“Every kid who wants to play hockey, needs to play hockey.”
These were the piercing words of University of Fraser Valley hockey head coach Jarrett Craig. The words echoed with Josh Dressler in his crusade to break up a lingering log-jam of rules, politics and local disinterest in Whatcom County for youth hockey.
These issues threaten to once again prevent Whatcom County from being included in Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association (PCAHA). Last year, the Whatcom County Amateur Hockey Association (WCAHA) didn’t have enough turnout in the bantam division and only fielded a pee-wee and midget team.
However, just across the border other PCAHA teams are saddled with a starkly different problem: on-going waiting lists. Dressler wants to bring those waiting for a team to Whatcom County to play here.
“There aren’t enough players in Bellingham to form a team and too many players in British Columbia, (where) there’s no room to form another team,” Dressler wrote in a blog, “these rules look to be nothing more than more excuses to not get more skates on more kids and getting them involved in the sport of hockey.”
Josh’s son, Trent, will be playing in the bantam classification this year. A student at Blaine high school, he may have to play in the adult league. Last year, only three players turned out for bantams. As he has lobbied for interest, he notes that there is a rich local hockey history here.
Former Whatcom County resident Scotty Gomez played for the New York Rangers. Don Butcher, who coaches a midget team for the WCAHA, played for both the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues. Former Boston Bruin goalie Jordon Sigalet lives in Birch Bay.
Alana Collins of the WCAHA sees a more optimistic situation developing this year.
“We will have a bantam team this year,” Collins said in a phone interview. “We should have just enough players.”
Collins is hopeful that a positive view of what is happening in Whatcom County youth hockey is being portrayed. With a new board in place for the WCAHA, she believes that the thought that youth hockey is in dire straits locally is an unrealistic image.
“Our enrollment is up significantly,” Collins said. “We will have a 30 percent increase over last year in the novice divisions, which are 10 years old and under.”
Collins noted that often older Whatcom County players in the bantam divisions may choose to play in larger leagues further south because associations in Washington don’t have the same restrictions as Canadian association.
“From a parent’s perspective, I know it can be frustrating,” Collins said.
Tryouts for the WCAHA teams will be August 21-22 at the Bellingham Sportsplex. The Sportsplex will also have a Learn to Play hockey camp on September 14. Parents interested in their children participating in youth hockey can contact Mark Smith or Alana Collins at 676-1919.