HAIL continues to grow and prosper in Alberta
Hockey Alberta In Line (HAIL) Continues to Grow and Prosper
Hockey Alberta In Line (HAIL) came into existence as a distinct entity in 2001 following Hockey Canada?s (formerly the Canadian Hockey Association) decision after the 2000 season not to continue to offer inline hockey as a component of its national program (e.g., men?s national team). Hockey Canada still supports inline hockey to the extent of providing insurance and any correspondence from the International Ice Hockey Federation to its member branches like Hockey Alberta that have an inline hockey program. HAIL and Manitoba In-line Hockey founded the National Inline Hockey Association-Canada early this year and is now attracting other members from across the country.
Since its inception, HAIL?s membership numbers have steadily increased. There are HAIL teams/leagues in Sherwood Park (including players from Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan and surrounding areas in Strathcona and Leduc counties), Calgary, Red Deer, Cold Lake, Carstairs, Didsbury, Vermilion, Innisfail, Coldale, Kitscoty, Camrose, Cochrane, Viking, and Lloydminster.
While supporting ?grassroots? inline hockey in the form of TOUR ?exposure camps?, start-up information packages and promotional displays, and clinics for coaches and on-surface officials (including rule book and clinic workbook), HAIL has also created unique opportunities for players, coaches and officials to participant in the sport at the more competitive or elite levels.
For example, last year HAIL through its partnering with USA Hockey In Line (USAHIL) was able to have Team Alberta (U17) enter the 2002 USAHIL Junior Festival (the first Canadian team to do so) on a probational basis. They finished with a very respectful 2 wins and 2 losses. This year?s festival is being held June 18-22 and Team Alberta will be participating as a full competing member with the opportunity to go for GOLD! The USAHIL Junior Festival, a ?by invitational only? event, has previously featured only four U.S. regional teams. It?s my understanding that you must prove yourself by ways of a mutual trust between programs which is something that Mr. Shawn Bullock, Hockey Alberta?s coordinator for inline hockey development, appears to have done very well at. If Team Alberta had not met USAHIL high standards then they certainly wouldn?t have been able to participate this year. The same would hold true for any other programs including Manitoba In-Line Hockey, who I am told are sending two observers to this year?s festival to see what it?s all about, and any other teams that may want to participate in the future. The festival games will be broadcast over the internet (see http://www.ibsu.net/).
It?s worth noting that four of the 14 members comprising the 2002 version of Team Alberta were players registered with the Canadian Inline Hockey Association (CIHA); for 2003 there are three CIHA players on the team.
Not only did the 2002 experience offer a chance for the Team Alberta to play against the top inline hockey players in the U.S. but it also gave them the chance to be looked at by NCAA schools that offer scholarships in inline hockey. Thus, HAIL provided a unique opportunity for its own players as well as those players registered with the CIHA, which would not have been available without HAIL?S leadership. Presumably the same promise holds true for 2004 and beyond.
HAIL was also able to convince the provincial government to introduce the sport of inline hockey into the 2002 Alberta Summer Games (ASG) held in Camrose for U14 players. HAIL organized and ran the entire program, which involved recruiting numerous volunteers. The entire program was supported by their own funding base (the amount of government funding they received was very minimal relative to the total cost and person-hours involved). HAIL advertised widely for players to try out and for coaches and directors of operations to apply. HAIL was also responsible for setting up the eight zone tryout camps and found the evaluators, organized the team training sessions, secured a local group to run the games (e.g., off-surface officials), and provided the team clothing.
Of the 96 inline hockey players who participated in the 2002 ASG, 25 of them where not registered with HAIL. Again, HAIL provided a special opportunity for CIHA or non-HAIL registered players to participate in a unique event. Presumably the same promise also holds true for 2004 and beyond.
HAIL?s Canada West Cup (CWC) competition this summer will offer a similar opportunity for players born in 1987 and 1988. The CWC has been designed to tie in with the ASG and the USAHIL Junior Festival. It's the second step in the Team Alberta program and is held on the opposite years of the ASG. Alberta athletes have the opportunity to attend either the South Identification Camp in Calgary in late May or the North Identification Camp held in Sherwood Park a week later. From those two camps, the top 36 players and 6 goalies will be selected and drafted onto three teams. Those teams along with Team Manitoba will participate in the Canada West Cup scheduled for Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, July 26-27, to be preceded by a one day team training camp.
HAIL?S 2003 ?Summer Series? of tournaments were hosted by the leagues in Sherwood Park, Calgary and Red Deer during May and June. HAIL will also be holding its annual Alberta Regional Championships, Alberta?s exclusive NARCh Qualifier, at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, June 27-30. This tournament is open to all teams, regardless of their national affiliation. The top two teams in each age division (U8 to Senior Men?s) will also qualify for the 2003 Canadian National Invitational tournament to be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 18-20.
For more information on HAIL, visit the Hockey Alberta web site (http://www.hockey-alberta.ca/) and go to the ?Development? menu button and then to ?In Line Hockey?.
[Marty Alexander has been involved with HAIL for the past three years, coaching at the recreational and competitive levels in the Sherwood Park Inline (SPINLINE) Hockey League and acting as a volunteer in the 2002 Alberta Summer Games (player evaluator and off-surface official). In 2003, he will be serving as one of the assistant coaches in the Canada West Cup competition.]