Don’t Hesitate to Hockey

The first step is always the hardest.  That is true for everything from monotonous domestic tasks to the things we love most.  We as people spend ample time priming the engine of action with forethought, cost and time analysis, and general hesitation.  Well, hesitate no more.  Give us your hand and let the Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association (BAHA) guide you into your newest favorite form of recreation.

Let’s start with the adults.  Ice hockey is complimentary to all of your other activities.  In fact, the strengths you will build in learning this new sport may serve to enhance further enjoyment in other forms of recreation.  If you haven’t yet found your favorite flavor of recreation, we have you covered.  Our programs provide the opportunity to learn the sport in a safe and friendly environment.

Joining the Adult Hockey Skills classes is one point of entry.  There are two 8-week sessions in the season which are designed for the ‘never been on skates’ crowd to the intermediate player bent to learn more.  Coaches work with students to develop on-ice skill and technique which will grow confidence, ability, and fuel the desire to progress into actual game play.

The Greenhorn league is another entry point, or the next step in the progression to game play; depending on your constitution.  We welcome any adult curious about the sport to register with this league to see what the game is all about.  We only require that you have little to zero experience.  Where else are you going to hear that?!  Greenhorn league is new this year and was formed for the ‘never played’ new skaters to start getting a taste of what league games are like at the rink.  In early 2017, the new league joins four levels of co-ed recreational competition (the Haynes Hockey League) which accommodates players from any range of ability and age.  

Moving on. The BAHA youth hockey programs are also experiencing growth under the direction of Hockey Director Dave Weaver.  Focus on quality is the core motivation for these programs.  Hockey is known as a life-long sport.  We make it our mission to ensure each child receives quality instruction, ice time, and appropriate level of competition.  Most importantly, we strive to keep the level of stoke high with each individual player, as well as within a supportive team environment.  Ice hockey is fun.  We aim to keep it that way.

“At the end of the day, we are playing hockey.  It is important, it is meaningful, and we treat it as such.  We put our all into making sure these programs are up to snuff.  But, whether it’s the four or fourteen year old, we are out there playing ice-hockey!  We can’t lose sight of the value of enjoyment when it comes to this sport.” shares Hockey Director Weaver.

The basic structure of the program breaks down into two basic options: travel and non-travel.  Each faction has different benefits and levels of commitment.  From there, similar ages are grouped, and teams are formed.  This is the quick distillation of a more complicated and thoughtful structure designed to satisfy any and every level of play.

The youth travel league is an outlet for competition with our regional counterparts.  This program is ideal for the family who is willing to dedicate the time and energy to a higher level of competition and commitment.  This program will take you around Montana, as well as into rinks of our neighboring states.  It is a fantastic experience which will mold your child-athlete’s appreciation of the sport and team dynamics.

The non-travel leagues accommodate a family with a full schedule and a desire to keep their activities local.  It is also the starting point for the littlest hockey players.  Children as young as four are able to register for our ‘Termite’ program.  The practices are run by USA Hockey certified coaches and include scrimmages to introduce competition in a team setting.  One of the best things about the non-travel option is that registration remains open all year long.

The ‘Mountain League’ non-travel program was created for families with older children who want to keep their play local.  In the last year the program was restructured to enhance the hockey experience by introducing more players and more game opportunities.  We are proud of the program’s success and growth, but it is nothing without the families which make up a rich part of our community.

The hockey family, to which it is often referred, is our most valuable asset.  Yes, hockey is fun.  Yes, hockey is for everyone.  Yes, it is about athleticism and the sport, fundamentally.  But what BAHA offers beyond an arena and structure for play, is a vibrant and welcoming community.
“I’ve now been in this job for over 10 years.  It is very rewarding to see so many different people enjoying the rink every day.  Skating is addicting and people really look forward to their ice time, which makes it a positive environment.  Haynes Pavilion really becomes a world of its own when the ice goes in.” said Operations Director Julie Keck.

The Operations Director is charged with the responsibility of managing all aspects of the rink facility.  In her tenure with BAHA, Keck has also moved into the position of overseeing ice-rink programming and day-to-day business.  Keck is a fixture within the local ice rink community and is known within the national rink community not only due to her vast experience and knowledge base, but as being one of few female facility operators in the US.

For over thirty years our organization has been building and managing ice rinks in Bozeman proper; starting with Bogert and moving to Haynes Pavilion, where we currently reside.  Our hockey family has grown from a handful of die-hards to nearly 700 adults, and 250 kids.  This is just counting the players.  There are hundreds of families and friends who have never been on the ice, yet devote time and effort to the expansion of recreational ice and hockey programming.   Because, let’s just say it:  hockey is fun.  An ice rink is fun.

We are proud to be aligned with the many user groups who also call Haynes Pavilion home.  Our sister organization, the Gallatin Ice Foundation has brought the dream of two rinks, side-by-side, to life through their mission to raise funds for ice expansion.  In 2017, the ice-hockey community will realize those dreams alongside figure skaters, curlers, and the public who will receive additional leisure skate time on the schedule.

To bring it on home I want to leave you with a personal message.  A friend once told me that the mother of all mistakes is hesitation.  Now, whether he is right or not with that generality, I’m not certain.  Speaking for myself, I will agree.  He said that to me as I was learning to kayak, and had questions about which line to take mid-river.  Hesitation would ultimately put me upside down in a hole.  Relieving myself of the question (safely, of course) charged me into the ‘why’ of the sport.  

The same logic can be applied to trying a new ice sport.  This year I’m going to learn to skate.  Yes, I’m starting at the most fundamental stage.  Who knows where it will lead, however.  Every time I walk through the rink I see a plethora of familiar faces.  They are always encouraging, asking when they will see me out there on the ice.  I always respond “one day.”  Well, that day has come, and I have no reason left to hesitate.  Nor should you.  I intend on injecting a little more fun into my days.  Ice recreation will be couched between skiing and fishing, and there is ample time to do it all.

Finally, on behalf of BAHA I want to extend an anticipatory “Welcome.”  We’ll be here when the to-do lists are accomplished, and you need some quality time to recreate.  When the fields are frozen, the trails overgrown with ice; when the local pro (or bro) scoffs at your innocent and earnest attempts to enter a new sport -- know that the ice rink is big, we will always have room for one more.    

Please visit for more information on hockey programs and to access the complete rink(s) schedule.

Layne Fisher is the Communications Director for the Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association. Photography Tina Stinson.