Hockey Calgary hoping to reverse declining registration numbers – Calgary

Registration in minor hockey has dropped over the last couple of years. Now, Calgary’s hockey community is trying to get the families it lost during the COVID-19 pandemic back on the ice and to also recruit some new players.

Registration for many of the city’s associations opens on June 15.

For teenagers like Asher Leukefeld, hockey is more than just a sport.

“It’s the friends and family,” said the 13-year-old player with the Simons Valley Storm.

“When I was younger, I had friends that we played hockey with and now they’re some of my best friends.”

Now the U15 player is giving back to the hockey community. He’s volunteering at Intro to Hockey events hosted by the Simons Valley Hockey Association — a way to bring new players into the sport.

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“They have no previous experience at all,” said Tanya Leukefeld, director of communications with the Simons Valley Hockey Association. “They were just interested in joining or they were wondering what hockey is all about, and the whole point of Intro to Hockey is to let them try it out, get a feel for the ice and touch that stick — see what it’s like.

“We have been running it every Sunday this spring. With the help of Hockey Calgary and Bauer and Alberta Hockey and the Calgary Flames Foundation, we were able to get a whole bunch of equipment and suited up 60 players, so when our registration opened, it filled up within two days. We have 60 brand new little players on the ice between the ages of four to nine, learning how to play hockey.”

New players are needed more than ever.

Pre-pandemic, Simons Valley Hockey Association had around 1,000 families in the organization. Now they’re down to 700.

“We lost that sense of community and that sense of togetherness. We weren’t able to keep those connections going with families,” Leukefeld said.

Over the course of the past two years, Hockey Calgary registration is down about 10 per cent, according to executive director Kevin Kobelka.

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“We are coming off a tough couple of years,” Kobelka said.

“Two years ago, we lost about seven or eight per cent, and this year we lost another four or five per cent. So over the course of two years, Hockey Calgary itself is down about 10 or 11 per cent.”

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Hockey Calgary has launched a new awareness campaign called Everyone’s Game. The campaign emphasizes that there is a type of hockey available for everyone’s price range, age, commitment and skill level.

“It’s very important for us to highlight the benefits of hockey and to try and get kids back into the game,” Kobelka said. “It’s been a tough couple of years with them probably not being as active as they should, and we really think that hockey provides the activity and the social network that kids need nowadays.

“Hockey is an inclusive sport. The big thing is we have different levels. We have female programs, we have house league programs and we have Try Hockey programs. We have different things for different people, so whatever you’re looking for, we believe we have a program for you.”

There is funding available through the Flames Foundation for families who qualify.

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Kobelka said the price of registration is expected to go up with the increasing cost of ice time.

The decision to open registration earlier this year — June 15 rather than July 1 — was to help spread payments out for families over an additional month.

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