“˜Sticks and pucks”™ to hit the ice in December

Puslinch councillors are working out the best way to help local kids keep their sticks on the ice.

On Nov. 19 councillors reviewed a proposal for the provision of “sticks and pucks” (shinny) ice time at the Optimist Recreation Centre.

In January, the Puslinch recreation committee recommended staff look into how other municipalities offered shinny hockey at their facilities.

A few volunteers also indicated they experienced difficulty enforcing the use of proper equipment with adult players.

Staff first recommended the  implementation of a pilot sticks and pucks ice time trial for kids starting in January, with two age categories: 5 to 7 years and 8 to 12 years, both with adult supervision.

Given that the township has limited staff at the Optimist Recreation Centre and currently does not provide structured programming, officials felt the proposal will give young children the opportunity to develop hockey skills. Also, given that it is a trial period, staff suggested no fee be charged for sticks and pucks ice time.

Rules for the pilot project state ice availability will be on a first come, first served basis, all participants require adult supervision, body contact won’t be permitted, and all participants require full equipment, including a CSA-approved helmet with a full face mask (chin straps must be fastened).

The numbers of attendees at the various times and age categories will be tracked during the month of January, after which another report will be provided to the recreation committee, including results of the pilot and whether the trial period should be extended for the remainder of the 2014-15 ice season.

Staff, after reviewing the 2013-14 ice booking schedule, proposed the following times for sticks and pucks in January:

– 5-7 years, Mondays from 5 to 6pm.

– 8-12 years, Mondays from 6 to 7pm.

In October councillor Wayne Stokley suggested the pilot begin in December.

As discussion arose at council on Nov. 19, Mayor Dennis Lever noted the item also came up at the Puslinch recreation meeting on Nov. 18.

Stokley, who chaired that meeting, said originally the staff was asked to come up with proposals and to possibly start the program in December rather than January. He also noted that a delegation, Cam Tuck, asked about the proposal and had hoped a third group be added to the mix: ages 13 to 17.

Stokley said after Tuck’s talk, the committee agreed it would like to see the third group added to the proposed plan.

While there is the potential for complications when including an older group, Stokley said it is still a pilot project and will be reviewed for potential ramifications.

Lever asked whether the committee wanted it deferred. Stokley said there is the matter of timing to implement it in December.

CAO Karen Landry added she was aware of the new information and the resolution before council would be to receive the current report.

That resolution was received and council directed staff to review recommendations regarding the addition of a third group (aged 13 to 17) for a trial period of shinny hockey. Council had no issue with starting the trial period in December.

Lever said one of his concerns originally was the issue of bullying. He wanted to ensure adequate supervision.

Stokley said the first two groups are planned for Mondays and he suggested the older group be on a different day.

Lever said that if staff had a chance to look at it council could make the change effective Dec. 4 – the day following the next meeting of Puslinch council.

Council had no issue with the brief deferral, as long as the pilot project could be implemented in December.

Lever too liked the idea of having the program available over the Christmas break.

Councillor Ken Roth said he would really like to see time be made available for the older kids. He said the Optimists were a driving force behind the recreation centre, with their motto being “friend of youth.”

“And it would be a lot better seeing them in the recreation centre than on the streets,” said Roth.

He added he realizes supervision is a bit tougher than for the younger kids, “but I think it’s a very important thing for the community. I think staff really need to look at how to make this work rather than why it will not work.”

Councillor Susan Fielding said “we need to try really hard to make this work. Most of the kids are really good and just want to have a fun time.”

Stokley added safety is paramount, not just for those taking part, but for those supervising. He said paid staff would cost more, but it would be worthwhile.