Midget AAA Hockey In Grand Forks North Dakota

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Midget AAA hockey in Grand Forks North Dakota?

A new playing option might be on the way for the top local boys hockey talent.

The Ralph Engelstad Arena Hockey Academy is in the exploratory stage of starting a midget major hockey program in Grand Forks.

Director Karl Goehring has had discussions with a number of organizations, including North Dakota Amateur Hockey and the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League in hopes of starting a team as early as next fall.

“We’re looking for an avenue we can create through the hockey academy training services that can keep kids who have been leaving the state in-house,” Goehring said. “That’s what’s driving this: The desire to give our players and kids in our community elite developmental options.”

The team would need North Dakota Amateur Hockey to sanction the program, an action that may be months away.

Possible resistance

The idea likely will be met with resistance. The program may create friction with the North Dakota High School Activities Association, which may fear losing more of its top talent. A midget major schedule would also extend into fall and spring high school activities seasons.

The Manitoba league currently consists of 12 teams in Manitoba and Ontario. In the U.S., options could include the High Performance Hockey League, the Northern Professional Hockey League or an independent schedule, similar to that of Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a private school in the Twin Cities.

Midget major teams are classified as Under-18 programs. Players who opt for that route often cite increased ice time as a benefit. Midget major teams play approximately twice as many games as their high school counterparts.

Goehring said the next step in the process is communication with the public.

“There are a lot of steps and pieces to the puzzle,” said Goehring, a former UND hockey goalie on the 2000 NCAA national championship team. “We want to talk to the community and different programs and get feedback. We want to talk more with North Dakota Amateur Hockey and see if they have directional input.

“We don’t want to jump the gun. We want to make sure all of the proper steps are in place.”

Producing better players

Goehring said the genesis of the idea is two-fold.

First, some local players were choosing to leave the area to develop at programs such as Russell Stover in Kansas City or Little Caesars in Detroit. Second, Goehring said the Hockey Academy would like to raise the bar for what local players can accomplish.

“Florida has more Division I hockey players than North Dakota right now,” Goehring said. “We’d like to produce more Division I players.”

Midget seasons typically start in September and could run though March or April, depending on playoff success.

Goehring said the Hockey Academy would take on a managerial role with the team.

“We would find coaches and set the programming,” he said. “It would be run professionally and with high intensity.”

The team would target primarily North Dakota players, but could also include a few from northwest Minnesota.

“If all goes through, we would like to have that opportunity for all of those who live in close proximity,” Goehring said.

The REA Hockey Academy was started in 2009, under Brad Berry and Erik Fabian. The academy, now under Goehring and assistant director Eli Rosendahl, is a year-round program that focuses on hockey-specific skill training, as well as strength and conditioning.

Tom Miller

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