Cowichan Valley hockey hopefuls hit the ice

The Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association is hosting its annual tryouts this week at Fuller Lake Arena in Chemainus.

Participants in the Bantam division give it their all at tryouts Saturday afternoon.

Participants in the Bantam division give it their all at tryouts Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of Cowichan Valley youths are being put through the rigours of competitive team tryouts this week, as the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association (CVMHA) hosts its annual tryouts at Fuller Lake Skating Arena from Aug. 25 to 29.

The players range in age from nine to 17 and are vying for a place in either the Pee Wee, Atom, Bantam or Midget divisions.

“This is the initial big cut-down list where the basic shape of your two [division] teams come clear,” said CVMHA president Dan Hawethorn. “The players that are successful in these first five days of tryouts will be moving on to the next stage of evaluation, where they’ll begin to play scrimmage games with neighbouring associations.”

During tryouts, the players are introduced to new skills and apply them to drills and shooting on goaltenders. Pee Wee division players are subject to a body checking clinic before being allowed to play in scrimmages, so kids can learn how to use the body check as a technique to separate a player from the puck, not a vicious play.

After that, the players will move on to playing games. Each session is evaluated by a minimum of three independent evaluators and a head coach. A representative from BC Hockey is in charge of assigning the evaluators and tabulating results. The coaches are not allowed to know the names of any of the players to keep things fair.

“We’re looking for skill, skating, puck handling skills, and further down in the evaluations, we’re looking for hockey sense,” explained Pee Wee head coach Brett Hopwo, who has been coaching 22 years.

He said it will be important for players to keep up their intensity, and most importantly their work ethic.

“I think it’s enjoyable for the most part. Some kids get nervous; some kids relish the opportunity,” Hopwo said. “It’s a good experience for them.”

Hawethorn said there are approximately 50 players from north Ladysmith to Duncan in each division, with a fair representation from the Ladysmith area. After Wednesday, those numbers will be cut down to about 35, and the final roster will be firmed up in mid-September.

“There will be some disappointed kids,” he said. “The coaches take cutting kids very seriously; we have exit interviews with each child … and they will receive an exit letter which explains their performance and how it was measured over the five days of tryouts. It also includes skills they can work on.”

He noted that kids who do not make competitive league play still have the opportunity for ice time on one of the association’s recreational teams.

For more information on the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association, visit the association’s website.