ORONO, Maine — The updated player release rule that the Maine Amateur Hockey Association voted in early this year has not resulted in a large move by youth hockey players to other associations in the state, according to the man who pushed for the rule.
“It’s a little early,” said Chris Washburn, the new MEAHA president, on Monday. “The final numbers have not been tallied yet, but I haven’t seen any significant amount of movement.”
Washburn, who along with others had written the new rule, had been proposing the change for several years.
“I began pushing for this for about six years now,” he said. “The old rule was inconsistent and didn’t make a lot of sense.”
The previous release rule required that the player who moved to another association outside of his area was not allowed to participate in the state tournament at the end of the season.
“I said we should have either a lockdown policy like Little League [baseball, where kids can only participate with the association where they reside] or open it up and do what we’ve done,” said Washburn.
At the same time, the state group was allowing independent clubs such as the Maine Moose, based in Hallowell, who have teams only in certain age groups, to become affiliate members.
“Since we were making league changes, it made sense to change the transfer rule at the same time,” said Washburn.
Now, all that’s required is the player has to have a release form signed by his current association president that his bill is fully paid, then have the form signed by the president of the new association saying that he is a member there now. A copy of the form with both signatures goes back to the former association.
The deadline for such transfers means players won’t be considered for travel teams in more than one association, holding up rosters in both associations until the player makes a choice.
Washburn admitted some people thought movement between associations could be chaotic.
“There was some amount of fear that people would move en masse to other associations,” said Washburn. “That certainly hasn’t happened.”
Part of that has to do with the physical parameters of the state itself.
“This is a geographically diverse state,” said Washburn, who lives in Old Town. “A player in Houlton is not, on a regular basis, going to go to Bangor twice a week for practices and on weekends for games.”
It’s more likely to occur in more populated areas, he said, but it’s quiet there, too.
“I haven’t had a single conversation with anyone in the Bangor area about transfers,” Washburn said.
He noted that there have been a number of transfers in areas such as Augusta and Lewiston-Auburn.
Those were “due to other factors,” said Washburn.
The Kennebec Ice Arena in Hallowell collapsed under a heavy spring snowfall in 2011 and teams that used that arena had to make other arrangements. Some associations combined temporarily, and some players transferred to other associations.
Now that the Bank of Maine Ice Vault has been built on the site of the former arena in Hallowell, a number of releases were processed because the associations resumed their former status and players returned to them.
The Lewiston and Auburn youth hockey groups combined to create the Twin City Titans, based at Ingersoll Arena in Auburn, after the Portland Pirates and Junior Pirates purchased all of the ice time at The Colisee in Lewiston.
“The Portland Junior Pirates added approximately one team at each age group, but that might have happened anyway, [new] transfer rule or not,” said Washburn.
Andy Guerin, co-president of the Titans, agreed.
“The transfer rule has not affected us,” Guerin wrote in an email. “It was the takeover of the Colisee that has players requesting releases.”
Some parents wanted their kids to keep playing in Lewiston and had them join the Junior Pirates instead.
“Players have left because of the uncertainty of ice time locally and didn’t want to travel for practices,” wrote Guerin.
There was some concern that combining the two associations from one of the state’s hockey hotbeds could overwhelm Ingersoll, but Washburn sees the solution coming for that.
“Auburn has stepped up and is building [a facility with] a double sheet of ice,” said Washburn.
That will also help because Washburn believes the number of youth hockey players will continue to rise.
A happy Thanksgiving
As part of their community outreach efforts, the Maine Freeze travel teams were able to donate more than 50 Thanksgiving baskets and 100 turkeys to the Salvation Army for distribution to those in need during the holiday.
This followed the Freeze Midget Minors (under-16) raising more than $1,500 during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
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