Bay Area Jr. Seals readying to expand spring program
Spring hockey is fast approaching in the Bay Area and that means the return of the Bay Area Jr. Seals.
New this spring, however, is an expanded Jr. Seals spring program that will see many more area youth hockey players get the opportunity to suit up and keep enjoying the game of hockey.
The Jr. Seals have been a spring program in the Bay Area for the past six years and has primarily been for the Jr. Sharks’ Squirt, Pee Wee and Bantam teams. This year, the program will include 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 birth years, 14U A and AA teams and 16U AA teams. There won’t be tryouts, just registration, which will be available later this month on the Jr. Sharks website.
Once registration is complete, practices and skates will be held at Solar4America Ice at San Jose and players will be assigned to teams. Most of the teams will play in a springtime tournament as well.
San Jose Jr. Sharks development coordinator Mike Janda heads up the Jr. Seals and said the addition of more teams was a combination of demand from current Jr. Sharks families and a sign that hockey is growing at a rapid in the Bay Area.
“We’ve seen a huge need for spring hockey in the past few years and we want to give our players the opportunity to keep playing hockey, if that’s what they want to do,” said Janda. “I won’t know for a couple weeks, but I would expect us to have three 2009 teams, three 2008 teams, three 2007 teams and three 2006 teams, which is huge. You’re talking four birth year teams within a four-year gap. We’ll still have our AAA teams, which will be by invite only, but this program is meant to give everyone a place to play.”
Janda added that the Jr. Sharks as a whole have a philosophy that goes along with the Jr. Seals and what it means to the Bay Area.
“Naturally, we should be using the spring and summer months to play other sports and work on our athleticism, but when your customers have been asking for something for several years, and we’re not supplying it, that’s wrong,” Janda said. “We decided to give our customers what they’ve been asking for and we’re going to try this out this year and then reevaluate what we do next year.
“It’s a change that needs to happen and there is a huge need for kids that want to play in the spring. Our kids were leaving to go play for other clubs and we want to keep our kids here and give them a place to skate.”
The Jr. Seals’ coaches will mostly be individuals already coaching with the Jr. Sharks and the assignments won’t be set until the Jr. Sharks assign the 2018-19 coaching staff. Ideally, a coach that coaches a Jr. Seals team in the spring will have that same level Jr. Sharks team next fall.
“(Jr. Sharks director) Curtis Brown and myself will be out to some practices, which will all be skill-based practices, where the players are working on getting better and improving,” said Janda. “There won’t be an emphasis on winning necessarily, but more so on developing individual skills and preparing everyone for next year’s tryouts in May.”
Janda added that the NHL has played a big role in the Bay Area boom in hockey.
“I think the success of hockey and the NHL in general has drawn kids to want to play hockey,” Janda said. “I think the excitement of hockey and not standing around picking grass in the outfield is what draws kids to want to play hockey. It’s exciting, it’s moving, and I think that gets kids hooked.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Feb. 21, 2018)