There is a void being filled in provincial major midget hockey circles by the Central Impact.
The latest central Newfoundland entry in the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League, the Impact is giving players an avenue to play at the highest level without having to leave home.
Last season the Impact’s predecessor, the Central IcePak, folded before the season began and left a void for midget-aged hockey players.
Some of them found games with the local minor midget entry, while others played minor hockey or high school in the absence of the IcePak.
Enter the Impact and co-owners Glenn Casey and Shane Lukinchuk.
They believed young players needed a place in the league to reach their heights
“We want to help kids local,” said Casey. “Hopefully, this is something else for hockey fans and we hope people come out to get an appreciation for the brand of hockey.”
Developmentally, having a major midget team in the area is good for players who want to play abroad.
Teams usually participate in two tournaments in Moncton and Halifax, respectively, giving players a chance to show their skills to scouts.
This season was always going to be an uphill climb for the Impact when it came to winning.
Of the 24 players on its roster, only Kobe Burt and Jack Cameron have experience at the major midget hockey level.
Burt, a forward from Grand Falls-Windsor, played with the Tri Pen Osprey last season after the IcePak folded. He was a part of the group that made the league finals, while Cameron got into one game with league champion Western Kings last season.
Adding to that, there was no central Newfoundland entry in the provincial bantam AAA league either. It's another hockey avenue that has returned this season.
Outside of Burt and Cameron, the rest are getting their first taste of the province’s highest level of minor hockey.
That means adjusting to not only the speed of the game, but also getting used to taking a body check and playing with your head up. It is
important to remember if a player is with a home association that does not play in the A division, there is no body checking allowed under HNL regulations.
“We understand that some of these players are jumping to major midget for the first time and it is going to take a little bit of time,” said Casey. “We are improving.”
This weekend the Impact are off, but they will head to the west coast for a pair of games with the Western Kings in Corner Brook Oct. 19-20 in an effort to get better.
It has been an early struggle for the club as it dropped each contest heading into last weekend, but there have been notable improvements. The Impact picked up its first win with a 4-1 victory over the Tri Pen Osprey on Oct. 6.
Games have been closer on the scoreboard and on the ice. Practices have been better and players are understanding the system more.
It is a bit of a marathon and not a sprint for some of them,” said Casey. “Nobody likes to lose and we’ve been very open, direct and players enthusiastic about things.”