A swelling cohort of new hockey players has the Inuvik Minor Hockey Association buzzing this season.
“Busy,” said Mark Sommerfeld, coach of the novice group, about the first day Saturday, Oct. 7.
“Lot more kids than we had the last two years. But (it’s been) good so far. Everybody’s really excited to be out there.”
By the second day of hockey, 142 players had signed up, with growth especially among the younger tiers.
“It’s bigger than last year,” said Marsha Branigan, the association’s secretary, who was taking care of sign-ups during the weekend.
“I think it might be one of our largest groups. We have lots of new players coming in, which is nice to see, especially at the younger age.”
Sommerfeld has children at the initiation, novice and atom levels. His son Jaxon was looking forward to his new season in novice, where his father is the coach.
“My dad’s the coach, so he said that we were just going to have a fun day for the first day of hockey, just skate around and play some games,” said Jaxon.
He’s been playing hockey for five years, preferring to play goalie or forward. His favourite team is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jaxon’s goal for this season: “Playing my best and being a good hockey player.”
For coach Sommerfeld, leading the novice players means balancing practices so all skill sets are accommodated.
“We focus primarily on skating (and) just the basics of hockey – skating, stopping,” he said. “We’ve got skill ranges from never skated before all the way up to being able to start learning positional play, but we have to focus on a middle ground so we don’t leave anybody behind.”
Because there aren’t enough players in the Inuvik hockey system to hold a league, players usually practice all week with one game on the weekends. Sommerfeld divides the players into two teams with separate dressing rooms and jerseys, so the experience mimics a real game feeling.
When players come in from the surrounding communities for the larger tournaments, they are integrated into the Inuvik rosters and teams are divided up evenly.
Despite it being busy, Sommerfeld said the new season was going well so far.
“Everybody’s really excited to be out there,” he said.