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Local minor hockey organizations agree to partner

Updated: May 28

Minors playing Hockey

The Stars and the Storm are aligning.


The Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association Stars and the Erie North Shore Storm minor hockey organizations officially merged after a vote last Tuesday night.


While the name of the new partnership, along with a logo and team colours is not yet decided, what is for certain is that they will come together under one banner to start the 2025-2026 season.


According to Stars’ president Wes Ewer and Gary Toupin, who leads the Storm, the benefits are numerous.


“We perfectly compliment each other,” explained Toupin. “Where they are strong, we are struggling and where they are struggling, we are strong.”


Toupin noted that there were 488 registered players at Erie North Shore last season and on Tuesday 126 votes were cast with 81.7 percent agreeing to merge with Amherstburg.


“At the end of the day, if they voted No, that’s their choice,” added Toupin.

In Amherstburg, which according to Ewer had 407 players in 2023-24, 130 votes were made of which only 12 said no.


“We viewed this from a different perspective. Our registration numbers, while consistent, retention is the issue,” said Ewer.


A former junior player and owner of the Amherstburg Admirals Junior ‘C’ Hockey Club, Ewer said that the biggest reason for the merger is to be competitive with other centres and “to put wins in the book.”


Both Ewer and Toupin said that the Ontario Minor Hockey Association is pushing for a regionalized competitive approach to the game.


What this means for both organizations now is that they will have more players available to roster in the travel divisions. It is hoped, come 2025-26, that the new association will be able to have teams in major, midget and what is referred to as a ‘C’ group as well as house league.


“It (merger talks) started because we needed to. Regionalized zone hockey is what the OMHA has been talking about for years,” said Ewer.


Amherstburg had been in discussion with LaSalle Minor Hockey in the past to merge but that did not happen. Erie North Shore had looked at joining the Essex-Southpoint partnership.


Erie North Shore was created 14 years ago when Kingsville and Harrow minor hockey associations came together.


“Small town hockey is going away,” said Ewer.


According to the AMHA website, the Stars have been operating with low numbers in some divisions and have had to format icing some teams.


Prior to the vote last week, both organizations held information sessions and moving forward, the AMHA has created a separate tab on its website to allow members to ask questions.


As far as the immediate future, lawyers and accountants will be hired to help with the formal amalgamation followed by an application to the OMHA for its approval.


“The biggest hurdle has been jumped,” said Toubin. Local minor hockey organizations agree to partner

 

By Fred Groves

 

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