The Junior League Management Commitee (JLMC) programme for 2016/17 got off to a fantastic start last weekend with a packed programme for players in all age groups.
With the support of Steve Nell’s Swindon Academy the JLMC hosted a 6 hour Major League event for U13, U15 and U18 players on Saturday and then on Sunday there was a 6 hour Lil’ League event which was once again supported by Swindon Academy under the watchful eye of Lil’ League co-ordinator Gary Apsley.
The two day HockeyFest saw players traveling to Swindon from the North, Midlands, South-East, South-West and Wales.
JLMC Chair Jacqueline Pye said: “It’s been another fantastic weekend of hockey for the kids and I am grateful to Steve Nell and his team at Swindon for backing and supporting this weekend.
On Saturday the Major League event took place which loosely followed the in-house league format that has proved so successful for Swindon. Players simply registered their interest in the event on the JLMC’s TeamApp event and turned-up at Swindon ready to play.
Teams were formed on the day and “League” shirts were issued to all of the players. Teams were matched as far as possible line for line in order to create an equal strength level of competition and shifts were played on the buzzer with U13 & U15 players playing together and U15 & U18 players competing together. EIHA officials controlled the mini games and in-house league rules applied for checking and body contact so the younger players were protected.
With six hours of ice available and shifts played on the buzzer, every player was given ample opportunity to develop and improve. Coaches ran the team bench and officials controlled the game so to the watching parents the games were both interesting and exciting to watch as the teams were balanced and competitive.
Jacqueline Pye added: “The in-house league format is very similar to the Lil’ League and NHL Jamboree formats but with one notable difference, all the kids are from Swindon and so Steve (Nell) certainly has something that the larger EIHA Clubs should take a closer look at because it is a programme that could deliver a substantial increase in player numbers. I’d like us to explore how we might roll this out in other Clubs.”
On Sunday the same six hour ice slot was made available but this session was used for the Lil’ League format which has been implemented successfully at both Sutton and Sheffield. There was plenty to play for with the Stanley Cup once again to be presented to the winning team. As with the Major League event, players registered their interest on the JLMC’s TeamApp event and were allocated to teams on arrival at the rink.
The draft selections were allocated to Flyers, Sharks, Leafs, Capitals and Rangers and the four goalies were rotated across the teams. The day started with 30 minutes of intensive high-tempo training with all of the players being given step-by-step demonstrations of the fundamental skills under the guidance of the Swindon Academy coaches.
After a short break the “NHL” Lil’ League event commenced and the energy and effort levels applied by all of the players was excellent. Even the youngest player, four year old Louis Selby, who had made the three hour trip in a small group from Sutton, had his full share of ice time and he gained a month’s worth of ice time in one afternoon.
The teams played games on the buzzer with lines being matched as far as possible. An interesting element was watching the competition unfold with one-on-one battles for every loose puck becoming more intense as the games unfolded. At the end of the tournament, after an energy-sapping two days for the players, the winning team emerged which was the Capitals.
Awarding the Stanley Cup, EIHA Director Geoff Hemmerman said: “The kids here today have gained the equivalent of around a month of hockey experience in just a few hours. The coaching has been first class and the activity level has been excellent. We need to do more of this for the sake of the game and the kids who want to play it!”