Thinking back to my playing days, all I ever wanted to do was play games. As a kid and even as an adult who actually likes going to practice every day? Ok get on the line because you didn't make a tape-to-tape pass on that last breakout drill. Skate faster in a meaningless circle drill! I could never put together the importance of a practice while I was a kid. Now as an adult you realize that skill development does require time on the ice honing our skills but do we really need to overwhelm our kids that much?
Let's look at our adult sports leagues. It's all games and no practices and trust me not everyone has the skills to be playing games without practicing but we realize practice isn't fun. So why do we subject our kids to practicing 5x more than they play?
While I understand that there are going to be kids that want to develop their skills and become the best that they possibly can be, this is where AAA hockey comes in. What we need to consider is reinventing and reintroducing the house league. Travel hockey has become so watered down because everyone wants to be a "travel" player. In reality many of these AA programs are just house leagues that wanted the travel name. Now these kids who wanted to just play games every weekend and practice once a week are subjected to practicing like a AAA team but may lack in the skill development department.
Some of my best memories were made in house hockey and playing pond hockey where yes the wins still matter but there is much less pressure and the focus is on having fun and beating your buddies. It's a friendly place for competition where kids can go to have fun and that is what I believe is missing in today's hockey leagues. You can't possibly tell me that the kids will remember just another game against a travel team more than their time playing outdoor ice hockey at the Tim Hortons Backyard Classic. Case and Point.