By @StefanKubus –
MOUNT PLEASANT – The 2015 edition of the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association’s annual Summer Meeting came to a close on Sunday morning in Mount Pleasant, and there weren’t many disagreements to be had.
Among other items – including a number of panel discussions and presentations on growing the game within the state – 15 of the proposed 18 rule changes this year were approved by those representing districts across the state.
There was some lively talk during Saturday morning’s Board of Directors meeting where the proposed changes were brought up for discussion, but it was the most quiet event in recent years. That’s largely because most of the proposed rule changes were relatively minor, many of which simply wording changes or small tweaks for housekeeping purposes within MAHA’s rulebook, unlike just two years ago when the monumental 8U cross-ice program was introduced for Mites.
But there were still a few on the agenda that held big implications for Tier 1 and girls hockey.
“I was happy to get the modifications done to the Tier 1 rule change, so that can work for everybody,” MAHA president George Atkinson said. “I was kind of disappointed in the fact that the girls’ rule change didn’t pass to help protect and grow girls’ hockey.”
The first rule Atkinson referred to was one that deals with non-Michigan players within an organization. Tier 1 organizations were previously limited to ten non-Michigan players per organization with no more than six non-Michigan players on any team.
A slight revision to the rule was passed Sunday morning, which states “Tier 1 organizations are limited to ten non-Michigan players per organization at the Pee-Wee age level through the Midget Minor age level (age 11-16), with no more than six non-Michigan players on any one team. Midget Major (age 17-18) teams shall be allowed no more than six non-Michigan players on any one team. For the 2015-16 season only, any player who was rostered on a currently sanctioned Michigan Tier 1 team in the 2014-15 season will not count toward the out-of-state limit for the 2015-16 season.”
Over the course of the last 20 years, Midget Minor has virtually become the new Midget Major with many players moving up the ranks to junior hockey past that age. The additional leeway for Midget Major teams allows them to continue to be competitive, while also guaranteeing that roughly 66-percent of the teams will consist of home-grown Michigan players.
In the realm of girls’ hockey, a rule was proposed to support associations that work to grow girls hockey from the youngest age group upward. Beginning at 14U, in order to roster a team, associations would have been required to have had a girls team in one age classification younger or in the same age group in the previous season. There was also the option to petition the MAHA Girls’/Women’s Committee for an exception if an association did not meet the previous season team requirement. Despite a 35-18 vote in favor of the proposal, two-thirds (37 votes) majority was required to pass any rule change.
As per the MAHA rules, exceptions aside, two years must pass until the same rule can be revisited upon being defeated.
In addition to the rule changes, there were a handful of guest speakers in attendance, including Chris Snyder of the U.S. Olympic Committee who delivered a seminar on coaching; Ken Martel and Bob Mancini of USA Hockey who discussed the American Development Model and the efforts to become a model association, and MiHockey contributor “The Sports Doc,” Dr. Jeff S. Pierce, who spoke of the concussion and injury problems taking a toll on hockey and ways to help both treat and prevent them.
Another noteworthy program to come out of the meetings was Club Excellence, a plan designed to help empower volunteers with crucial information to help operate within their respective association, with topics such as business administration, hockey development and overall parent/volunteer development. Club Excellence is entering its pilot program in the 2015-16 season and, should the feedback be positive as it is expected to be, it will be rolled out to more associations.
“Once they really see what that is, I think they’re going to find that that’s really going to be able to help them do their job a lot easier,” Atkinson said. “It’ll give them a lot of the tools right there that they can put their finger on.”
Above all else, with another year of meetings in the books, the current state of youth hockey has Atkinson optimistic for its future, largely thanks to the people that make it possible on a daily basis.
“Our volunteer base is pretty energized to do things, and I think we’re giving them more and more tools all the time to be able to grow the game.”