By Lanny Stewart
The list of benefits the Manitoba Junior Hockey League provides for its players is long and wide ranging.
The opportunity to play in front of scouts from all levels to top of the line sticks and equipment provided via a new partnership with CCM Hockey to quality road trips to exciting atmospheres to play in – that’s just a small sample size of the perks each player receives when they sign on the dotted line to play in the MJHL.
“The league and its member teams strive everyday to provide outstanding opportunities for young men who are interested in developing into elite hockey players while pursuing both educational and hockey dreams,” said Kevin Saurette, director of operations for the MJHL. “We are always looking for ways to grow the offerings that are provided to our players, so they have everything they need to succeed.”
At or near the top of the list when it comes to player benefits are the billet families in the MJHL. Each billeted player in the league is provided safe, comfortable family environments that have been screened via an interview process and are pre-approved by the player and parents.
“I can only speak for us, but I think all the teams in the MJHL have tremendous billets and a billet following that really goes a long way in creating and fostering good environments for these kids wherever they’re coming from,” said Jamie Hodson, director of business and hockey operations for the Virden Oil Capitals. “It really brings a sense of credibility and it really helps the parents with sending their kids off.”
Hodson was also quick to point out the developmental aspect for players – such as the MJHL Player Showcase, MJHL/SJHL Showcase, the MJHL Prospect Development Camp, and the U.S. Prospect Development Camp – as feathers in the league’s hat. He also mentioned the opportunities for personal development for players through many community volunteer activities that teams in the MJHL provide each season.
“There’s tremendous growth in terms of scholarships and opportunities for players and I think that’s a credit to coaches and management throughout the league and the MJHL itself.”
Other important factors that can’t be overlooked are the player safety conditions – whether that’s the strict discipline and education measures, comprehensive insurance with increased dental, league-wide concussion management program, substance abuse education seminars, drug testing and social media policies. Hodson says the league continues to be cognizant of these matters – all the while, continuing to evolve each and every year.
“I think the league is getting recognized more and more as one of the top junior A leagues in Canada,” Hodson continued.
Chase Brakel, now a former member of the Portage Terriers, is one of the players who is moving on from the MJHL after receiving a Division I scholarship this past season, committing to Cornell University for the upcoming 2018-2019 campaign. He experienced firsthand the plethora of benefits the Terriers would offer on a day-to-day basis.
“Having those benefits from the team is huge for the players,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about certain things (equipment/sticks/game transportation) and that’s good for the guys, especially when you’re young and just coming into the league.”
Riese Gaber, who earned a Division I scholarship to Western Michigan with the Dauphin Kings and finished this past season with the Steinbach Pistons, can’t say enough about how MJHL teams cover a wide variety of expenses for its players.
“Those expenses add up to a lot and it just goes to show how fortunate MJHL’ers are,” he added.
Other benefits include quality exposure for players such as HD HockeyTV webcasts where every league game is filmed in high definition and can be streamed live or on-demand and can be accessed on computers, tablets and mobile devices which, in turn, can be seen by scouts, recruiters, coaches and fans. Meanwhile the RinkNet/ISS Scouting Service partnership includes information on players and services for player recruitment and promotion by scouts and coaches from every level.
“As a player in the league you want to get the best exposure you can to further your hockey career and education and playing in the MJHL gives you that opportunity,” Gaber said.