New hockey group will be called Hamilton Huskies
It’s been the topic of informal discussion for years.
Last fall those talks became formal and on April 14 the Hamilton Huskies and Hamilton Hub hockey organizations will merge and become known as the Hamilton Huskies Hockey Club.
The board of directors of the two groups approved the merger last December.
“We looked at it and we think it’s a logical step,” said Huskies president Yosh Kitamura. “From a competitive level it brings everything under one roof.”
The Huskies run 14 elite caliber AA and AAA teams for about 244 players age nine to 17 that play mostly out of the Chedoke Twin Pad Arena while the Hub group is considered a minor developmental league with 31 teams and 530 players ranging in age from seven to 17 with games at most rinks in the city.
“We’ll have two groups come together and the technical development will vastly improve,” said Hub league president Doug Russell.
He noted the Hub league prepares players for the jump to the AA and AAA level, adding the merger makes sense as both groups operate pretty much the same and run similar hockey clinics.
While the new operation will have nearly 800 players split into two tiers (one for elite level players and one for the former Hub group), Kitamura said the move should boost player and coaching development at all levels.
“We’ll have a little more continuity as far as the X’s and O’s are concerned,” said Kitamura, who noted a lot of Huskies’ coaches have come from the Hub organization.
“The plan is to keep everything operating the way they have in the past for the (former Hub teams) and for us,” Kitamura said.
He noted the merger will be reviewed after next season.
Russell said the Hub tier is looking for an arena, likely in the lower city, to serve as their home base.
Kitamura and Russell noted most of their players, coaches and parents appear to support the merger.
“Anybody I talk to, the feedback tends to be very positive,” Kitamura said.
Next season all teams will be wearing retro red and white sweaters similar to what Hamilton Huskies squads put on forty years ago.
Both groups are members of the Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario.
The Huskies name dates back to the early 1970s when the Hamilton Minor Hockey Association was created.
When the association joined the Hamilton Minor Hockey Council in 1988 the Huskies continued to look after AA and AAA in the city.
The organization was renamed the Hamilton Reps following the 1990-91 season and went back to the Huskies brand in 2012.
Over the years hundreds of players from the rep group have gone on to the Ontario Hockey League and earned hockey scholarships to an NCAA university.
Some like Dave Andreychuk and Steve Staios have enjoyed long careers in the National Hockey League.
The Hub group has been running in the city for the past 26 years.
Their annual budget is about $500,000 while the Huskies spend around $450,000 each year.
Kitamura and Russell said ice time accounts for about 70 percent of their costs.