Oct. 30—ROCHESTER — Brett Landon and Josh Chapman had mulled the idea for a couple of years.
Though it is less frequent these days, Landon and Chapman have seen hockey players in Rochester cut from a high school program in recent years, a move that has often marked the end of that player's career in organized hockey.
Landon and Chapman have also seen some players decided to hang up their skates once their Bantam career is over, either because they know playing time could be scarce at the high school level, or they don't want to commit to practicing or playing six days a week.
When Landon became a member of the Rochester Youth Hockey Association Board, he decided it was time to pursue the idea of creating a team for those players in high school who were cut or otherwise decided to be done with organized hockey.
With the backing of the RYHA, for the first time in more than 10 years, Rochester will put a Junior Gold team on the ice this winter.
Landon will serve as the head coach, while Chapman — who has coached both boys and girls high school hockey in Rochester over the past decade — will serve as the assistant coach.
"It gives the kids who don't make the high school team a place to play," Landon said, "those who want to continue to play.
"And for the kids who don't want the rigor or the extensive schedule of high school hockey, then maybe getting into a game if they're lucky, because maybe they're not one of the top kids, this is the opposite. It is less practicing during the week, but tons of games on the weekends."
The Junior Gold schedule is designed to in many ways be an extension of a player's youth hockey career. The Rochester team will practice one night per week, then it will play its entire 24-game schedule on six weekends.
Rochester will have three weekends at home during the season and three on the road. Each weekend will consist of four games — one Friday afternoon or evening, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday morning or afternoon.
"It's like having a tournament almost every weekend," Landon said. "It's a bit of a different mentality than what we're used to, but it keeps kids on the ice, keeps them engaged and allows them to have fun getting in games and playing hockey."
While the Rochester Junior Gold program will fall under the umbrella of the RYHA, it will be open to players from all across the region — from Albert Lea to Owatonna to Austin to Winona, and other points in between.
"It's a great opportunity for these kids, some of them who don't necessarily want to play high school hockey, because it's a long, long season for some kids," Chapman said. "The schedule also gives them an opportunity to do other extracurricular activities if they want to."
Corey McGlone and Dustin Stevens are also on board as assistant coaches.
As of mid-October, the coaches said they had more than a dozen — 16, to be precise — players who had reached out and expressed strong interest in playing. Landon and Chapman said they would like to hit the ground running with practices sometime during or shortly after the opening week of practice for boys high school teams (the week of Nov. 13).
"We also want to make this available to kids who still want to compete," Chapman said, "maybe make that varsity level next year, but they'll have a place to play this current year. We still want that opportunity to be there for them. We're going to work hard, we're going to have some fun and we'll work on skills and getting better, just like any team would."
To register for the team, visit the
Junior Gold page on the RYHA website