The Michigan Amateur Hockey Association held its annual Winter Meeting to close January, and there were plenty of topics discussed in efforts to grow and improve youth hockey in the Great Lakes State.
The two main focuses from the meeting were the continued quest to change the culture surrounding and amateur hockey, as well as the need to recruit and retain new officials.
“The two focuses really go hand-in-hand,” said MAHA president George Atkinson. “We need to welcome more people to the game, and we need to make sure everyone is respectful of each other at the rink – especially the officials. Without new players, and without new referees, our hockey community suffers.”
The culture change starts with a renewed emphasis on MAHA’s zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior at the rink. Abuse of officials, players or coaches will not be tolerated. We must make sure that everyone involved in this sport – especially the players and the officials – feel safe and comfortable at all times.
MAHA will be exploring more ways to offer reduced cost and reduced time-commitment programs for young athletes wishing to play hockey in a recreational capacity. ‘More flexibility at the bottom of the hockey pyramid’ is crucial to the long-term growth and success of the sport.
Similarly, retention of officials and the welcoming of new officials is of paramount importance. USA Hockey has shared concerning numbers as it relates to referees – hockey experiences a 30-percent turnover on officials each season, and 50 percent of first-time officials do not return for a second season. Those facts, combined with the fact that 40 percent of all officials are under the age of 18, illustrate the growing concern for the well-being of our sport as it relates to referees.
“We need to change the approach on a statewide level, which requires a collaborative effort within our local hockey markets,” said Jason Reynolds, MAHA’s new director of operations and marketing. “Board members, coaches, officials, rink management, and even local law enforcement – they should all be involved in the roundtable discussion. If everyone commits to consistency in their approach, our hockey community has a chance to be a leader in this movement.”