SUMMERSIDE - Hockey P.E.I.’s AAA rezoning plan will begin in the upcoming hockey season.
Jeff Landry, white jersey, of the Charlottetown Abbies attempts to get his stick in the way of a shot by the Summerside Hemphill GM Capitals' Blake Ozon during a round-robin game at an Atlantic minor midget AAA hockey championship tournament. The AAA Midgets will not be affected by Hockey P.E.I. rezoning plans. Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer
Rob Newson, executive director of Hockey P.E.I. said they are in the process of working with the numbers for the new zones as well as practice and game rotation within the zones.
“It‘s always a hot topic and always will be,” Newson said. “Three years ago, minor council decided we needed to take a hard look at our AAA male zones. We were starting to see small declines (in numbers). Quality of play concerned us.”
He said a 20-member AAA zoning committee was formed consisting of a few representatives of minor council and all the associations.
Newson said a few associations didn’t put one on – some of the smaller ones who were not significantly impacted.
They met for about two years, working through the current state of the AAA zones, the number of players, the trends in the sport, and at different models and came back with a recommendation to look at AAA zones.
“The recommendation was to reduce bantam AAA and midget AAA to four zones each from seven and for atom and peewee, they were looking at six (zones),” he said. “The committee members and the associations were well informed and it was left to them to go back to their membership and garner some feedback and go from there.”
The rezoning plan was passed last spring and the associations were notified.
“Since that time, minor council has relaxed on the midget level,” Newson said. “The midget (level) will remain close to status quo so it won’t impact Summerside minor hockey. We’ll maintain that team but our focus is at the bantam level.”
He said Hockey P.E.I. sees a need for a change for player development.
“It’s not about taking a team away from anyone,” Newson said. “It’s, in three cases in the west, downeast and in the Charlottetown area, compressing two teams to one and making their zone a little bit bigger.”
He said there is talk around the Island that the changes are being made so P.E.I. can win the Atlantic championship.
“I believe even with four zones we’ll still be in very tough against our counterparts,” Newson said. “We want to provide the kids with an opportunity to develop at the highest level possible to prepare them for the next level … I we don’t make a change we feel we’re doing a disservice to our members from a development perspective.”
There has been concern expressed that in the Summerside bantam division, there could be a loss of as many as 60 players with rezoning.
“If a team carried 19 players, which is the max and is very rare, they would be at 133 players (total),” he said. “If you went with four teams (it would be) 57 at the most if the teams carried the max.”
Newson said these players would go to AA to play.
“People don’t want to hear this but it’s a fact,” he said. “Some kids play at the AAA level when they’d be better suited playing at the AA level and develop more.”