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Confessions of a “mite” hockey recruiter – how to grow your association

By Brendan Loughrey – North Metro Youth Hockey Association, 11/17/11, 2:21PM CST


North Metro Association turns around declining numbers

Note:  The North Metro Youth Hockey Association has been experiencing flat or declining registrations the past few years.  Because of some extra effort by many volunteers in the association, not only has the decline stopped but growth is occurring.  Registration for the 2011-12 season is plus 11 players compared to the 2010-11 season.  Thank you to everyone involved at the NMYHA for your extra effort this past year to introduce more families to hockey!


This fall’s announcement that the number of US hockey players reached 500,000 was truly astonishing. Yet, for many mature hockey communities such as the North Metro Youth Hockey Association (serving Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Fridley and Columbia Heights) the numbers of new mite skaters have been declining.


Over the past year, NMYHA has created awareness programs and jumped headfirst into many new programs to reach out to new mite players with unique, low-cost programs.


We have tapped into community festivals, media outlets and many USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey programs to help build the ranks of hockey players in our community. Most importantly, we have tapped into the hearts and minds of our parent volunteers for innovative fundraising ideas and old-fashioned hard work.


During the summer months, players are encouraged to show their Pirate colors while marching, rollerblading and skateboarding in local parades. Once school starts, volunteers work with all four of our school districts to get hockey registration flyers into the hands of all K-3 age students. Low cost “hockey warm ups” are staffed fully by volunteer coaches to keep costs as low as possible.


Thanks to generous support from the Gear Up Minnesota! program, this fall we were able to equip two entire teams of new skaters with safe, new gear from Total Hockey. At season’s end, we will collect, clean and repair the equipment, so that a new batch of players can have as low a cost of entry as possible to our hockey program next season.


For this year’s inaugural Try Hockey For Free Day, we printed hundreds of flyers, handed out over 1,000 Halloween cards and had posters hanging in multiple retail partners. The NMYHA also blitzed the media with local newspaper coverage, local cable news interviews and statewide coverage on KMSP FOX 9, including four on-ice interviews throughout the morning of Friday, November 4th with reporter M.A. Rosko. During the interviews, I was quick to share the spotlight with the other area youth hockey organizations hosting events as well. In those four hours, our registrations tripled. I hope others had equal success!


Looking out over the upcoming months, we will be hosting our second annual Outdoor Mite Pond Hockey Series. Partnering with local winter festivals, we have created multiple daylong events where our Mite teams play a series of round-robin exhibitions during Winter Fest in Fridley and during Hockey Day Minnesota in Brooklyn Park. To advertise the events, we create free invitations designed to look like tickets for our players to hand out to their friends, to encourage attendance at the games, as well as enjoy the festival or a neighboring sledding hill.


And as the season comes to an end in March, we again help our players invite newcomers to attend our Mite Jamboree, where player names are introduced over the PA system, and our fog machines, disco ball and laser lights add excitement to every game. Last year – thanks to parent input and ideation - we added a celebrity skate-a-thon and “team basket” silent auction to the event, and we raised thousands of dollars for our organization!


In all, each of these projects took a bit of time, but very little money. They all had a single thread running through them – parents who took the time to make a difference in the lives of their children and the lives of many, many others.

 For more information about Gear Up Minnesota!, please visit