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Local minor hockey program ‘only going to get better’

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With Minor Hockey Week in full stride at Memorial Arena this week, the local association’s board of directors is enthusiastic that an already stable program here is only going to get better.

Thanks, in large part, to the new indoor ice surface which should be under construction next door this spring.

“The program will probably change, in what ways we’re not exactly sure, but we’ll have to sit down with the town and see what’s available,” noted Lynn Kellar, president of the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association.

“But the biggest change, we hope, is practice time for teams,” he noted yesterday morning. “It’s definitely a problem but then again, it’s not any different than most major centres.”

Bob Miller, who organized Minor Hockey Week activities here, said board members are inundated with complaints from parents almost on a daily basis about the lack of ice time. He, for one, is only too glad that Fort Frances finally get that much-needed second ice surface.

“We should improve [the program] with the new rink and the extra ice time, especially when you look at say last month, when we were way down [regarding ice time] because of tournaments,” Miller noted.

“It’s hard to schedule 20-some teams from Monday to Thursday,” he acknowledged.

A lack of ice time often forces local teams to play in Emo and Rainy River--a major inconvenience for many parents, especially during the middle of the week.

Ironically, Minor Hockey Week is held later here due to that lack of ice time. It typically falls on the third week of January elsewhere in Canada.

Miller said he will plan to have the week coincide with the rest of the country next year if the new ice surface is ready to go by then. And he expressed interest in having more teams play more games during that week.

Kellar admitted the development of many players is hampered by the lack of indoor practices and games. He noted some teams often may not play games at Memorial Arena in a two-week stretch due to tournaments.

That no doubt will change with the second ice surface.

Still, Kellar said he’s impressed with the way local coaches continually teach the players and improve their skills--helping Fort Frances produce quality hockey teams year after year.

“Actually, with the overall picture, the program is quite strong and it should be good for the next few years,” he stressed.

“We’re always able to compete with teams from Thunder Bay, especially our ‘AA’ teams,” agreed Miller. “It says a lot about our program because of all the early-morning and outdoor practices.”

Kellar also pointed to the resurrection of the Midget house league, and the new ‘AA’ Midget Canadians rep team, as being welcome additions to minor hockey here.

“We’ve had a very good response from the Midget program this year . . . there have been very few penalties,” he noted.

  •  • • Organizers of Minor Hockey Week are asking as many parents, friends, and family as possible to come out and watch the games. For every spectator each player brings into the arena, that player’s name will be put into a draw for either a pair of CCM skates or a mountain bike. A silver collection taken at the door this week also will go towards prizes for the players.
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