The changes keep coming for minor hockey in Ponoka and the hope is it will bring some new growth.
Cam Rice, president of the Ponoka Minor Hockey Association (PMHA), explained a new program for children ages three to five will begin this fall.
“It’s similar to ones that have been operating in Lacombe and Blackfalds and as an association, we are very excited about it,” he explained.
“This is big news for us and is intended to get those kids who want to play hockey onto the ice in an environment where they can develop and learn on the same level.”
Rice added that the current initiation level has a large divide between players, so the new program will provide a spot for kids that are old enough to skate though not at the same stage of development as the older players.
“The program, to be called the Colts, will also give these players the opportunity to learn to play the game, instead of just watching the better skaters always having the puck,” he said.
“We think this is a step in the right direction for PMHA and that it will help grow the number of players for the future.”
He added that should the players progress and show improvement, there would be the chance available to bump them up to the initiation level.
An exact cost of registration for the new Colts program has yet to be determined, though he stated it will be reasonable.
New logos, league
With the new program comes a new logo, but the entire look of the rest of the PMHA will see a change.
Set to be officially unveiled to the public in the Ponoka Stampede parade on June 30, the new symbol with feature a stylized stallion in green and black with ‘Ponoka Stampeders’ emblazoned in black letters and green shadows below on both the association’s white and dark jersey’s.
The change will also mean all of Ponoka’s teams will be nicknamed ‘Stampeders’ instead of simply being known by the team’s sponsor, as was done previously.
And the PMHA will be a part of the 16-60 league along with many of the other former North Central Minor Hockey League teams.
Rice stated the association will have its teams play in the east side of the league in its various divisions and tiers, while also having its clubs participate once again in the Northern Alberta Interlock league.
That means tier one teams in peewee, bantam and midget will play a fully interlocking schedule, while the lower tiers will face some teams from outside the 16-60. However, Rice stated that Sturgeon-Pembina is the only other league in the interlock so far as talks continue with the North East Minor Hockey League, who dropped out of the interlock partway through last season.
One other new item for PMHA is that the association in now on Facebook, something that Rice said is meant to add better communication with players, parents and the public.
“It’s one part of getting the PMHA more out there. We also are working on having our teams and parents seen going out and more involved in the community,” he stated.
That includes parents volunteering for the Ponoka Stampede, with Rice thanking the Stampede board for providing a donation to the PMHA for the work. The money will be used to provide those parent volunteers with a cut to the registration fees for their children.