The puck has dropped on a new season for the Whistler Minor Hockey Association (WMHA), and president Keith McIvor said everything has been running "smooth as silk" since teams started to hit the ice.
The WMHA has added about 25 kids to its flock this season, bringing the association's total number of players to just over 205, McIvor said. Backed by funding for a new website, the procurement of a lot of new hockey sweaters and some equipment, and coaching initiatives, the new season is sailing along.
"We were pleasantly surprised (the association) was growing again this year," McIvor said.
The bump in membership is coming from the younger age groups, McIvor said, which is where growth needs to happen to ensure future development. Since "once they're hooked (on hockey), they're hooked," he said, the WMHA hopes to market the sport more toward younger players.
Another factor helping to boost the membership is the popularity of the WMHA's new all-girls team. Developed last year and back for more this season, the Bantam-age girls' team now has about 15 members, including McIvor's daughter, and the players are having a great time as their season gets started, he said.
McIvor said the WMHA received a grant from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, which gave the association $13,000 to replace "a good chunk" of its collection of jerseys. He said the association also received funding from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, which supported the new website that allowed the WMHA to have online registration for the first time this season, as well as improvements for equipment and coaching.
Of course, in every smooth-running season, occasional hurdles will still crop up. McIvor said the WMHA season is accelerated this year due to the 2010 Olympic Games, so there is still some work to be done to sort out the scheduling with the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association (PCAHA), of which the WMHA is a member.
"There's still some uncertainty" surrounding the Olympics, McIvor said, mainly due to the transportation-related questions.
The WMHA ices four teams through its Initiation Hockey program, and about eight teams for eight- to 17-year-old players from the Atom to Midget levels, including the all-girls team.
The competitive teams play in the PCAHA, with the house-league level squads taking on teams in the Lions Gate League and the rep teams playing opponents from throughout the PCAHA, which has 42 member minor hockey associations and three above-minor member leagues throughout the Lower Mainland.
The WMHA is always looking for parents and volunteers to help in a variety of roles, such as working on specific fundraising projects or helping to organize the end-of-year banquet, McIvor said. For more details or contact information, check out the new website at www.whistlerminorhockey.ca.