Ponoka Minor Hockey’s initiation squad, the Mighty Mites, were indeed mighty at their home tournament.
Playing Jan. 25 with a total of six teams involved, the day was all about fun as opposed to focussing on the score sheet, as well as getting the young athletes as much ice time as possible.
Coach Ryan Gillespie enjoys being able to see the different skill levels of the initiation teams from around central Alberta. His real hope is that the Mites end up having a strong connection with each other as a team during the tourney.
“At this level you don’t do as many team building events,” said Gillespie.
Even with the one day tourney, that team bond was already starting to grow, he added, pointing out that the players were getting themselves pumped up by dancing for their next games.
For coordinator Carla Campbell, the biggest challenge of any tournament is the last-minute fine details that have to be sorted out.
“The biggest reward is seeing how much fun the kids are having,” added Campbell.
To bring that fun experience to the tourney, after each game there was a Heart and Hustle award and MVP award handed out to players on each team. And at the end there was a fun shootout with the winning teams getting Tim Bits.
Gillespie added that this year with a new batch of players, the focus has been to give the kids a strong love of the sport. He points out that a lot of times there’s usually turnover of players after that first year. He wants to change that practice.
Ponoka’s coaches brought together fun events such as playing at professional hockey rinks, pizza nights, standing in with the Ponoka Stampeders and more.
“We want them to fall in love with hockey so they stay in hockey,” said Gillespie.
“It’s been whole focus this year for sure and when you know four, five or six kids were on T-bars and now they’re playing hockey, that’s happy,” said Gillespie.