NHL Industry Growth Fund award will benefit high school puck in Bay Area
As high school hockey continues to grow in the Bay Area, so, too, does the need for added support and funding.
Recently, the San Jose Sharks and the San Jose Jr. Sharks organization were awarded an IGF (Industry Growth Fund) grant that will be used to help enhance and grow not only the Sharks High School Hockey League, but high school hockey all over the Bay Area.
In the 2013 NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NHL and NHLPA established the fund to support NHL and club business initiatives and programs intended to promote long-term revenue and fan growth.
“We are honored and excited to receive this three-year grant to grow High School Hockey in the Bay Area,” said Sharks Ice, LLC vice president Jon Gustafson. “These funds will be used to offset annual team operation costs and start-up costs for new teams. We are very fortunate to see such dramatic growth in youth hockey in the Bay Area. The next logical step is to focus on the high school level, which will transform the sport in our non-traditional hockey market. Due to this grant, we have seen incredible growth already.”
Amanda Long, who serves as the high school and girls/women’s hockey coordinator at Solar4America Ice at San Jose, is elated at the prospect of seeing the high school game take the jump to the next level.
“We’ve had our high school program here for quite a while – starting with just a couple schools and it’s grown over time,” said Long. “Our goal has always been to create more of a presence with high school hockey not only here in California, but more specifically in the Bay Area. The hard part is that there are a lot of things that we are up against and one in particular is the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) and the rules and regulations as far as using CIF-controlled facilities. That makes it difficult to have high school hockey recognized as a varsity sport. Furthermore, sometimes you just need a little help/push to get things moving in the right direction. We are currently moving in that direction.
“We just want to create this really cool, positive atmosphere and keep them playing the game of hockey, which they love.”
This season, the Sharks high school league has seven pure varsity teams (teams of players from the same school) and six junior varsity teams, plus 12 mixed teams, which are teams made up of players from several schools in the same general area. A number of the games are played at SAP Center before the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) games. These games include full in-game entertainment and production, which includes player introductions, jumbotron usage and instant replays. Game highlights are also replayed during intermissions at the AHL game.
All teams are co-ed and some teams have no girls at all, while one team – a team affiliated with the Jr. Sharks – is all girls.
“That team is made up of girls that either can’t make the full commitment for one reason or another or girls that still want to do other things in high school while still playing hockey,” explained Long.
The 2016-17 season was the first that the Sharks held a true varsity season. In the past, this wasn’t done due to the majority of players skating for travel hockey teams or Tier hockey teams.
Still, at the end of the day, the focus is on growing the game and Long sees that although there is work to be done, it’s all for the right reasons.
“We are in a good spot right now, but the potential is there for it to be so much bigger,” Long said. “There is all kinds of potential for more – tournaments, state championships, national championships. We’re always looking to create something new and big and fresh. As of right now, we’re still sort of in the growing and planning stages, but we still have a lot to look forward to.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Jan. 24, 2018)