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Manitoba Hockey League: The Battle to Stay Competitive

Last night's meeting of the U18 AAA League resulted in the rejection of a motion to change boundaries and remove the Norman Northstars from the league.

The Manitoba Hockey League, which features teams from various regions, is possibly on the brink of change. The league has been struggling with low scores, player retention, and competitiveness since 2008 causing recent conflict.


A letter from Mayor Smook was issued to Hockey Winnipeg and Sport Manitoba, against the proposal of removing the bottom-listed teams from the league.


“In speaking with both Levi Taylor and Don McIntosh, it’s all about the ‘win’ and developing quality, competitive hockey players” Stated Smook in the letter, “It appears that what U18AAA Hockey development means to them and myself are quite different, and this is what I got from their calls is that Manitoba needs to up their game so we are more competitive against other provinces, Hockey players on teams such as Northern Region, Parkland, Central Plains, and Kenora drag down the profile of U18AAA Hockey, Players and parents are more interested in hockey academies to boost their chances of progressing to a higher caliber and that Hockey Winnipeg is on board with this proposal as are other regions” Stated Mayor Smook’s letter, “This town hall will become the start of a negative media outcry within the Province and become a political nightmare for those involved”

The league president, Don McIntosh, believes that occurring issues with the league need to be solved to make it better for the players of Norman. While some of the players from Norman are opting to enroll in sports schools, leading to a decline in the team's overall competitiveness.


“Some various options were put on the table, and what we’re trying to do is strengthen the league and we’re trying to make it better for the players of Norman.  Players are leaving Norman to go to sports schools, the team hasn’t been competitive for quite some time, and unfortunately didn’t even make the playoffs this year” Said McIntosh, “Those are the issues we were trying to grapple with of what makes the kids of Norman better”

The proposal to remove some teams from the league and change its boundaries was rejected by a vote of the league, resulting in letting the Norman Northstars continue as before. However, questions remain about whether this is the final decision.


League commissioner Levi Taylor explains that the motion to establish the league still needs to be approved by Hockey Manitoba.  Taylor clarifies was quoted as saying that nothing was “concrete” as of yet.


“Our league doesn’t have the authority to just implement what’s voted on, Hockey Manitoba is the authority” McIntosh added. 

Taylor also suggests that removing the teams with the lowest score ratings is only one of four options they had in improving the league and giving higher opportunities for players. He believes that if there's a way to strengthen the program that doesn't involve amalgamation with other regions, someone needs to tell them what that is.


“I’ve said all along that if there’s a way to strengthen the program that doesn’t involve amalgamation with other regions then someone needs to just tell us what that is, but from what we could see this was the only way” Stated Taylor.


The proposed changes have caused concern and anxiety among the teams in the league. The possibility of being removed from the league has many teams worried about their future. The teams are awaiting the decision from Hockey Manitoba before March 4th.

The league's struggle to stay competitive is not unique. Many regional sports leagues across the country face similar challenges. The need to balance competitiveness and player development is a constant challenge for sports leagues.

The Manitoba Hockey League's proposal to remove some teams and change the boundaries has caused a lot of controversy. Many people believe that this is not the solution to the league's problems. Some suggest that the league needs more investment in player development and better coaching to improve player skills.


The proposal to change the league's boundaries would mean that some regions would no longer have a team in the league. This could be devastating for the communities that support these teams.


The controversy surrounding the proposed changes to the Manitoba Hockey League highlights the challenges faced by regional sports leagues. These leagues play a vital role in developing young players and providing them with opportunities to play at a higher level. However, they also face challenges in maintaining competitiveness and balancing the needs of players and teams.


The debate over the Manitoba Hockey League's proposed changes is far from over. The league's future is uncertain, and many teams are anxiously awaiting the decision from Hockey Manitoba. The outcome of this decision will have a significant impact on the future of the league and the communities that support it.


In conclusion, the Manitoba Hockey League is facing significant challenges in maintaining competitiveness and providing opportunities for young players. The proposal to remove some teams and change the boundaries has caused controversy and anxiety among the league's teams. While some believe that this is the solution to the league's problems, others argue that more investment in player development and coaching is needed. The future of the league is uncertain, and the decision from Hockey Manitoba will have a significant impact on the league's future.


~Matthias J. Johnson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Thompson Citizen.  The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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