Is ‘rep’ hockey right for my hockey player? For our family?
If any of you have read my past letters, you may have some idea on my stance when it comes to trying out in other centres... but before you do, let me introduce a few ideas that may help you make your decision. (Bear with me, it’s a long one…)
First - where to go. Depending on where you live, most kids in GVMH have some choices. Big centres - such as Orangeville, Erin-Hillsburgh and Centre Wellington, and small centres - Arthur, Shelburne and possibly even Dundalk. Your right of choice (ROC) is determined by where you live and the distance vs another rep centre. If you need clarification, contact our exec team and we can lay it out for you. Basically, measure the distance from your house to the nearest rep centre (usually the town post office). Next, measure the distance to the other nearby centres. If the difference in distance is 8km or less, you can choose to go to either one. If it's more than 8km… then the closest centre is where you have to go. (There's more to it... but that's a good guideline to start with!)
The following link from 2016 explains it further
So now that you've figured out where you CAN go, it's time to think about where you SHOULD go. (Or if you should even go at all...)
One thing that needs to be made clear – the ‘letter’ system applied to each OMHA centre is NOT a reflection of the talent level (per se). Towns (associations) are assigned a letter based on the number of registrations they typically have. The larger a town, the more kids they have to choose from – and thus (usually) better teams. This doesn’t mean that a ‘BB’ team couldn’t beat an ‘A’, or a ‘DD’ couldn’t beat a ‘B’ etc… It doesn’t mean that they have better coaching, or a better overall association. It simply means they have a larger talent pool to draw from. There are players in Flesherton (DD) that are better than kids in Owen Sound (A), and so on. AAA is a little different – each OMHA centre is placed within a ‘AAA’ zone. Our zone is Grey-Bruce, which encompasses all OMHA centres up the Bruce Peninsula, west to the shores of Lake Huron and north through Creemore and Collingwood (and everywhere in between…) so while they may only have about 140 registrants, they have “rights” to all kids within that zone to choose from. Orangeville belongs to Halton Hills, while Arthur belongs to Guelph.
First of all, it's no secret that I'm a big advocate of small town hockey and for the most part despise what big centres have done to minor hockey... but anyway... the following opinions are my thoughts and mine alone, Dave Jordan... they don't represent GVMH.
Big centres divide their players into smaller age divisions - what that means is that while small centres have Atom or Peewee - with two birth years included, big centres go further - minor atom, major atom, minor and major Peewee - each being ONE birth year. This sounds like a good idea on paper, however what it means is that you get the same group of kids (and parents) that grow up playing on the same team year after year after year with very little change... and your Grand Valley kid will be the one that takes little Johnny's spot on the team... who’s played there for the past 3 years… It can be tough to break into an already-established group of kids and parents.
Further - Big centres have multiple levels of rep hockey. The top team will be AA (Orangeville), A (Centre Wellington) or BB (Erin-Hillsburgh). If your child makes one of these teams... you're probably in the right place, as LL hockey (Grand Valley) maybe isn't the best fit. The level of hockey is very high - but buckle up, because you're in for the FULL "rep" experience... and your bank account better be ready too.
Next they will offer an AE program. This is fairly good hockey, however the issue I have with AE hockey is that they will have a full roster. Typically 3 lines of kids and 2 goalies, with AP's to fill spots when needed. Unless you are one of the top kids, ice time can be hard to come by. And they will charge you every penny they can.
Next is MD or "intra-city". In my opinion, this is a ‘rep’ program in name only - It’s basically a traveling house league. The top teams in the Georgian Bay LL (our league) would be competitive with these MD teams. Intra City teams can play fewer regular season games than we do, and ALL big centres will charge you more $$$ than the smaller ones. If you are restricted by your residency and you are seeking (slightly) better hockey for (way) more money, then by all means… just beware. Keep in mind that there will be 25-30+ players AT THAT BIRTH YEAR that the organization has ranked above your child (talent-wise).
As for the smaller towns, our closest small centres are rated CC (Shelburne) and DD (Arthur / Dundalk). First of all, if you were to go to Shelburne or Dundalk, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference. The level of play will be high, as there are some fantastic players in the Georgian Bay rep league. You will play the same amount of games in the same towns for pretty close to the same price as we do here. The only difference in Arthur is the travel is west as opposed to north like us.
For a comparison between small town rep and AE hockey, take a look at the Georgian Bay Rep league website at https://gbmhl.ca/ and look at ANY age group's standings. You will see that AE level hockey is middle of the road at best.
You may be asking... what about my daughter? Well... not my area of expertise. But I can tell you a few things. There are still more than a few girls playing alongside the boys in Peewee LL this season. So no rush to leave town just yet... BUT, there are two things I would like to stress about girls hockey. #1 - It's good. The talent level of the girls, the coaching and the competition have come leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. And #2 - There are no "residency" rules. You can go wherever you want. (this can have it's advantages... and disadvantages). Regardless, we have plenty of current (and former) GV parents that are going through the girls hockey experience as you read this. Reach out to them to get more info.
