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DAHA registration, skate with Bulldogs part of streamlining

While trying to avoid the annual crossfire of parents, who range from disinterested to overzealous, and coaches, who range from conscientious to contentious, the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association stickhandles into a new season determined to make ...

While trying to avoid the annual crossfire of parents, who range from disinterested to overzealous, and coaches, who range from conscientious to contentious, the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association stickhandles into a new season determined to make things easier and better for those who matter most -- the kids.
Using a motto, "designing changes," the DAHA board is starting with this weekend's sign-up plan. Instead of having 15 rink associations holding their own sign-ups at various times and places, the registration for all hockey players will be Sunday and Tuesday at the DECC's Pioneer Hall.
Sunday's session will be held from 3-7 p.m., with games, prizes and the opportunity for all registrants to "skate with the Bulldogs," a session with UMD players available to skate with youth registrants in open skating from 3-6 p.m.
A second sign-up will be Tuesday from 6-9 p.m., also at Pioneer Hall, with open skating for registered families from 8-9 p.m. The north entrance to Pioneer Hall will serve as access for both sessions.
Streamlining the registration is just one of the changes for participants ranging for boys and girls from Mini-Mites, Mites, Squirts, Peewees, Bantams, Junior Gold, Rink-rats and recreational players. Another is the changing of rink boundaries to more closely coincide with high school boundaries.
"We're working to set up a system of hockey mentors," said Anita Stech, the new DAHA president. "We're also making a big push for recreational hockey for kids that want to be involved in hockey at a lower-key level."
The recreational level, which was offered last season, includes a Sunday Night Hockey Club for grades six to nine and a Rink-rats program for kindergarten-grade five. Those players, who may not want to play in the more competitive association programs, will be charged $40 for a jersey to play a season that runs January through February at selected outdoor rinks with some indoor arena ice time, and will consist of one or two practices or games each week, as opposed to the organized rink teams that might have up to five sessions in a week.
Participants in the more competitive rink programs will have their boundary lines changed so that all conform. Anticipating that a boundary change perceived as necessary might meet with complaints, the board is allowing players the option of staying with last year's team. The new boundaries have been used for the Peewee and Bantam levels in previous years, and now also will be used for the other, younger participants down through Mini-Mites.
At the Squirt level, organized rink teams will be divided into four areas: Gary, with Morgan Park, Irving, Merritt and Piedmont; Lower Chester-Duluth Heights; Glen Avon-Woodland; and Congdon-Portman-Lester Park. Within those four areas, rink directors will strive to keep kids in their proper rink areas.
In Squirt-and-older categories where tryouts are required, Stech said that independent evaluators are being sought in all cases. To evaluate, men or women must be at least 21, have a past involvement with hockey, and may not have a family relationship with any player trying out. At least three independent evaluators will be used for all sessions, and the coach of the team involved can run the drills and participate as an evaluator or to discuss evaluations. Also, evaluators will provide each player with information on perceived strengths and weaknesses.
The mentoring idea is an intriguing one. DAHA is seeking adults who enjoy hockey, or have enjoyed hockey in the past, to volunteer to be a hockey mentor. It is a one-year commitment to an assigned player, during which the mentor might transport the player to games and practices, and work with the player individually as time permits. The program will be conducted through the Mentor Duluth organization, which will screen applicants and pair them with youth players.
The plan could give support and encouragement to youngsters who might not otherwise get such adult
guidance. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact DAHA president Anita Stech, at 724-5761, or executive director Clark Coole, at
728-8000.

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