Monday, October 06, 2008

Novice hockey

Quebec adjusted the ranks of its minor hockey leagues over the summer. For example, Novice previously consisted of kids in grades two and three - in other words, the age cut off roughly matched the age cutoff schools use, of September or October.

The province moved the age cutoff date to January 1, so that novice this year consists only of players born in 2001 and 2000. All kids born in the last third of 1999 move straight to Atom after one year of Novice.

My Novice B team from last year, 14 kids, is returning only three kids to Novice. Child Three is one of them, and he's the most veteran goalie remaining in NDG at the level. Last year, NDG had seven Novice teams: two A, three B, two C. Each A team had a goalie and each B team had two. Of those eight goaltenders, six have moved to Atom and one is now a skater. Child Three alone remains.

Novice this year has many fewer kids. We'll only have four teams (one A, two B, one C). On top of that, the quality of the skills at the Novice level seems to have dropped. I hope that trend holds citywide, or it's going to be a long year for NDG at this level, especially considering the league championships we won last year at A, B, and C.

The winnowing of the kids into the levels is more secretive this year. Even the coach selection has become bureaucratic. Last year, we had a big happy meeting of volunteers. This year, some board has to approve all requests to coach. I asked to return as a head coach, but I don't know the status of my application.

Although I'm not privy to the process of grading the kids, from what I see on the ice, there are two goalies in the running for the A team: Child Three and another goalie in her first year of novice. They play different styles and are about equivalent prospects. The other goalie makes more stops right now, but Child Three is more dynamic and I think will be the better goalie by the end of the year. Still, it's a tough call, and one of these two goalies will be on the A team. Another consideration is that I think the other goalie has a temperment better suited more competitive hockey. Child Three gets too frustrated and discouraged at times.

I'm concerned by the goaltending quality. I hope it's a byproduct of the change in age-ranking and of what we see among the skaters, but none of our goalies are as good as the ones we saw on any team in Novice B last year. I hope it's the same in other regions.

I have mixed feelings about Child Three's prospects for other reasons. If he makes the A team, I have a feeling I won't be the head coach - other volunteers have been asked to rank the kids and I have not, mostly because this year's Novice brain trust is a clique of parents who know each other and not me. Yet I excel at head coaching, I think. I could be an assistant, but I want to teach a team of kids my way. My team improved so much last year and I want to succeed at that again. That's a possibility if Child Three plays in Novice B, a better possibility than were he to make A, for sure.

All should be resolved by the end of the week.


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