It’s a big weekend for hockey as three of the city’s best minor teams are off to represent Terrace at championship tournaments around the province from March 19 – 23.
Terrace’s U13, U15 and U18 teams continue to triumph as they get older and work through the minor hockey system. Each team won the Northwest District Zone playoffs to represent the district at this year’s BC Hockey Tier 3 Championships.
“Representing your community is huge,” said U15 coach Chris Culp. “The pride, excitement and expectations. Any tournament of this calibre is an amazing experience that the kids should be able to look back on one day.”
The championships are all over the province, as the U13s are in West Vancouver, U15s are in Port Alberni and the U18s are right here in Terrace.
The eldest U18 team is defending its title in what will be the last year of minor hockey for many players. The team has won gold at the tier three championships the last three years the tournament has been held.
The U15s have the longest travel time; the drive to Port Alberni is nearly 20 hours. With such a long time to reflect, nerves are bound to take hold of the youngsters, the coach said.
“Keeping focused and relaxed is key,” said Culp. “We suggest different ways of channelling their emotions in a positive way and to try and focus as much as possible on the experience. This can help take focus away from pressure.”
Lastly, in the youngest age bracket, the U13s are in West Vancouver, the trip of a lifetime for the young hockey stars.
“Some of the kids have never even been to Vancouver before, so it’s awesome that’s where the tournament is this year,” said U13 coach Brian Rigler.
Building hockey skills is important, but Rigler also loves to see the players’ personal growth.
“I’m about building hockey skills, but I’m also all about life lessons too,” Rigler said. “It builds their maturity level and ability to step outside of their bubble and compete against the next level of hockey players. It’s so exciting for us.”
The teams from smaller towns are usually the underdogs in these tournaments, especially from the North.
“It’s always tough coming down and playing against some of the bigger centres because they can draw from so many additional kids,” Rigler said. “But our team’s doing really well this year. We’re all gelling well, and I think we’ve got a good chance.”
The tournaments come at a time when minor hockey registration all across Canada is down. The pandemic, registration fees, equipment and travel all may push families away from the sport.
In the 2021/22 season, there were over 513,000 registered ice hockey players in Canada, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation. This marks a significant increase from pandemic numbers, but a decline of over 90,000 from pre-pandemic levels.
“We’ve seen the same decline in Terrace […] there are fewer kids and therefore not as many kids to choose from,” Culp said. “Aside from the challenges, I believe the quality of hockey in Terrace is quite good. The fact that three teams are off to provincials speaks to that.”
If anyone understands the importance of minor sports, it’s the coaches.
“It’s super exciting for me not only as a parent on the team but also as a coach to be able to see that growth in these kids and know that these kids are more prepared to go out there and run their own life.”
Viewers can catch the streams of the games on the Terrace Minor Hockey website.
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