The Hazelton Minor Hockey Association (HMHA) is sporting some new jerseys as the sport grows in the region.
The association was able to raise more than $20,000 this year to buy the local teams new outfits.
HMHA president Ryneld Starr said new jerseys were much needed.
“Our old jerseys served us well. I think they were probably 15, maybe close to 20 years old,” he said.
“We wanted to break in the new arena with new jerseys.”
He added that not only were the jerseys old but they needed more of them.
“We have six teams in the association. Both our Initiation and Novice divisions really expanded this year, just due to renewed interest in hockey. Usually we would buy 20 jerseys for each team instead for Initiation and Novice we got 30 jerseys for each team and that is [a] set of home and away.
“The other four teams, we got 20 jerseys for each of those teams as well so it adds up quickly.”
Christine Anonuevo, an executive director of a local non-profit organization who has a son in minor hockey helped raise the money needed to purchase the jerseys.
“She told me she was experienced in grant writing so that is why I went to her to ask her to help me raise money for the jerseys,” said Starr. “She did all the leg work.”
He said the players are proud to wear them.
“They are really excited to put on these jerseys. We’ve had some nice compliments from other parents saying we are the sharpest looking team out there right now. “
“The old jerseys were getting ratty, to put something on that looks brand new and smells new, it is pretty exciting for them.”
He thinks the expansion in the association might have something to do with the new arena in Hazelton.
The 44-year-old Ken Trombley Memorial Arena was closed suddenly in 2015 after a structural engineer found a beam in the roof was at risk of falling on the ice. It took more than four years and $20 million dollars to build a new recreation centre, which opened last September.
“Last year we had 90 kids in our association,” he said.”This year we went up to 130 kids, that is a big increase. All of our teams have plenty of players. Our Peewee teams and Initiation Novice teams have enough players to do two teams.
“We had a lot of kids that stopped playing when the old arena shut down and had a hard time getting to Smithers to practise. We also just had bunch of new sign ups, this was a chance for them to sign up. In our peewee division, we have almost an entire new team worth of players. It has been great, a lot of enthusiasm.”
Geraco Industrial Supplies, Bulkley Valley Credit Union, Seabridge Gold, Hy-Tech Drilling, Citywest, Frank’s Smokescreen Graphics & NV Johnson Services all pitched in to foot the bill for the jerseys.
“A lot of these are local and regional sponsors and they’ve always been willing to step up whenever we’ve needed some sort of sponsorships,” Starr added. “Each jersey has their name on the bottom of it and we are very proud to represent those companies as we play hockey around the northwest.”