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Minor Hockey Continues to Face Problems in Bancroft

The past four years have been difficult for minor hockey in Bancroft, but the arena commission and minor hockey association are working to make improvements.
“There is no quick fix,” says Marc Gibson, the Vice President of the Bancroft and District Minor Hockey Association. George Eastman, the Chair of the North Hastings Arena Commission, put it simply when he said they’re not getting enough ice rentals. The issue behind why that is though is more complex.
“Minor hockey and girls hockey have reduced their number of (rental) hours in the last few years, drastically,” Eastman says. He says that registration is down nearly 40-percent over the last four years. He says because of that the commission doesn’t have enough to cover the expenses of the arena. “It boils down to lack of usage.”
“We want to make sure that parents understand that if they want (their kids) to play hockey, Bancroft has to be their first choice,” Gibson says. “We have petitioned the (Ontario Minor Hockey Association) to put in restrictions for player movement for all levels.” He says those restrictions are not currently in place for house league players. Gibson says he estimates 30 local players registered elsewhere last season. He says parents look at the registration cost, are turned off and register elsewhere, but might not take into account the travel time. The Bancroft Jets website has registration costs that range from $560 for rep to $370 for their “Initiation program.”
Eastman says there are other things that can be done that will have long-term effects. He says the first-year cost for tykes can be lowered and an equipment exchange could be started to help with the cost for older players. Gibson says that the minor hockey association has spoken to companies who have offered to donate equipment for that program. “If we can reduce the initial cost of getting into hockey that would be huge,” he says. The registration cost for the tyke program is currently $370, according to the Bancroft Jets’ website. Another change is that Gibson says they have joined the League of Eastern Ontario, which will be for kids that want to play but not at a high level. “We’re hoping that is something that helps increase membership,” he says.
Registration season for Bancroft minor hockey is currently in the fall, but Gibson says this year that will change this season with registration being done in the spring. He adds that an open skate will be held for kids as well, but not as a try-out. It will be an opportunity for them to get onto the ice, while parents register them for the year. “That to me is going to show us that we can put together teams early on in the season and know what our numbers are into the fall,” Gibson says.
With a new Junior A hockey team coming to Bancroft in September, Eastman says that will help, but it won’t solve the problem. He says many kids are going to other areas because it’s not as expensive to register there as it is here. It’s $140 cheaper to register in Apsley, for example, than it is in Bancroft, Eastman says. “We have to do our best to keep our registration fees sustainable and affordable for families,” Gibson says.
“There is no incentive for the arena board to lower rates,” Eastman says. “We’re definitely asking them for something technically they have no incentive to give,” Gibson agrees. Both Eastman and Gibson agree though that whatever changes come need to be thought of and done together.
Gibson says it all comes down to making it as attractive as possible for kids to play hockey in Bancroft.
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