Soo alters midget program

Randy Russon
January 22, 2019

Sault Ste. Marie will be represented by one team, rather than two, in the Great North Midget Hockey League for the 2019-2020 season, Hockey News North has confirmed.

Travis Merrett, the 34-year old president of the Sault Major Hockey Association, told Hockey News North that “many factors were measured when coming to this conclusion. The anxiety that this decision will limit the exposure for Ontario Hockey League draft-eligible players was a concern that the board wanted to satisfy before coming to a decision.”

Merrett said that when considering to go into the 2019-2020 season with just the Soo Major Thunderbirds and drop the Soo Minor Thunderbirds, the SMHA executive “reached out to four southern Ontario based OHL general managers who all identified their scouts diligence in watching an equal amount of major midget events as they do at the minor midget level.”

After years of having only team in the Great North — made up of both minor midget and major midget aged players — the Soo was represented by two separate teams during both the 2017-2018 season and the current 2018-2019 campaign.

Both teams — the Major Thunderbirds and Minor Thunderbirds — had to go out-of-town for players in order to fill rosters to compete in the Great North.

Now, looking ahead to the 2019-2020 season and with one team made up of the top minor midget and major midget aged talent in town, Sault Ste. Marie could well be better represented in the Great North loop.

Meanwhile, Merrett went to great lengths in explaining the rationale behind the Sault Major decision to drop its minor midget team and proceed with just a major midget entry in the Great North.

“Ultimately, coming to this decision when we did provides an opportunity to dedicate effort and energy to giving the new combined minor/major midget aged program the best start possible,” Merrett began.

As the first-year president of the SMHA — he previously served as a vice president for Sault Major — Merrett told Hockey News North that “minor hockey in Sault Ste. Marie is currently being re-evaluated and many partnerships are being created with some great local hockey minds. The development of our players is the number one priority.

“Finding deficiencies and making changes that promote quality development does not happen overnight. Unfortunately, decisions are being made that are running parallel with the end goal and this may be difficult to visualize. It is important to draw on past years to assess what could have been done differently but it’s equally as important to keep the future in mind and how we can impact positively when creating a solution.

“It’s easy for a collective to champion for change when it has no influence on their specific interest,” Merrett continued. “Conversely to that, is a very distinct reversal of opinions when it tends to have an impact much closer to home.

“A staff or parent group of a particular team may be tasked to service one age group. We as a board have a much greater responsibility as we are to make decisions with an entire association in mind. The notion that this has a direct impact on a particular age group was taken into consideration in this decision,” Merrett pointed out.

“However, this result is not about one group of players for one birth year. This is a decision that is being made for many reasons that will impact future seasons in many positive ways. If we consistently factored in a particular age group at any level with any decision, nothing would ever be accomplished as we would receive push back every time,” Merrett concluded.

What you think about “Soo alters midget program”

  1. The scouts want to see minor midgets where they measure up against same age players sad for northern Ontario kids
    No wonder why they move south minor midget biggest year in players process just sad
    When we had Alex Galchenyuk at the Chicago Young Americans he could have played any level his family wanted him playing minor midget to show everyone where he stacked up at the most important age

  2. I can see the rational behind the move, based on the caliber I witnessed this year in the GNML teams from the Sault.
    Not enough quality individuals for either Minor or Major teams.
    Too bad a once strong Sault Ste Marie hockey base has come to this.
    I wonder why this has happened in that town that was once noted for a quality player development program

  3. Minor midget is the draft year into the OHL
    Scouts go to all minor midget tournaments
    Sault Major has a very good Banton Major team
    Their parents have paid a great deal of money to prepare them for minor midget
    Are they going to play house league now and never be scouted
    Just some of the reasons why a minor midget league is needed

  4. David,

    Let’s look at the amount of kids drafted when the North stars/legion were the major midget program. Now let’s compare that to the amount of kids in the Sault’s “minor” midget program. No comparison. The kids will be scouted like they always have been. The best will be drafted. The numbers don’t lie.

