New zones leave questions for midget AAA team
Tuesday, Apr 04, 2017 06:00 am
For more than two decades, the CFR Chemical Bisons AAA midget hockey team has called Strathmore home. That may change, heading into the 2017-18 campaign.
Earlier this month, Hockey Alberta announced the Airdrie Midget AAA Elite Draw Zone, which included 21 communities, was going to be divided into two different zones, awarding the second to Okotoks.
“The registration numbers showed that the numbers of midget registrants in the Airdrie draw zone were substantially higher than the draw zones across the province,” Hockey Alberta senior manager of communications Brad Lyon said.
Lyon said it had yet to be determined how the restructuring would shape up, but confirmed Airdrie and Okotoks would be in different zones.
At the midget AAA level there was just one team for the 21 communities, but in the minor midget AAA and bantam AAA elite levels, the Airdrie and Okotoks zones have already been established, with Airdrie drawing from 12 communities and Okotoks drawing from nine.
Both draw zones have one team in the Alberta Major Bantam AAA Hockey League and Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League, and will now each have a team in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League (AMHL) as well.
“Where those teams will be located for the 2017-18 season hasn’t been decided,” Lyon said.
The decision will be made by the minor hockey associations within the two draw zones.
For the Airdrie draw zone, the bantam team plays out of the Ron Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie as the Xtreme, and the minor midget team plays in Cochrane as the Airdrie-Cochrane Avalanche.
The Airdrie Minor Hockey Association declined to comment on the matter.
The restructuring of the draw zones could spell the end of the Bisons tenure in Strathmore, putting an end to a highly successful program at the midget level.
“This destroys a team. You’re going to take a successful program and cut it in half,” Bisons general manager Wayne Hansen said. “When you do that, you dilute the product. The system seemed to be working well.”
The Bisons just wrapped up its 2016-17 campaign, falling three games to one in the AMHL final to the Leduc Chrysler Oil Kings. The Bisons won the Chrysler Division the past three seasons and captured its first AMHL title during the 2014-15 season.
Hansen said his team was commended for the way it treated its program similar to a junior program, including billeting players from across the once-expansive draw zone in Strathmore and helping the kids see what hockey life away from family is like.
“We wanted to be like a junior A team. We wanted to develop these kids and give them the junior A experience,” Hansen said. “That way when they moved on, they were ready for that level.
“One comment we get from scouts that we talk to every year is they love our program because how prepared our kids are to move away from home, because that usually is a problem during a kid’s first year in junior.”
With uncertainty about the Bisons looming, Hansen announced he was stepping away from the program and would not be involved with either of the teams functioning within the Okotoks or Airdrie draw zones.
Hansen added he was extremely disappointed with the restructuring news, and hoped it benefits the midget-level players heading forward in their hockey careers.