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Hockey players wanted

by Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, November 6, 2008

LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - With only a few tables and a smattering of goods the annual equipment swap in Fort Simpson last weekend was a pale shadow of what it used to be.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Nicholas Nelner was one of the few hockey players to look at the selection at the equipment swap in Fort Simpson on Nov. 1. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Todd Roche, the president of the Fort Simpson Minor Hockey Association, can remember when the swap used to take place in the community hall and nine to 15 tables were filled with almost everything a hockey player could need from skates to elbow and shoulder pads. Skates for figure skating and speed skating were also up for grabs.

This year the hall in the recreation centre was booked but five tables easily fit into the hallway near the arena's entrance. The small selection on the tables included a helmet, a pair of hockey skates, a few hockey jerseys and a handful of other items.

Attendance at the event was even smaller than the number of items available, said Roche. Two parents picked up registration forms and some people dropped off equipment to swap or sell.

The fact that the equipment swap wasn't used to its full potential mirrors the difficulties that the association is facing in the village, Roche said.

"Kids aren't as interested in hockey as they used to be," he said.

Some youth don't play any winter sports while others are switching to sports like speed skating, which has increased in popularity in the village.

In Fort Simpson, the association is averaging 25 to 30 members a year. Of those youth only 50 per cent participate regularly, said Roche.

As a result of the low registration numbers practice times have been reduced this year from three to two days a week. The change has allowed the ice time to be maximized for all parties, he said. If registration increases the association can get more time on the ice.

The association wants to see more youth registered but it will require more involvement by both parents and volunteers, said Roche. If parents aren't interested their children won't be either. One needs to support the other, he said.

On any given minor hockey night only three to four parents stay to watch their children practice.

"It's disappointing," said Roche.

The association also has some good coaches but is always looking for more along with anyone willing to volunteer on the minor hockey executive committee.

"If you don't get the volunteers you won't have anything for kids," said Amy Michaud, the treasurer for the association.

The problems that minor hockey is facing in Fort Simpson aren't unique, it's happening across the North, said Roche.

Although numbers and interest may be down, those who play the sport are still passionate about hockey.

Nicholas Nelner, who stopped briefly at the equipment swap, said he's looking forward to playing as an atom this year.

Nelner said he enjoys the end of each practice session when the coaches let the members play a hockey game.