The Manitoba Moose Hockey League. The Winnipeg Jets Hockey League. The Iceplex Adult Hockey League.
For adult recreational hockey players, they will recognize these three names as the evolution of the recreational hockey league hosted at Bell MTS Iceplex since the facility opened its doors in 2010. There have been changes over the years beyond just the name of the league, all with the goal of continually improving the adult rec hockey experience at the Iceplex.
The next step of improvement for rec hockey at Bell MTS Iceplex is a much bigger one though.
Enter the Winnipeg Recreational Hockey League.
The Winnipeg Recreational Hockey League (WRHL) is a brand-new league that will replace the current Iceplex Adult Hockey League at Bell MTS Iceplex, starting with the summer 2020 season. The WRHL will introduce Winnipeggers to a new and improved way of doing rec hockey by focusing on the player experience.
So, what’s different about this league?
For starters, the WRHL isn’t owned by the Iceplex, and won’t be run by Iceplex staff. The WRHL will be operated by a group with roots in Edmonton that has a successful history of operating the Capital City Recreational Hockey League there.
Though the group originated in Edmonton, it has roots in Winnipeg too. Rob Barnsley, the Director of the WRHL, is a born-and-bred Winnipegger who has lived in Edmonton for the last 20 years, but has recently moved back to Winnipeg to start the WRHL, which will not only play at the Iceplex but also at the Seven Oaks Arena and The Rink.
“When I moved back to Winnipeg, I wanted to replicate our league in Edmonton and give Winnipeggers the exact same experience of what we do in Edmonton,” said Barnsley, noting that playing in facilities like the Iceplex was the first step in ensuring that Winnipeg rec hockey players got a premier experience.
“We believe we’re a premier product, and we want to be aligned with premier facilities. True North is very well-respected in the hockey community with how they deal with their community. I know that their mantra is community driven.”
David Sattler, General Manager of the Bell MTS Iceplex, believes that having a separate ownership group running the league will be a huge benefit for players as it will allow all parties involved to focus on what they do best.
“This is such a strategic partnership,” said Sattler. “When the Manitoba Moose Hockey League was invented, the purpose of it, like many other adult rec hockey leagues, was to maximize use of our ice. We did that well for 10 years, but now we have an outside group who is able to focus on this and put all of their resources toward the rec league.
“This will also allow the members of our Jets Hockey Development team, who have been working with the IAHL, to focus more on grassroots development. We will be able to further enhance and develop program options for the younger population, as well as further grow our tournament schedule for players at all levels of hockey.”
Dean Court, Business and Amateur Hockey Development & Programming Manager for Jets Hockey Development, was key in organizing the IAHL. He’s thankful for all the teams that have been part of the league over the years and is excited for them to now join the WRHL.
“We’re so grateful for all the teams that have made the IAHL their rec hockey league of choice over the years – from the teams that have been with us from the start, to the teams that have just joined in the last year,” said Court. “We’re excited to present them with a new league, and we hope that all of the amazing teams that have called the Iceplex home will continue to do so with the WRHL.”
Barnsley also believes that this partnership will help both the league and the facilities to excel.
“If we can take something and make it better and focus on that product, while letting True North and the Bell MTS Iceplex group do what they do best in running a great facility and running hockey academies and programming, that feels like a win to us.”
The premier adult rec hockey product that Barnsley is striving to create through the WRHL will bring some noticeable changes to the typical recreational hockey format. As a rec league player, you’re probably accustomed to getting three 12-minute periods with no floods between periods. Why? Because, as Sattler noted, rec leagues are designed to fill up ice time during low-traffic hours. One-hour games make it easy to schedule and get as many games in as reasonably possible. The WRHL won’t operate under those restrictions, instead featuring three 15-minute periods and one Zamboni flood after either the first or second period.
Barnsley believes the 15-minute period format is a feature that sets the WRHL apart from other rec hockey leagues.
“Every hockey player I talk to loves the idea of three 15-minute periods. They love it because they get more hockey and they want to have a great time. So, that format has been very well-received, and I think it’s going to take off in Winnipeg.”
The improved the ice quality and extra time for players to interact with each other during the game have contributed to the growth of Barnsley’s Edmonton League.
“If you talk to any hockey player at any level, as good as the on-ice stuff is, a lot of their great memories are made off the ice,” noted Barnsley. “The feedback we get is that teams just love to hang out together, and this intermission gives them more time to do that.”
Playing hockey at the recreational level is, after all, not just about the hockey. It’s about the culture of hockey and hanging out with your friends on your team. It’s about camaraderie and having a good time. The WRHL is fully aware of the importance of the social aspect of the game and fostering it is an important part of their league.
“This league needs to be a step forward, not only in the product that is offered, but in the way people interact with the adult hockey league market itself in our facility, and we believe the WRHL will do that.”
Barnsley echos that confidence and is eager to get the WRHL underway.
“I’m excited for recreational hockey players to join us and say, ‘where have you been all this time?’ If we can do more and offer a good value, why wouldn’t somebody want to try it?”
If you are interested in registering a team for the WRHL summer 2020 season, visit http://mmcinc.formstack.com/forms/rhwsummer2020registration.
If you are interested in refereeing or timekeeping for the WRHL, visit https://mmcinc.formstack.com/forms/new_ref_signup.
If you have further questions about the league, please reach out to Rob Barnsley at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Game On magazine – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine.