Program extends hockey season
By Robert Mackenzie
Published June 20, 2017
Hockey season is over in the county, yet kids are still filing into the A.J. LaRue Arena Thursday night with their equipment in tow.
For the fourth straight year, the municipality’s ball hockey program has taken over the void that’s left once the ice hockey season ends.
“There’s a great turnout, it gives the kids something to do,” says Andrea Mueller, Dysart et al’s recreation programming co-ordinator. “We don’t have many recreational facilities for indoor recreation, so this is something that we can do rain or shine, in any kind of weather, and [the kids] seem to really enjoy it.”
This past Thursday was the last ball hockey night of the year. According to Mueller, the program usually runs around eight to 10 weeks between April and June, the only time of the year when the arena’s ice is gone.
This year, Mueller says the program was so popular they were forced to turn away some kids because they didn’t have the capacity. “We’ve talked about expanding to a second night next year,” she says. The program runs three different games based on ages ranging anywhere from four to 18.
Ethan Dobson plays in the atom/peewee division. Ethan is playing forward in Thursday’s game, but has been suiting up as goalie most of the season. “If he’s in net the score is very lopsided because he blocks so many,” Mueller says.
This year, Ethan’s father Darrell invested in some goalie equipment for him. Ethan was the backup on his county league team this season, but once ice hockey starts back up in August, he plans on trying out as a goalie for the Highland Storm travel team.
Ethan says hockey is his favourite sport, and he likes playing goalie because there’s more action. “He plays all the time, in the basement, the yard, on the deck,” Darrell says. “He’s either taking shots or getting his dad and brother to take shots.
While Ethan credits the ball hockey with helping his skill development, Mueller says not all players are there to improve their on-ice skills. “In all levels we have kids who’ve never played hockey of any kind,” she says. “We have some that are very good at ice hockey...what’s nice is that these guys come and help out one on one with somebody who maybe hasn’t played hockey before.”
Mueller points out that a number of her volunteers are players in the midget/bantam division who play in the last game of the night, yet come out early to help set up and keep score, while also helping some of the younger players. “They play in the oldest group but they come and help out with the younger groups and they’re dedicated and just really good helpers. I think that’s awesome, that’s just really good to see,” she says.
After the final buzzer, the players line up and shake hands, while Darrell says Ethan scored nine goals in the game. But none of the kids seem worried about the score, as they’re busy crowding around Mueller, who’s attempting to hand out freezies and gummy worms to everyone as they leave.
“I think it’s good and it teaches sportsmanship. We don’t run it like tournament style where you keep track of score from one week to the next. The idea is to have some exercise, have some fun and just do something they really enjoy,” Mueller says.
The ice at A.J. LaRue has been gone for months, but hockey season never really ended.