Game On Magazine September 2015 - Page 93

I would say that summer hockey in Manitoba has been better than I ever expected Manitoba charities. We had a really good tournament this year and there are lost of good things happening. Looks like we’ll be icing another 15 teams next year.” Naturally, there are people inside hockey – and even many parents – who don’t agree that spring and summer hockey are necessarily a good thing. In fact, Wayne Gretzky believed young athletes should be exposed to as many sports as possible and in the summer, hockey should be put on the shelf. He believed that too much of the sport was a major cause of burnout for young players. But these days, that doesn’t seem to be case. A former NHL draft pick we spoke to, a man who once thought summer hockey was a curse for a young player, is now immersed in it because his kids want to play so badly. In the meantime, Lancaster makes sure the Mustangs remain as close to the organization’s vision as possible: “To be the premiere AAA summer hockey program in the Province of Manitoba focused on developing the best young hockey players, both socially and physically, at the highest level.” Pretty simple. “Our intent has always been pretty simple,” Lancaster said. “We even put it in writing: ‘To provide exceptionally gifted Manitoba hockey players with an avenue to participate in Triple A Summer Hockey Tournaments throughout North America. These tournaments attract scouts from the WHL and Canadian and American universities, which in turn provide opportunities for future recognition and advancement.’ We provide the players with a chance to play and be recognized for what they do.” Meanwhile, the kids and their parents are also told that their winter minor hockey programs are the primary concern. “The Mustangs are very respectful of the winter programs,” Lancaster said. “We tell all the kids that the winter programs come first. We are very strong proponents of the winter programs. All kids play Winnipeg Minor from Sept. 1 – April 30. Our teams start practicing in late March or early April.” All of those practices prepare the players for two big tournaments: The North American Hockey Classic on June 15 and The Brick Tournament on July 1. “I would say that summer hockey in Manitoba has been better than I ever expected,” Lancaster said. “My two sons played randomly in spring hockey with a number of local teams just to extend their seasons. It was an opportunity to play extra hockey and that’s how I got involved. I was always the type of guy who got neck deep in these things and now I’m really neck deep in it. “But from the start, it’s been fantastic and it’s still fantastic.” n Griffin Haight Kyle Melo SEPTEMBER 2015 GAME ON 93