In what is considered to be an unprecedented move in Canada, Rainy River has voted to merge its minor hockey association with the one in Baudette, Mn. across the bridge.
A vote of 23-7 sealed the deal for the two associations, which have been embroiled in a debate over Canadian players crossing the border to play in Minnesota.
“The good [thing] is that the kids can play at their own level,” Don Gall, president of the Rainy River Minor Hockey Association, said of last week’s decision to merge.
“The PeeWees, Bantams, and the Midgets now have a place to play,” he stressed.
Rainy River failed to ice a Bantam team last year, and could not find games for its Midget team.
The amalgamation became official Sunday but Gall, who admitted he was one of the seven who voted against the merger, said the decision to combine associations is not etched in stone.
In fact, he said Rainy River can pull out at any time if it feels its needs were not being fully met. The change could happen in just “two days or even a year,” he warned.
“I’m still skeptical,” Gall acknowledged last Friday morning. “I just hope the people who voted ‘yes’ know what they are getting into. If we don’t like what’s going on, [then] we leave.
“[But] I just hope everything goes good,” he added. “Maybe it will be a good idea or maybe a bad one—we’ll find out.”
With the Baudette program having exactly double the number of players compared to Rainy River (140-70), it also will hold the majority when it comes to coaches. In fact, Baudette-based coaches will hold every head coaching position in this first season, with Rainy River volunteers having the chance to be assistants.
The reason is Canadians have to successfully pass a Minnesota-certified coaching course first before becoming a head coach in the state. And Gall noted it would have been difficult—if not impossible—to get that certification before this year’s season began.
He also admitted it would be difficult to replace a Baudette coach who has been coaching the same team for several years.
Rainy River players also will fall under the rules and decisions set down by the Lake of the Woods Youth Hockey and the Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association, including where games and practices would be played and what players would be on which team.
Here is a brief outline of the joint proposal for the RRHMA for the 1999-2000 hockey season:
•Registration—Rainy River players will be responsible to pay the required Minnesota hockey/USA registration fee in U.S. funds.
•Ice time—The RRHMA will pay for ice time used in Rainy River to the amount of $11,000 while Lake of the Woods Youth Hockey will pay rent for ice used in the amount of $11,000 or more if necessary.
•Fundraising—All families who participate in LoWYH are expected to work in the concession and help with all fundraising.
•The board—The RRHMA will have a committee/board to administer the collection of fees and to help with signing up referees for the season (the board will answer to the LoWYH board).
•Coaches—Coaches from Rainy River are welcomed and encouraged to participate though not in a head coaching capacity in the first year (the LoWYH approves all coaches).
•Ice time—LoWYH will try to use the Rainy River Rec Centre for practices and tournament games.
•Player selection—The selection of players for teams will be done in as fair a manner as possible with input from coaches.
The proposal will be reviewed at the end of this hockey season, with player ownership returning to their respective communities should the agreement be terminated.