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‘More important things’: Sask. senior hockey teams struggle to fill the bench

Hockey Saskatchewan claims there are about 100 senior hockey teams scattered across the province, but there used to be about 150.

“Losing your senior hockey team is no different than losing your post office or school in your community,” said Hockey Saskatchewan general manager Kelly McClintock.

“It has become so competitive, with a lot of extremely good players playing, that sometimes some of the local children in the communities don’t get a chance to play.”

Senior hockey in Saskatchewan is one of the few opportunities for athletes to continue in the sport after minor hockey without going pro.

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Twin Rivers senior hockey league said it sees no problems recruiting players overall.

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“There are people who want to come into our league and we have to say no because we don’t want to be a 20-team league,” said president Raymond Carriere.

“You know, we went from a six-team league to a 12-team league in the first year.”

However, it’s common to see a slightly shorter bench on game day in senior hockey, as most players have full-time jobs and families.

“For every game you hope you can find at least 10 guys that can make it,” said Jesse Mattson, senior hockey coach for the Rosthern Wheat Kings.

“I always tell my boys right at the start of the year that when you play senior hockey there will always be more important things in your life and family will always come first.”

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Mattson said it’s not just about older players — he’s seeing fewer kids playing hockey on site than he used to.

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“They just do other things. This is part of the fight to fill senior hockey rosters because you can’t do it without your local players.

Carriere said when he was younger he spent every day at his small-town ice rink.

“Without an ice rink, there are no community events,” Carriere said, speaking of rural communities in the province. “The ice rink brings everyone together. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, whether ice hockey, carnival, public skating, it brings the community together.”

Senior hockey is beginning to have a major impact on young athletes growing up in small Saskatchewan communities.

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“When you grow up in a small town in Saskatchewan where there is a premier hockey team, sometimes you look up to that premier hockey team more than an NHL team or your junior team,” McClintock said.

As teams head into the playoff season, everyone looks forward to participating in the game and supporting their local team.

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“You talk to kids around town and you hear, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to play for the Wheat Kings and ‘I can’t wait to play senior hockey,’ and you try to tell them, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to play for the Wheat Kings.’ Okay, take something bigger than just senior hockey,’” Mattson joked.

Click here to play the video: “Saskatoon AAA Stars are optimistic about the new Sask.  female youth league

Saskatoon AAA Stars optimistic about new Sask. female youth league

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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