The Southern Steelers Minor Hockey Association is conducting a online survey to help determine if the organization will operate this winter.
The organization didn’t operate any teams last year at any age level due to a lack of players, and that could be the case again this year.
Teams normally play games at Emerson and Dominion City as part of the Eastman league.
Southern Steelers president Steve Slaney said before the pandemic they normally saw around 40 players sign up.
“Since the pandemic hit, it has taken a huge toll on our numbers,” he commented. “Families were a little reluctant to come back and participate in minor hockey, especially with the restrictions that were still in place and they had to wear masks and there was still a lot of illness. Unfortunately, even after two years of that, we just have families that don’t want to come back.”
Slaney notes that about 20 players participated in a recreational league last year that was run in place of minor hockey. He says the goal was to get kids back on the ice and spark their interest in the game, which could lead to more players deciding to sign up for minor hockey in the future.
In addition to the pandemic, Slaney says there are a number of other factors that have led to the decline in player numbers. He noted that minor hockey is a big commitment and the price of gas certainly hasn’t helped.
Attracting volunteers has also been a challenge.
“It has been difficult to get people to come and help and give their time and services. It was a real struggle for parents to want to get involved in hockey again,” he commented.
Without minor hockey to generate revenue, Slaney said local rinks are suffering.
“It’s definitely been a success for our rink in Dominion City, which has a factory and it’s an artificial rink. We’ve had some [COVID] funding through the government…which helped him. I know the Dominion City group, the arena board, is really trying to come up with ideas to use the rink as much as possible…hopefully that won’t force us to close our rink. We’re just trying to do what we can to keep it going and make sure there’s a place for the local kids here to go and keep skating. »
Slaney hopes to see the polls completed within the next week.
“Just so we can make a decision as to where we’re going to go this season. Are we looking at the Southern Steelers teams or are we looking at the recreational league again this year?”