The announcement earlier this week that the Estevan Minor Hockey Association (EMHA) has submitted a bid to bring a boys midget AAA hockey team named the Estevan Bears to this community should receive widespread applause.
For some reason, the southeast region has been without a boys midget AAA hockey team. The Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League has long been one of the best in the country – it has won eight midget AAA titles since 2002.
The league has teams throughout the province, but its only presence in the southeast is at Notre Dame, which is a prep school team.
This has meant that talented young hockey players have had two options once they reach midget age: head off to play midget AAA elsewhere, sometimes in markets smaller than Estevan, in an effort to give themselves the best chance to further their hockey careers, or stay close to home and hope they’ll get noticed playing midget AA.
Now that the Saskatchewan Hockey Association is taking another look at the setup of AAA hockey in this province, the southeast is finally getting a long look.
A committee of local hockey enthusiasts has prepared a very detailed bid to get midget AAA hockey in Estevan. Their effort is commendable and we certainly hope they will be rewarded.
This would be a big win for Estevan. It’s not just the local hockey community that will benefit. We’ll see young people coming into the local high school. It’ll be a plus for the local hospitality sector, with visiting teams that will be spending time and money in our hotels and restaurants.
It will be similar to the spinoff associated with having a junior hockey team in Estevan, although the impact would be somewhat smaller simply because the season is shorter.
It also wouldn’t be just an Estevan-only team. You’ll have the contingent of Weyburn players, and you’ll also have players from other southeast Saskatchewan communities. There are some towns and villages in the southeast churning out great talent each year.
And it likely wouldn’t be an expansion team. This is a squad that will have a deep talent pool to choose from right off the bat. It seems like every town in southeast Saskatchewan has a long list of players who have succeeded at the higher levels of the sport.
Estevan is the perfect market for midget AAA hockey. You can argue we have the best arena for it in the province. Affinity Place is certainly big enough to accommodate a team, but it’s not so big that it will feel cavernous. You can be sure that if the proposed Estevan Bears team were to ever have an extended playoff run, Affinity Place would be rocking, just like it is for Bruins playoff games.
Estevan has had some great midget AA teams over the years, too, with five provincial titles since the year 2000.
It’s also beneficial that there is a sense of co-operation between Estevan and Weyburn for this project. Weyburn has had midget AAA female hockey for over a decade now, and they have drawn on Estevan players for their team.
It’s good to see the co-operation between the two markets. Weyburn gets the benefit of having female midget AAA; Estevan gets the male midget AAA team.
Yes, there will be a lot of work needed to make the Bears a reality. You’ll need to find coaches and billet parents and volunteers and other people that make a team happen.
It’s not a done deal, but submitting a bid is an encouraging sign.