The Hope Arena was teeming with action last weekend, as nine squads of seven and eight-year-olds converged for the annual Hockey 4 tournament. Most teams were from down-valley but one was from Kelowna.
Opposing teams were each split in half for two concurrent mini-games. To get maximum use of the ice, a padded dividing wall was stretched across the centre line and smaller nets were used. A goalie and three skaters played two-minute shifts before the buzzer hailed a new set of skaters.
If a goal was scored, or the puck was covered by the netminder, the attackers backed away and the defence had a chance to restart play — much like a game of pond hockey.
At half time, the goalies switched rinks and play resumed. No score was kept — though there was a lot of mental tallying going on, by those who paid close attention.
Since the late 1990s, Agassiz and Harrison-based players have been required to register in Hope, though some go on to play rep hockey in Chilliwack. That change has brought many players and coaches to Hope from down-valley, including Hockey 4 coaches Ric Hampton and Andrew Wouda.
Wouda played in Hope as a teen and is now back as a coach and hockey dad. Hampton began coaching before the turn of the century, when his son Umi started playing. Though his sons have graduated from the program, Hampton has stuck around for 23 years now, sharing his love of the game with new generations of players.
“There are no scores kept and no most-valuable players,” said Hampton, of the philosophy behind Hockey 1 to 4. “We just play, to learn how to play better… to get our skills and skating down — because we’re going to win the banner in atoms, next year.”
Tournament organizer, Lora Post said the current atom C1 Wildcats won their league banner this season, finishing league play with 97 goals-for. “They are being presented with the banner on Saturday at their home game at 10:30 a.m. in Hope.”
“They have also played two tournaments this season and won gold in them both,” added Post.
Check out Hopeminorhockey.ca for information on teams, association contacts, upcoming playoff games and other events.
Next up is the Hockey 1 and 2 tournament, for age 5 and 6 players, February 21-23.