They say the focus of any minor hockey association in Canada is to teach the game and stress hard work over wins and losses.
But for the long-running and successful Emo/Devlin/Barwick Minor Hockey Association, players and parents are faced with the extra challenge of travelling fair distances just to get to practices and games.
“There’s always some concern with the time the kids can put in,” said Atom Selects head coach Dave Saunders as his team practised at the Emo/La Vallee Community Centre on Saturday afternoon.
“A lot of them have weekend farm chores and it’s a credit to their families to drive them to the rink and give them support,” he stressed.
Some 155 kids from Emo, Devlin, Barwick, Rainy River, Stratton, Crozier, and Nestor Falls will suit up on the various teams this season, noted EDBMA secretary Teddianne Kinnear.
Convener Carrie Baker said they’ve always been careful to create their house teams according to the availability of players.
“We try to accommodate by putting kids that are from the same town or in the same family together,” she remarked. “We have to remember that while still keeping teams even and balanced.”
The EDBMA also has created a solid reputation for itself beyond its boundaries. Players who have gotten their start there regularly have earned spots on various Fort Frances ‘AA’ travelling teams and Muskie hockey squads over the years.
As well, a fair number of players with the Borderland Thunder of the Superior International Junior Hockey League first strapped on skates with the EDBMA, including Emo’s Boomer Redford, Dallas Mosbeck, and David Lloyd, and Devlin’s Jason Flatt, Tyler Barker, and Adam McTavish.
Doug McTavish, one of EDBMA’s longest-serving coaches, said community involvement—and stressing the right things about the game—have been key to its success.
“It’s always good to come out and get involved with the community. I’ve just always enjoyed it,” said the Devlin resident who is entering his 15th season as coach—this time with the Emo Bantam Bulldogs for whom his youngest son, Craig, plays.
“You always want the kids to work hard and play the game fair. So as long as they work hard, that’s all that matters,” he added.
Each division once again will host their own tournament this season, which usually attract teams from Fort Frances, Atikokan, Dryden, Kenora, and Thunder Bay.
The Bantam and Midgets will take the ice Nov. 23-25, the Novices on Feb. 1-3, the Atoms on Feb. 22-24, and the PeeWees on March 1-3. The initiation (beginner’s) jamboree is set for February.
“I think your own tourney in your own rink is always something the kids look forward to and want to do well in,” said Saunders. “It’s a chance for them to strut their stuff.”
An EDBMA “fun day” also is scheduled for the March Break. Baker said it’s a chance for players from different divisions to have fun on the rink in loose scrimmages and skills contests.
Also in the works is a new heating system for those family members who watch their kids play. The EDBMA, along with the community centre, have put out a tender to install heaters in the bleachers.
Baker said strong fundraising by the communities will allow them to easily afford heat.
“We’ve been fundraising for a few years. We’ve been looking to work towards something,” she said. “It was a nice thing to put our money towards.”