Perry Sheppard saw a chance to help grow minor hockey on the North Shore when he came home three years ago and he’s content he made the effort.
When he returned to his native Cox’s Cove from Fort McMurray minor hockey is starting to find new life and he was willing to help out so he accepted an offer to join the Cox’s Cove recreation commission. Minor hockey had been a separate entity from the commission at one point, but it’s been under the recreation committee stronghold for the past three seasons.
It appears minor hockey is healthy on the North Shore as the numbers would indicate. Three years ago there were only 18 players involved in the minor hockey program at the Marshall-Moores Arena, but then next season the numbers climbed to 38 and this year, which wrapped up with an awards banquet at the community hall, saw the program grow to 67 players with three different groups being assembled.
Sheppard, who serves as vice-chair of the recreation committee and oversees the minor hockey program, credits the work of volunteers and the support of the community for the growing numbers.
However, he also believes starting up an equipment recycling program certainly gave a boost to the numbers.
“There were kids who didn’t have enough equipment and that’s the reason they weren’t playing, so we gathered up some equipment,” he said.
He did whatever he could to gather up equipment, from donating some of his own he had around the house to asking people he knew along the various communities.
But, he really found what he was looking for when he went to the local Salvation Army Thrift Store in both Corner Brook and Deer Lake. He said he was pleased to come up with a great deal at the Corner Brook site where got a great deal before a parent told him it would be worth his while to check out the Deer Lake store.
No doubt, upon arriving, he was like a kid in a candy store.
“Deer Lake Salvation Army got top of the line gear and all kinds of it and for dirt cheap,” he said. “I spent about $200 and I kid you not I got over $2,000 worth of equipment.”
Mother Nature is a factor in the number of games players on the North Shore get each season because the rink has natural ice, but, according to Sheppard, this year cold temperatures and a heavy snowfall provided the minor hockey program with a boost it certainly could use with 67 boys and girls anxious to hit the ice at every opportunity.
The first game of hockey this winter was played on Jan. 2 and the program didn’t wrap up until April 2. There was only nine days that hockey could go ahead because of weather.
“That’s the longest year they can remember in a very long time that the stadium went past March,” he said, noting the arrival of March usually spells the end of the season.
Sheppard expects the numbers to grow next year with interest level at the highest he’s seen in a couple of years. He also took time during the past few months to ask players to submit an entry for A Name our Team contest that saw Liam Loder come up with North Shore Nitros.
Sheppard just wanted the players to have an identity like other players immersed in the game.
Nitros hockey is alive and well it appears. It’s a pretty good bang for the buck, too.
“They got like 40 hours of ice-time for $20 bucks, Not bad hey 50 cents an hour,” he said with a hearty chuckle.