How does a parent choose a hockey club or association among the many available in Toronto? A few important considerations described below will provide guidance in order to make the selection a satisfactory one for both the parents and the player.
1. Playing with Friends
With younger players, joining a hockey club is always made easier if the child is accompanied by a friend(s). To facilitate the child’s entry into a hockey club, talk to the parents of your child’s friends, and see if it is possible to have a couple of friends join the same league and request that your child play on the same team as a ‘best friend’.
2. Location and Times for the Games and Practices
- Where are the games? There will be driving requirements to local arenas regardless of which hockey club the player will join. House League games and practices are invariably played on weekends thus minimizing to a certain extent the additional time commitment resulting from traffic congestion on weekdays.
- When are the games? For some, Saturday practices and Sunday games interfere with the weekend activities at the cottage or at the ski club. For others, weekend hockey means that hockey does not interfere with homework, music lessons, and other activities that occur during the week. A few house leagues in Toronto have their games played during the week to allow for weekend skiing. The activities of the Knights Hockey Association occur on the weekend and will likely permit ski lessons as far away as Barrie, but probably precludes skiing in Collingwood every weekend.
If your child is keen to play hockey, his or her rate of improvement, and thus to some extent enjoyment of the game, will depend on his or her commitment to practice. Parents can provide additional skating lessons which will be very beneficial to the player; but there is no substitute for engaging in hockey drills at a practice with a team. Some leagues provide no practice time, just a time slot for games. Other hockey clubs provide a combined ‘skills session’ instead of individual team practices. Some hockey clubs provide shared ice practices, with two or more teams sharing the ice. The Knights Hockey Association currently provides shared ice for practices at the U7-U9 levels, and full ice for practices at the U10 to the U16 divisions. The U17-U18 division does not have scheduled practices as attendance often declines due to high school and part-time job commitments.
4. Select Program
The Knights Hockey Association operates a very active Select (All-Star) program. In Select the players participate in an additional game and an additional practice every week; so the Select players are on the ice four times a week. If your child is a better than average player, he or she may be able to play Select. (See the Select section on the website for more information.) Children who play in the Select program generally improve their hockey skills more quickly than those playing in house leagues only reflecting the extra ice time and the more competitive brand of hockey. The Select program is the usual introduction to competitive hockey for Tyke and Novice players and can be a step to GTHL’s A or AA divisions. If this type of activity describes the interests of you and your child, join a league which can consistently field one or more Select teams at your child’s age division.
There is probably very little difference in culture among community House League programs. House League programs all rely on volunteer coaches, emphasize an easy-going atmosphere and keep the focus on fun and learning as opposed to competition. Friendships will form regardless of which club is selected.
6. GTHL Teams
If your child intends to play at either the GTHL A or AA level, it may be helpful to choose a House League with an affiliation to a club with a good reputation and a strong record in that league. The North York Knights A and AA teams with which the Knights house league is affiliated have an excellent reputation for icing consistently competitive and well-coached teams.