  5. Minor midget age year is important there is no doubt that! But we have only had minor midget program for 2 years, other than the 2012-2013 year. Having one strong midget team with best 15-17 year olds will make them competitive and looked at. Mike hall Had kids drafted and moved on to junior consistently. So growing up a lot of these kids knew we didn’t have a minor midget program because it didn’t exist. Let’s not forget that lots of kids didn’t even play midget aaa first year in midget and still played D1, Major junior and even just Junior. So If there is only Major Midget if they do big tournment like London, Peterbourgh, Marlies, or even Waterloo, they will be scouted because scouts know there is 15 year olds on team.

  6. John, define very good, they are 26th out of 57 on my hockey rankings, that is average at best, very good would be top 10

  7. We should of never ever had minor midget program in the soo. This up and coming group has some talent but honestly believe only 4-5 players with a real shot of getting drafted . This coaching staff hindered there development by playing aa last year . It’s well known throughout the North what they did. Ohl scouts realize who is at fault . Sorry to say some kids won’t get drafted not because of no minor midget but who is there parents. Girls and boys play hockey for fun and meet new people new coaches new systems new programs . This banram teN has only seen the same coaches for years. What have they wom. They will be lucky to get out of the North . …

  8. John, please define very good as the team you speak of is ranked middle of the pack…. very good would be top 10, which is what they would be in AA

  9. correct move by soo major. Not enough talent to have a minor midget team here. scouts will find you if your good enough. a lot more kids were been drafted from the soo when they played major midget. the numbers have gone down since minor midget was introduced. handerson has done a great job with that program but not enough talent to keep it going. I recall maybe 10 years ago timmins had a kid go second overall playing for the majors in his home town. the league was just as weak back then as it is now. if your good enough they will find you. question is who will coach?

  10. Well finally some other hockey minds who know a thing or two about hockey in Sault Ste. Marie. A really good Bantam team that has won nothing and has taken several steps backwards in development from what I’ve seen. You can only fool players/parents/executive for so long before it becomes reality. It’s not about developing 1 or 2 kids its about an entire team developing.

  11. The issue is that in order to have Minor Midget, you must field a major midget team at the same level, AAA . This is a NOHA- HC rule. Obviously it has been decided that the Soo doesn’t have the numbers to field a quality team at each level. Minor Midget aged players will have an opportunity to move to a center that has minor Midget if they can make a team if they don’t want to play major.
    It would be nice to have numbers to support 2 teams but the Soo doesn’t.
    I have helped other players in the north find opportunities elsewhere, and will continue to do so as needed.

  12. Mike Amadio and Colin Miller in the NHL played major midgets not minor midget. Look over the years from the soo stand point . How many players from the minor midget over te years got drafted. Baber played major midget he got drafted and he excelled and is in the ohl. Every one has to get there heads out of the ass. This bantam team is not as good as you think. Last all ontarios they got destroyed this is a team that supposely has the best coaches the soo has to offer. Just ask them so ignorant cutting up others in the soo. Time for the coaches to go and bring in New blood. Time will tell but I will not be surprised they don’t get out of the North let by this head coach

  13. Hey Kevin That is not correct information.
    The ruling based on the policy stated below is that the NOHA and Hockey Canada determine that having a Major AAA team qualifies as being enough. If a center does not have a minor aged team, those kids can try out for the major team. Not having a minor team will not stand as reason for the NOHA to issue releases to players thinking it’s a better option to go south.

    This is from the NOHA FAQ pertaining to releases.

    16) I am a Minor aged player and my Association does not have a Minor aged team but does have a Major Aged team.

    You must obtain the NOHA Permission to Skate/Release form from your Association in order to play in another Association. However, according to NOHA Regulation R.5.6 your Association does have a team for you to play for – it is a Major Team. Minor and Major aged players are eligible to register on a Major team. The Regulation talks about Division. Divisions within the NOHA and Hockey Canada are as follows: Initiation, Novice, Atom, Peewee, Bantam and Midget. Sub Divisions are age groups within Divisions such as Minor Novice, Minor Atom, Minor Peewee, Minor Bantam and Minor Midget.

    So, in this case, major midget is being offered in the Soo and the sub-division of minor isn’t. Therefor, the division of midget will have a AAA level available for players aged 15-17 and will not automatically allow for releases to other centers that offer minor midget.

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