scenario was for AA/A tryouts to be treated like AAA tryouts where anyone from the area can try out as equals for the higher rated team, then those who are unsuccessful go down to the BB-DD levels and try out for those teams.  We called this our “regional team” proposal.  Unfortunately, the OMHA did not approve of this concept and asked us to consider other options.  The other options we considered all have a negative element. 

We are currently in talks with St Thomas about potential options but at this point we are focused on getting our kids out on the ice and don't want to introduce any additional complications to a season with many unknowns. 

12. What do you think we should do? 

Ha, I’m no politician, but I will sidestep your question anyway! 

On a personal level, my children have played Rep in Port, LL in Port, A in St Thomas as an NRP, A in St Thomas as a 3.5.  They have all had good and bad experiences and know that the coach has far more influence on the amount of fun, development and success a player has than the association itself.  I am proud of the programming we offer in Port and how we offer it, but I also see how some would want to play at a higher level.  For me, it comes down to the association membership needing to decide what they want, attending the AGM and voting.  While they are there I’d love some to step up to volunteer to fill board or volunteer positions.  We have never turned anyone away! 

The AGM will be held Tuesday Aug 18, 7pm in the arena parking lot.  I hope to see you all there.  

Alex Russell 
President, Port Stanley and Area Minor Hockey Association. 
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