Promoting youth hockey in New Brighton, Mounds View, St. Anthony and Shoreview, MN

My my My my
An Irondale Bantam Story
By: An Irondale Youth Hockey Parent
The 2007-2008 season was one of the most exciting for Irondale Youth Hockey. For the first time in its history, an Irondale Boys team went to the regional tournament. Our PeeWee A team did not fare too well in that tournament, especially since they had to play the eventual state champion Edina and consistent powerhouse Eden Prairie, but it was really fun to be there and as a parent, I want as many of our players and families to experience the thrill of being at the regional or even state tournament.
A season of great success for one team can create excitement throughout the association and I think that did happen in many ways. Irondale players from our high school program came to that regional tournament (in Chaska!) to cheer for our kids. So did many other parents and players from our other boys and girls teams. I think a couple of Mite families may have been there. It was a very exciting time.
With the end of the season, comes many challenges. New board members, new coaches, some kids will stay together while others move on to the next level. On top of that comes discussions about what level is right for our Irondale kids. Can we compete at the “A” level or should we play at “B” or “C”. Does playing at the “C” level ruin any hope for my child to play after their youth hockey experience?
I would like to review what my older son experienced at the Bantam level starting with the 2005-2006 season. In that season, Irondale went with Bantam teams at the “A” level and the “B” level. My son played on the B Bantam team.
That B Bantam team went 0-31 during the 2005-2006 season in District 1. That included 20 district games, 9 tournament games, and 2 district playoff games. My point here is not just the win/loss record, because if we are doing what is best for the kids, we should not focus only on wins and losses. However, we should focus on the development of the kids to ensure they are playing at the right level and to enable them to believe they can win and to have fun. As you can see by the following statistics, we had a gap that season.
In our 31 games that season, we scored a total of 32 goals. Total. Goals scored against us were 224. 224-32. That is an average loss of 7-1. Average.
Fourteen games (45%) were shutouts. In other words, almost half the time, we never scored a goal.
What about those shutouts vs. non-shutouts? Was Irondale competitive in the games where we scored?   No. The average score per shutout game was 8-0. The average score per non-shutout game was 6-2. On average if we scored a goal, we still lost by 4.
For the kids on that team who were 2nd year Bantams, their entire Bantam record was 0-60 because they had not won a single game the year before either. All but 2 of those kids never played hockey again. They went on to play other sports or they quit sports altogether.
There was a lot of discussion about player levels that summer between the board and parents and for the 2006-2007 season, Irondale decided to go with an A Bantam and C Bantam team. My son was on the C Bantam team. As many of you know, being on a “C” team can carry a lot of baggage because it is the ugly stepchild of any small hockey program. Large programs have their own In-House programs at the “C” level where all the “C” teams play each other, but not small associations like ours. The “C” level, no matter how hard we try, is viewed as the ugly stepchild, right or wrong. My son, as a 2nd year Bantam, was not happy about being on a “C” team for his final year of youth hockey and we, as parents, told him to make the most of it. Be the best Irondale C team and make sure you have a lot of fun. After all, it is your final year before high school and you can choose whether to enjoy your season or not.
Well, for the first time in Irondale Boys Hockey history, that 2006-2007 C Bantam team won the District Championship. They did it with an exciting overtime win and the video is still available for viewing on the IYHA website (go to the 2006-2007 C Bantam team). Almost every kid from that team is still playing hockey in some capacity. My son plays on the Irondale High School Hockey team. And how he loves the memories of that season.
So we went from a horrid season of failure followed by an unbelievable season of success. And, we were not the best team that year. We were only in 3rd place overall and had a .500 season of wins and losses. So the success did not come from wins and losses, but from an attitude of accomplishment and pride. It came from knowing that in each game, they had a chance of doing well. It came from playing at the right level.
If our kids can compete, learn and develop, then the level of play should be what will give them the best experience. That level might be “A” and it might be “C”. Please do not lose sleep over what level your child is going to play at this year. And especially if you are not going to register your player because he or she might end up at the “C” level, then you are missing out on one of the most exciting potential seasons you may ever have. That would have been the case for my son. He could have quit with the memories of a 0-31 season. Instead, he’s a champion. And I couldn’t be any prouder as an Irondale Youth Hockey Parent.