Hang in there, this is where it gets complicated... and opinionated...
If you or your child want to be Orangeville Flyers (or Erin Hillsburgh Devils) and you want the jacket and sticker for your van, if you have the good fortune to be able to commit the time and money to play in a big centre, then there’s nothing I can say to change your mind. Good luck and I wish you all the best. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE remember, that while you will always be free to come back to Grand Valley for Local league hockey... once you sign with a rep centre, they become YOUR REP CENTRE. You will then need a release to go play rep anywhere else - and why would they grant you a release? They want your money...
If you really want the best for your child when it comes to HOCKEY, and progressing to the highest levels… then the small centre is the way to go. LET ME EXPLAIN…
Let’s consider a minor Peewee AE hockey player. Even if this child is the very best AE player on the team, there are (presumably) 15 better kids on the minor AA team, and 15 on the major AA team. So… this child is roughly 31st or so on the Peewee depth chart. Because the same kids traditionally move year to year with the same team, the AA team will be tough to crack, and by the time this player reaches Bantam, no “scouts” are ever watching an AE level hockey game - because there are about 30 better players IN THAT TOWN ALONE. (and we haven’t even touched on ‘AAA’ hockey) Is the money paid worth it? I don’t think so.
Now, if that same player goes to Shelburne for example, and they make the rep team – this player will play the best teams and the best kids in the area – because towns like Creemore, Meaford and Flesherton (etc…) – don’t have big AA centres nearby, their top kids tend to stay in town.
The Georgian Bay loop is a fantastic measuring stick. If your child continues to dominate and you want to expand, AAA is always out there. But even without AAA, as this player progresses, he will play in towns like Stayner, Midland and Penetang. These towns all have long running Jr. C hockey (any level of Jr Hockey is VERY good hockey), and the local Peewee, Bantam and Midget rep teams are being scouted… trust me.
In Arthur, the rep teams will play in Mitchell, Walkerton, Hanover, Goderich and Kincardine (Jr. C), and Listowel (Jr. B). The same thing applies… small town people talk, and when word gets out that there’s a really good midget player out of Arthur – the Jr. coaches will take notice.
Jr. C can lead to Jr. B, and there are multiple players EVERY YEAR committing to universities from the GOJHL (Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League).
And if your kid never plays junior or college… you have saved THOUSANDS of dollars, and maybe (just maybe) your child won’t hate hockey by the time he or she turns 18.
Some final thoughts (I promise)
The odds of playing in the NHL are ASTRONOMICAL. The book “Selling the Dream” by Ken Campbell puts forth some staggering (and REAL) numbers. Between 1965 and 1985, there were roughly 25,000 minor hockey players born each year. Year after year the numbers remained the same. About 0.1% (25 per birth year) played ONE game in the NHL. As for junior or college? 0.7%. (175 per birth year)
While minor hockey in Canada is becoming less popular, the number of kids playing GLOBALLY has gone up. Look at Auston Matthews, from Arizona. But that's just the start... There are currently more players in the OHL from Florida (4), and Virginia (2), than Dufferin County (1). There are players (in the OHL) from Latvia, Missouri, and even Tennessee, not to mention traditional hockey places like Michigan, Russia, Sweden etc… Don't get me wrong, we all want the very best for our kids and would do everything in our power to give them the opportunities they deserve... but is it realistic?
The very same lessons can be learned from AAA right down to Local league. Teamwork, dedication, accepting failure, winning graciously... they happen every day in every rink whether you paid $500 or $5000 for your child's hockey, or whether you traveled to Drayton or Detroit for your tournament. Is it really better to drive right past your local arena, to play with kids you've never met, to pay more money... for marginally better hockey? When most kids (if they don't quit) will still end up playing pick up on a Sunday afternoon? Even if the level of hockey is great, will your child progress more and become more confident by being the 7th best player on their team? Maybe handling the puck and scoring goals in a lower level (with your friends from school) is better. Nobody really knows but I know what I'd rather do.
Obviously I would love to keep all of our local players here in town, but I realize the talent in the rink and that kids (and parents) want to expand their hockey experience. Hockey has become big-business, but it doesn’t have to be. There are still ways to the top through small towns that won’t stress your family or your wallet. I have a tough time watching families spend their hard-earned money on people “selling the dream” of AA, AAA and beyond.
I could talk about this forever. I love this game and hate where it's going. If you have any questions, reach out to me. There's nothing I love more than talking hockey. I love our kids and wear my Twisters coat with pride. I want to see our kids play hockey well into their adult years because they love the sport and what it represents. Do what you’re going to do, but please be sure you’re doing it for your child, and for the right reasons.
Just my opinion…