A Big Operation
With nearly 2,000 players and four AAA teams, the Association has become a big part of the community. Matt Bestland says he started getting involved with the association when his kids were playing hockey, then spent some time on the Board, and is now the Director.
“I look after the four AAA teams, make sure the governance on the board that assists me on day-to-day operations is compliant, and deal with any disputes that parents or players have,” explains Matt.
There are more than 100 teams in the region, with players aged 5 to 18 years old, and it takes a big effort from many people to make it all run smoothly.
“We have such a great base of volunteers within the entire region, and we have hundreds of volunteers that donate their time and expertise,” Matt says.
Team Building Through Community Service
Off the ice, the teams are known for giving back to their communities.
“As director, one of my priorities is that the teams and team managers are able to identify and support causes that are near and dear to their hearts and their communities. Volunteering and giving back is definitely a team-building exercise. One of the main goals of our region is to encourage kids to get involved with hockey and also become good citizens and good people who help those around them,” Matt explains.
Some teams have raised awareness and funds for local hospices, breast cancer treatment, and mental health. Others have spent time supporting blood banks and food pantries.
“One of our female AAA teams did a food drive where players, parents, and fans could come to the game free of charge, as long as they brought a non-perishable food item. That game raised three huge boxes of food that were donated to one of the food banks in our region,” Matt says.
A Focus on Inclusion
Looking ahead, Matt says the Association wants to continue some of their efforts that they’ve had to pause due to the pandemic.
“We would like to focus more on building hockey registrations in the female leagues and other under-represented groups in our region. Prior to the pandemic, we held Learn to Skate events that really brought up our female registrations,” he explains.
He estimates that of the nearly 2,000 players, about 30% identify as female, and previous Learn to Skate events helped introduce the sport to anyone interested.
“We wanted to make sure no one would be shy or afraid of getting on the ice, so we really encouraged anyone interested to get on the ice and try it out,” he says.
It was also helpful for parents who wanted to know more about the sport and what the time commitment would be. As they aim to be more inclusive, Matt says they are inviting more people to take a shot on the ice.
“We also want to encourage new Canadians to learn more about hockey as well. They may not have had an introduction to the sport or have much familiarity with it. We held events to show them the sport and gave them more information about where to learn how to skate and how to sign up if they wanted to play,” he explains.
As they look ahead to 2022 and 2023, Matt and the Pembina Valley Minor Hockey Association are grateful for the support they’ve received, and they hope to relaunch their Learn to Skate programs just as soon as it’s safe.
“We really appreciate the support of our sponsors who help us with these efforts to teach members of the community about hockey and to help us continue delivering these programs,” he says.
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