by Stephen Dafoe
Local realtor, Morinville Kings President, and Hockeyville Morinville organizer Wayne Gatza is the new president of Sturgeon Minor Hockey. Vice President Doug Nysetvold, Secretary Donna Nelson, and Treasurer Roger Cyr join Gatza in forming the backbone of the new executive.
Gatza, who served on the minor hockey board in Morinville from 1997 to 2006, is pleased to be involved once again and looks forward to doing his part to develop young hockey players in the community.
Two weeks into the job and Gatza and his executive are well on their way with plans for the next season.
“Hockey Alberta has just rolled out what they call a Double-A model, similar to what the Triple-A associations do,” Gatza said, adding Morinville is now the host centre for the new team. “That means kids from Westlock, Barrhead, Gibbons, RQB are going to come here to play Double-A hockey.”
The program is available at the Peewee, Bantam, and Midget level. Hockey Alberta have created two leagues, a south and north league for all three levels. “It’s very similar to Triple-A, and Hockey Alberta is trying to create and develop players to go into Triple A and the Program of Excellence, which is the Hockey Canada program.”
Gatza went on to say Sturgeon Hockey Club’s existing Double-A Midget program was one of the reasons Morinville is the host community for the new offering.
“Before kids didn’t know they could come here to play hockey, and now it’s a mandate to make these teams successful and competitive,” Gatza said. “The very important part of that is it helps develop your A program and your B program so that you can develop your own kids in your association. You’ll have the numbers to do that, so you can form more teams and have equals playing with equals. They will develop that much quicker than if you have them mixed all over the map.
Sturgeon Hockey Club has seen an increase in registered players over the past few years. There were 302 players in 2012-2013, a number that increased to 325 in 2014-2015. Currently, the Sturgeon Hockey Club has 58 per cent of their players residing in Morinville, 23 per cent from Sturgeon County, 11 per cent from Legal, and per cent from other communities.
Busy Hockey Guy
Gatza said his new role as president of minor hockey would not take away from his role on and off the road with the Morinville Senior AA Kings.
“They’re two different roles. The role in minor hockey is more an administrative role. Organize, direct them and guide them. The Kings are more hands on. But I have Doug Nysetvold as the vice president, and Doug has been around hockey an awful long time. Both of us are non-parent, and that helps get rid of a lot of politics. There’s always politics in minor hockey, and we’re trying to eliminate as much of that as we possibly can.”
Gatza and his executive are focusing on developing all teams to be competitive and successful.
That includes boys and girls. Last season the Sturgeon Hockey Club had 305 male players and only 20 female players. They are hoping to increase the number of female players by almost 50 per cent next season.
“That’s high on my agenda,” Gatza said, adding they have 12 female players at the Peewee level, not quite enough for a team. “What we’re going to do is develop and recruit players for that program.” Gatza went on to say he was focusing on that at last weekend’s Zone 3 meeting.
Gatza said another focus will be keeping fees low for players and their families.