Hopkins Youth Hockey Association (HYHA) is a small organization surrounded by a number of large associations. The small-town feel of HYHA is one of the keys to its success.
“We know, care about and develop every single player in our association,” HYHA President Bill Winter said.
HYHA has made a commitment to growing the game, starting with Mite/8U recruitment and retention. The association hosts Try Hockey For Free days and ran a Learn to Play Hockey event this past fall. First-year Mites/8U skate for free and receive equipment at no cost. HYHA has been the beneficiary of Gear Up Minnesota! equipment grants and National Hockey League Players’ Association equipment grants.
Beyond the first free Mite year, the families of players who need equipment or scholarships can reach out to the association for help. Winter says anyone in need of assistance will be treated sensitively and confidentially, “because our goal is to keep kids playing hockey.”
During the registration period, the family of every skater who does not return is contacted for their feedback about the program. From the 2014-2015 season to the 2015-2016 season, HYHA had an 8 percent increase in the number of Mite/8U players. An even bigger increase is expected for this 2016-17 season. “[The increase in players] is due to the fantastic coaches and volunteers we have,” Winter said. “They truly care about each and every player.”
There’s no doubt the coaches and volunteers truly care. HYHA Mite 4 skater, Tucker, was diagnosed with bone cancer in the fall of 2015. He underwent chemotherapy, had surgery to remove the cancerous bone, and had surgery in each lung to remove some additional tumors. Tucker’s bravery was an inspiration to his teammates and all of the adults in HYHA.
HYHA coordinated with Hopkins Area Little League (HALL) and the International Spanish Language Academy (ISLA), the elementary school in which Tucker attended and his mom teaches. Tucker’s support group calls itself Team Tucker Go! HYHA dedicated a page on its website to this group so the baseball, hockey and school communities could keep up to date on Tucker’s progress, coordinate providing meals via Meal Train and provide information about how people could help.
Annually, HYHA hosts a Mite Day celebration. This year, Mite Day was also a fundraiser for Team Tucker Go! Mite Coordinator Janal Petersen and Tucker’s coach Dan Tompkins led a team of volunteers to help raise money for Tucker’s medical needs. What started as a small raffle of a few donated items quickly snowballed into an event with 25 silent auction and 50 raffle items. Donations were received from HYHA, HALL, ISLA, Minnesota Wild and many local people involved in hockey. Neighboring and sometimes rival association Edina Youth Hockey sent an entire Bantam team to the event, to both bid on items and make a donation.
Donated items ranged from things like a Nerf gun and an American Girl doll purchased by some of Tucker’s teammates, to tickets to sporting events and memorabilia like the framed and signed poster of the Miracle on Ice team. The event was a tremendous success.
Sadly, Tucker lost his battle with osteosarcoma on July 2, 2016. The Hopkins community once again sprung into action to help host a gathering the evening before his July 8 funeral. The ice was melted over the summer and the dry floor of the arena transformed into a bright and cheerful place. More than 1,000 people attended the Celebration of Tucker to share stories and offer support.
Winter said seeing the whole community come together to support Tucker and his family has reminded him not only why hockey is such a great sport, but also what the mission of HYHA is.
“At the heart of it, we are developing not just athletes, but young people with strong character who are the future of our community.”
Home Ice: Hopkins Pavilion
President: Bill Winter
2014-15 Registration Numbers: 291 (154 Mites/8U)
"At the heart of it, we are developing not just athletes, but young people with strong character who are the future of our community."