By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It’s an early Saturday morning at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre and the bleachers are full of parents and grandparents watching children play hockey. But what sets the players on the ice apart from many other teams that will occupy the rink that day is the range of ages and genders playing together on the ice.
FunTeam Hockey, now in its fourth season in Morinville, offers area children and their parents an option to the time and financial commitments that are, of necessity, a part of minor hockey.
Tim Quinn, one of the program’s volunteer coaches said FunTeam Hockey runs from 8:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. every Saturday morning and that the time is divided between 45 minutes of skill building and a full hour of game time.
It is a recipe that has drawn increased numbers of families to the table this year, each looking to dine on what FunTeam is dishing up – hockey skills, plenty of ice time, new friendships and most important of all – plenty of fun.
Quinn attributes the program’s success to Ray and Christa Meunier who had the foresight to start the program four years ago and remain active in FunTeam Hockey along with the program’s other dedicated volunteer parents who are actively involved in coaching and other supportive rolls.
The long-time advocate of the program said there were some growing pains this season as the program tried to figure out how best to handle the 40-some children that signed up to participate this year.
“The coaches got together and we came up with a solution to divide them into two divisions,” Quinn said, adding the program’s goal is to give participants plenty of ice time. “I think we’ve accomplished that. Moving forward, as the program grows; we’re considering two ice slots.”
Quinn said doing so would not take away from one of the program’s charms – having a wide range of age groups of both male and female players on the ice. “We still have a pretty big spread,” Quinn said, noting the older division includes ages 10-15 and the younger group includes children aged four to nine. “You’re still getting a pretty good spread.”
Quinn said one of the early challenges facing the program was overcoming the misconception that the program wasn’t real hockey.
“We don’t keep score, but you can ask any one of them what the score was in the game and they can tell you,” he said, adding new jerseys were purchased for the team this year, something that has given the players even greater pride in what they are doing. “We’re trying to create a team atmosphere. That’s the bottom line. We did get that comment the last year or couple of years that it isn’t real hockey. It is real hockey. It’s simply real hockey without the travel.”
One FunTeam veteran is Quinn’s 14-year-old son Riley whose been with the team for a few years now.
“I love it; it’s really good,” Riley said, adding he enjoys the lack of travel involved. “It’s easier to just come here every morning rather than having to go three hours over there. The other thing is you’re with the same people every week. Even though it is competitive, it’s still with your friends rather than people you don’t know.”
The junior Quinn recommends it to other young people interested in playing hockey.
“I’d say give it a try because it’s really fun,” he said. “You learn a lot about hockey here.”