Welcome to the start of what may turn out to be another “interesting” 2021-2022 hockey season.

For those who do not know me, my name is Todd Pettinger, the U18 Division Director. I’ve been involved at every level of SPMHA hockey, coaching, refereeing, and as a member of the SPMHA Executive for the past five seasons. This will be my fourth year serving as the U18 Division Director, prior to that I spent a season as the Director at Large Senior. This season, I will also have an additional hat to wear as the U18 Deputy Director for the EFHL league that Sherwood Park plays in.

For those who have not yet met me in person, I have the honour of helping shepherd our children through probably the most interesting division in hockey, with a three year age grouping, a U16 program that is dedicated to 15 year old athletes only, but which has a massive effect on the make-up of our teams, and a difficult time in the personal lives of many of our players who are growing, bursting at the seams with hormones, and dealing with life in general – high school, becoming new drivers, discovering the ups and downs of relationships, and for some, balancing life, school, hockey, and jobs.

I have three kids myself, two of whom play hockey – the eldest aged out of U18 last season while the younger is in his first year of U15 – so I will have no child in the division this season. My guiding principle as a Division Director is to ensure that all players in the U18 division are placed on teams of an appropriate level to their skillset where they can be both developed and challenged, within the framework of the teams that we will be able to form. I believe in ethics and transparency in this role – I will communicate as much as I possibly can to the membership and pledge to get it as right as I can where every player plays at the level most appropriate to their skill set, given the entire division.

The U18 Division (formerly called Midget) is typically the last division in SPMHA to get started as many factors influence the make up of our teams, including flow-down from multiple levels of Elite Stream hockey. If your son or daughter is making their way into this division for the first time, there are several major differences from the younger age group divisions. These will all be discussed in upcoming Posts on the website and during our annual Parent meeting, which we will hold virtually this season for convenience and as we are all unsure where the government will take us with regards to potential masking (or god forbid physical distancing) requirements this season. We start the division a bit later but this is off-set by the start date being later than all the other divisions. We are anticipating a start to the season of the second week of October but I should have a more firm date by September 15th when the EFHL meets next and will publish the season start date.

I don’t want to overwhelm everyone with too many details in this first communication, I simply wanted to reach out to start the communication for the season. To avoid having too many different places where communications have to be watched for, after this initial email has gone out, almost all communication will be through the website (https://www.spmha.ab.ca/u18). Once evaluations are underway, it will be important for everyone to watch the website for evaluation game updates and which players will play on which dates.

While your executive has been hard at work all summer long to make this season the best that it can possibly be for our members, we are anticipating the possibility of changing rules of engagement due to an expected fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes it difficult to share ALL the information at once or have that information remain relevant for more than a few days at a time. We all remember how quickly everything was shut down over the past two seasons and how fluid things became. Adaptation will once again be key to navigating the 2021-22 season.

I will be publishing further information, including dates that you can expect to begin seeing more information posted on the website over the next two weeks. I appreciate your understanding that this season will present us with a very fluid situation. That said, if you “hear anything through the grapevine” that you’d like clarification on and can’t find on the SPMHA website or FAQs, please don’t hesitate to email and ask – my goal is to try to respond to most inquiries within 24 hours of receipt and I would rather answer and have accurate information out there being propagated than misinformation which gets everyone all bent out of shape.

For the time being, stay safe and healthy!

TODD PETTINGER, U18 Division Director

Sherwood Park Minor Hockey Association

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