VOSHA’s Mite Jamboree gives youngsters chance to learn, play
For hundreds of kids, it was their Stanley Cup moment.
The Valley of the Sun Hockey Association (VOSHA) hosted its annual Mite Jamboree on Nov. 8 at AZ Ice Arcadia, a five-hour event that saw plenty of memories and laughs.
“At that age, they don’t get to travel and go to all of the big tournaments,” said Ron Filion, a coach with the Bobcats. “Most of them have only been skating for two or three years, so the Jamborees are their first big event. They mainly practice and practice at that age. It’s special for the kids because they are excited to play other teams. It’s their candy.”
The Jamboree, which was the first under the VOSHA brand after last year’s merger with the Arizona Bobcats, featured more than 200 players from the age of eight and under.
In all, 20 total teams took to the ice. VOSHA had three of its Mite teams in action while the rest of the participants consisted of teams from around the Valley and Flagstaff.
Squads from Mission Arizona, the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association, Arizona Hockey Union, the Desert Youth Hockey Association, the Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association and other house programs also showed off their skills.
Each team played a total of three games with each contest being one 18-minute period. There was a then a two-minute break before the next game started. Line changes were made every two minutes. The games were played on half of a standard sized ice rink, with each team consisting of four players and a goalie.
While score isn’t kept and there are no official winners of the tournament, Sue Tessmer said there is still a competitive atmosphere at times.
“I think the kids keep score in their minds,” Tessmer, the manager of VOSHA’s Mite teams, said with a laugh. “But it’s just a great way to promote youth hockey. You see families from other teams giving each other hugs and high-fives. It’s just a community bonding thing for youth hockey. It’s just so sweet at this level.”
Most of the local hockey affiliates host a Mite Jamboree, something that was implemented recently by the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association. The Jamborees give players born in 2007, 2008, 2009 and even 2010 a chance to hone their skills in real game action.
“These are definitely the developmental years,” Tessmer said. “They call penalties like tripping or if there is pushing and shoving. Usually a penalty is an accident and not intentional, but they need to learn to watch out for that next time.”
Tessmer said there are many ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ in the crowd when one team gets close to scoring. The Jamborees, she said, give players a chance to work on their puck skills and teamwork.
“I think my favorite thing is watching them at the end when they line up and do the high-fives to the other team,” Tessmer said. “They’re so excited about it and sometimes they fist pump each other so hard that they spin around and fall down. You almost feel like it should have the ‘Peanuts’ cartoon music playing the entire time. The Jamborees are just the best thing to watch.”
Tessmer added that some teams have female players, including a goalie on one of the VOSHA Mite teams.
“She’s fantastic,” Tessmer said. “She’s just one of the guys. She’s their goalie and they will protect her until the end.”
Filion, whose son played in the Mite age group last year, might have put it best. While the younger players are clearly still learning the game, they are also the future stars of the sport.
“It’s the only time where they can where their game jerseys,” Filion said. “They feel proud. The kids just want to play and have fun and I think everyone brings that kind of attitude.”
— Eric Smith