A record number of Woolwich Minor Hockey Association teams have made it to their respective league finals.
Comprised of just under 600 players, WMHA has 39 teams in total. The 39 teams are separated into rep and local league classifications, the rep teams play in the Tri County League, while the local league teams play in the Grand River Local League.
Following the ending of the regular season for rep players, teams were tasked with playing in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association play-downs, which saw teams play a round robin, then quarter finals followed by semi finals and then the finals – dependant on winning the prior series – competition coming from all across Ontario.
For the first time in recent history, WMHA had seven teams competing in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association semi-finals, the most since having six move on to the semis in 2011: Novice AE, Novice A, Minor Atom A, Major Bantam A, Major Midget A, Midget AE and Juvenile A.
As of print time, four of the teams were moving into the finals: the Jr. Sugar Kings (Major Midget A), Midget AE, Major Novice A and Major Bantam A, all of whom will be competing to be named the best in Ontario.
With 225 hockey associations and more than 100,000 players in the OMHA it is quite an accomplishment for these teams to make it this far.
“Even though we are a small ‘A’ centre, we have a strong hockey background in this community and the community backs up our hockey teams very passionately,” said Rob Moyer, president of WMHA. “Our players show a lot of heart, our coaches put time and effort in and our players show up to practice and envelope everything that these coaches are offering which is very, very important.”
While many teams have exceptional stories, exemplifying the success Woolwich has found during this season is the Major Novice team in particular. The boys thus far have not lost a regular-season or playoff game, completely sweeping each series.
As team coach Rob Hall explains it, the success comes down to Woolwich being a great hockey community.
“Honestly I think that the development within Woolwich Minor Hockey is improving. It proves itself to see seven teams going into the semis and another four to go into the finals – it says there are a lot of good hockey players around here,” he said “The right things are happening with players, coaching – a lot of things are coming into alignment quite nicely. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s not often that you see this; it goes in cycles, and now is a great cycle. I think this is one of the few times that you’ve seen this many teams in.”
However, these teams weren’t the only to find success. If a rep team was cast out of the OMHA play downs, they then play in league playoffs, rather than provincially. This starts as a round robin as well, seeing the best two teams advance to the finals. Currently, Tyke MD, Major Peewee A and Minor Midget A teams are competing in the Tri County league finals, to be crowned the best rep team in the region.
And on the local level, the Grand River Local League Finals will see Novice LL1, Novice LL2, Atom LL2, Peewee LL2, Bantam LL2 and Midget LL2 in the finals. These teams also started playoffs as a round robin, with the best two advancing.
As president, Moyer says they are very proud and happy for all teams in the finals regardless of their level of play and ask the community to come out and cheer on their home team.
“To win a championship at any level, whether its league or all-Ontario, is very, very satisfactory to our association because it’s hard to win championships,” said Moyer.
Now only entering into finals play for many, the next few weeks will hopefully reveal some additional banners officially celebrating the local