What started as a way to give young athletes a chance to keep playing hockey as they reached the midget age has modified into a weekly program with the goal of preparing for the Arctic Winter Games in March.
The midget program was organized by Elgin Schwantz who will be the head coach of the male midget team for the AWG.
After the midget Mustangs program didn’t have enough players for a team, Schwantz decided to host weekly ice sessions for kids who wanted to keep playing outside of the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association midget house
“It just gives the kids something to do. I find especially the kids that still want to play the game, it keeps them out of trouble for that many hours a day,” Schwantz said. “It’s a good program but it’s iffy right now.”
The inaugural year for the program has presented challenges in playing competitive games, Schwantz said.
They tried to host teams for a tournament in Whitehorse, similar to the International Showdown hosted by the bantam team at the beginning of December, but were unable to get teams to commit.
Schwantz said they were also looking at leaving the territory for tournaments and that was also an option for the AWG team when finalized at the end of January, but it produced conflicts for some players.
“We still practice once a week and we tried to do tournaments and couldn’t get enough bodies to commit to tournaments so we cancelled them,” Schwantz said. “So now the focus is just Arctic’s and practice once a week.”
The second set of AWG trials for all three hockey teams will be held this weekend with three sessions between Friday and Sunday.
The first set of trials at the end of December saw more players than were typically coming out to the weekly Wednesday practices for the midget program, noted Schwantz, as athletes who were playing out of town returned home for the holidays and were able to tryout.
“The boys that were playing out of town for different teams came home for Christmas and tried out so we had definitely different players,” he said.
Typically, Schwantz said the Wednesday night practices at the Canada Games Centre have between 13 and 18 skaters, while the first trial alone had about 20 skaters and two goalies.
One of the goalies was from Haines Junction, who Schwantz said was the only attendee from outside Whitehorse.
The turnout was surprising to Schwantz and with even more players possibly attending the second weekend of trials, tough decisions lie ahead in naming the 17-player roster.
“It’s going to be lots of decision-making on our parts to pick the team,” he said.
The numbers for each weekly practice does fluctuate, Schwantz said, but has seen growth since the program started in October and now they have a regular group that frequently attends the sessions that focus on competitive and high-
And even though the team was unable to garner enough interest for tournament play, the rink is filled with players eager to advance their skills and play the game they love every Wednesday evening – which was the original incentive for Schwantz.
“It was just me trying to give these kids another option for hockey because there was nothing,” he said.