No leftovers: Steelers to be strategic in team selection

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June 16, 2016 12:00 AM

Lloydminster Steelers head coach Eric Morrissette gives instruction to the female hockey players in attendance at the Steelers spring camp. While turnout for the camp was low, it was expected as players will try first to play for larger city teams.

In building next season’s Lloydminster PWM Steelers, head coach Eric Morrissette wants to be strategic. He doesn’t just want other teams castoffs.
As the furthest team from a major city centre in the six team Alberta Major Midget Hockey League, Lloydminster knows one of their challenges will be drawing midget girls to their program.
If they don’t live locally, they will have to billet, something a 15-year-old girl may not be interested in doing or ready for, and many will want their first option of perhaps playing in Edmonton or St. Albert.
Those two cities held their spring evaluation camps, where St. Albert had more than 80 girls at its camp and Edmonton had more than 50, meaning 130 girls are looking to make two teams that can only hold a roster of 20.
The others will have to find another place to play, which could be Lloydminster or another one of the other four teams, as Hockey Alberta has opened the borders and allowed players to play for any team.
But Morrissette isn’t waiting to see who doesn’t make Edmonton, St. Albert or any other team. He wants players who want to be in Lloydminster.
“I’m not just looking for everybody’s left overs,” said Morrissette. “It’s being very strategic and looking at what we need and building off from there. I’m not going to wait to find out that you just got cut.”
Not every piece will be set before main camp begins, however, Morrissette has spent the last couple of weeks working the phone and hitting the road looking for players that will compliment what they already have in Lloydminster.
With the open borders, the process of building a team has drastically changed. No longer is Morrissette and his coaching staff building a team, they are building a franchise, one that is expected to be successful and develop female hockey players and move them on to the next level.
It’s no longer just about bringing in local kids to play, as some have already committed to other programs, while others may not be capable of playing at the newly reformed midget AAA female hockey level.
“There’s a big difference between having a mindset around a team and a mindset around a program,” said Morrissette. “From my standpoint, if the program gets better, it’s better for everybody. It’s everything from having a doctor in place. It’s just every little piece.”
The start of the process in building the team began locally at potential girls who could come back.
Some of the players who could have returned decided to test the waters and go play for another team, meaning Morrissette will have fill holes in the roster.
A lot of it, he said, is asking questions and finding out what girls are thinking in terms of what team they want to play for.
Each girl must select two teams they are going to try out for and declare them before main camps start. With so many girls trying out for major city teams, Morrissette will target the players who will compliment those returning.
“You just got to keep looking outside of that,” said Morrissette. “It’s a matter of what are the pieces being built around those girls. The start of the process was looking locally to potential girls coming back.
“A lot of it is asking questions and I’ve been fortunate too, because one of my best resources has been a coach from another team, because he knows all those girls are not going to play for him and I’ve been fortunate that he has been forthright about what is going on with him.”

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