Youth hockey communities succeed because of their dedicated families, volunteers, coaches and everyone in between — Marshall is no exception.
“That’s probably a generic statement,” Paul Meyer, Marshall Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) president, said. “There’s the people, the parents, the kids welcoming, engaging, committed. It just makes the association, and quite frankly our community, just an outstanding place to play, outstanding place to be a member and, more importantly, outstanding place to be a part of this community.”
Meyer also gave a shout out to the MAHA board and coaches, noting they’re all committed to impacting the lives of the kids in the association and future generations.
While the people make MAHA a special organization to be a part of, a new, state-of-the-art facility doesn’t hurt. This year, Marshall opened the doors to the Red Baron Arena and Expo. With two sheets of ice, 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. practices are a thing of the past, and the players are getting more ice time to hone their skills.
“It wouldn’t have happened without the entire community’s support,” Meyer said. “We’re lucky to be playing there and calling it our home.
“Our kids are on the ice more than they were before and you can already see it paying off.”
In Marshall, anyone that wants to play hockey, can, regardless of cost. As Meyer put it, MAHA has an aggressive scholarship program that is accessible to anyone.
“The program is never out of reach to play,” Meyer said. “We have the ability to help kids and families. You know the old ‘it’s too expensive to play hockey.’ Well that’s just not true in Marshall, Minnesota.”
The scholarship program helps cover any and all aspects of the game. From association fees, equipment needs and even skills training, Marshall has the resources to help cover the cost. MAHA also has equipment available to lend to players, which it updates as needed to meet safety standards.
While families do need to apply, Marshall tries to keep the program simple: if somebody wants to play hockey and they need financial support, the association will help.
“At the end of the day we’re trying to get as many kids to play and we don’t want any hurdles in the way,” Meyer said.
With a new facility, Marshall has also started to focus on investing more in its players through specialized trainings and camps. It’s just getting started, but it’s begun to bring in goalie coaches or schedule skills camps in its own rink to give its kids an opportunity they might not have otherwise. Instead of travelling to Minneapolis, Fargo or Sioux Falls, the players can lace up their skates on their home ice and get the same experience.
MAHA has also put a focus on its young players, trying to grow the game through hockey clinics and learn-to-skate programs. It also participates in Try Hockey For Free Day in conjunction with USA Hockey to introduce the sport to new families.
As a result of its initiatives, Marshall has seen steady growth in its numbers over the last few years. Meyer anticipates significant growth in the coming years due to its continued investment and new facility.
With that said, Marshall hopes to continue to provide a positive experience for its players.
“We want to make sure that they have fun, enjoy the game and continue to get better every single day,” Meyer said. “At the end of the day, that’s what matters.”