WINNIPEG, MB- Hockey Manitoba is excited to unveil the Just Play program which is a collection of new initiatives along with several revitalized programs all aimed to broaden the horizon of hockey in the province. The Just Play program will house a variety of recruitment and retention programs underneath it's umbrella; Hockey Discovery Days, First Strides Access Program, Community Champions, In The Game Grants, Breakfast Club Grants, Team Manitoba Kids, Legacy Funding Grants, and Esso Fun Days.
President of Hockey Manitoba, Bill Whitehead, shares his enthusiasm for the Just Play program, "we feel great about this new package of programming designed to create opportunities within the game of hockey in our province, it's been a couple years in the making so we're very proud of what we have to offer and only hope to grow from this point on." Recruitment and retention has been a key topic for hockey associations across the country and a priority of Hockey Canada the past several seasons with national player registration decreasing incrementally in 2009-10 and 2010-11. At home, Hockey Manitoba player membership has remained relatively consistent at just over 24,000 with a boost in 2011-12 to 28,070. Hockey Canada also had an increase in 2011-12, with 617,107 player registrations, up by nearly 44,000 compared to 2010-11. Despite a positive increase this season, initiatives such as the Just Play program will undoubtedly aid in the promotion and awareness of hockey opportunities in Manitoba with the overall goal to gain sustainable membership for the future.
Hockey Manitoba hopes to create meaningful opportunities and enjoyable experiences for children in our province. The organization is eager to expose the sport in a positive way to many new Canadians while giving children of all backgrounds the opportunity to participate in the game. The program addresses that it is important to connect with young players early on in their minor hockey careers, highlighting the many positive aspects of our sport and the life-long health and social benefits of continued participation.
Hockey Manitoba acknowledges the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation as a partner of the Just Play program and the growth of hockey in all of Manitoba. With consistent attention to the Winnipeg Jets, and thus hockey, on a daily basis through media coverage and public forums it's anticipated that a natural correlation of increased hockey registration will occur in 2012-13. Specific partnership details with the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation will be released in the coming weeks.
Hockey Discovery Days
Hockey Discovery Days are comprised of 3 sessions for children aged 5-12 with little or no experience in hockey, designed to introduce the fundamentals of the game a safe, fun, positive setting. On and off-ice components are included as well as education and information for both participants and parents. Participants' fitness and overall health is a primary focus and they will discover the benefits of participating in a team environment while developing social skills they can carry forward to other areas of their lives. Participants are new given sticks, skates, gloves, helmets, neck guards, t-shirts and jerseys and are provided with a healthy snack at each session. Hockey Manitoba will accept applications from various organizations including minor hockey associations, community clubs, schools, community groups and charitable organizations.
First Strides Access Program
Hockey Manitoba's main focus with the First Strides Access program is to provide opportunity to underserved populations such as new Canadians, inner city youth, remote & First Nation communities, cultural & community groups, and more. First Strides is a one day event designed to introduce children aged 5-12 to the sport in a safe, fun and positive setting. Very basic concepts and activities are included as well as education for both participants and parents. Participants are given sticks, skates, helmets, gloves, neck guards, t-shirts and jerseys and participants and parents are provided a meal at the end of the event. Participants are also eligible to receive partial funding to join a CanSkate/Learn to Skate program. Hockey Manitoba will accept applications from various organizations including community groups, charitable organizations, cultural centres, remote communities, etc.
From Gillam Minor Hockey Association to Glenwood Community Centre; Minor hockey associations or community clubs across Manitoba will show their hockey community spirit by developing events/activities to celebrate the game and upload photos, stories, videos to Hockey Manitoba's website along with a grant application to Hockey Manitoba. Grants will be awarded to three (3) winning entries (Community Champions) annually for facility upgrades or hockey equipment as follows: $10,000, $5,000, $5,000.
In The Game Grants
All participants taking part in a Hockey Discovery Days or First Strides Access program will be eligible for 1 of 20 "In The Game" grants provided by Hockey Manitoba which pays for all registration fees in the participant's first year of the organized hockey. Recipients will be selected based on criteria established by Hockey Manitoba.
Breakfast Club Grants
Over the past several seasons successful Breakfast Club programs initiated by Hockey Manitoba's Coach Mentorship program have popped up all across the province. Breakfast Clubs provides additional skill development for players prior to their school day with participants taking part in an on-ice session followed by a nutritional breakfast. Hockey Manitoba will provide $250 grants to all associations or community clubs that develop a sustainable Breakfast Club program, and $100 to all established Breakfast Clubs.
Team Manitoba Kids
This initiative was developed so players beginning their minor hockey careers can connect with Hockey Manitoba and parents can learn of the various programs and development opportunities available to their child as they progress. Parents of players in their first year of minor hockey can register their email address through Hockey Manitoba's newly developed Player Zone to be launched in the fall of 2012. Participants will receive a positive welcome message from Hockey Manitoba's President Bill Whitehead in addition to a coupon for a free item courtesy of Hockey Manitoba.
Legacy Funding Grants
Legacy Funding is application based grant program that allows Minor Hockey Associations, clubs, leagues or regions to create their own development initiatives with a main focus on player, coach, official or volunteer recruitment and retention. The Development Legacy Fund was established by Hockey Manitoba to support hockey development projects. Funding will be directed (but not limited) to programs developing or training coaches, officials and/or volunteers. Also, the World Women's Legacy Fund was created by Hockey Manitoba in 2007 from funds generated by the World Women's Hockey Championships for the purpose of promoting amateur hockey in Manitoba, in particular supporting player development. This fund is directed towards, but not limited to development of female hockey projects.
Esso Fun Days
Developed by Hockey Canada, the Esso Fun Days have been running since 1998 and are hosted by Minor Hockey Associations on an application based process. This program is meant to be a fun day of hockey for the first time participant in the female game. The focus of the day is to introduce players to the basics, to make new friends, and to try the game without having to make a commitment to sign up for a season. On-ice activities are provided by individuals with coaching certification assisted by other on-ice role models from female hockey.
For further details regarding Just Play and program application forms please visit www.hockeymanitoba.ca/justplay.php.