Jason Hegberg’s hockey journey has now come full circle.
One of the most decorated graduates of the Stettler Minor Hockey Association is the organization’s new president.
After one year on the minor hockey board as the secretary, Hegberg was promoted to president at the association’s annual meeting. He succeeds Jason Bridge, who remains on the executive as past-president.
Hegberg, 33, also coached the Stettler atom AA team this past season, as one of Mike Kuefl er’s assistants.
“I don’t have kids in hockey, but that was my passion growing up, so I don’t have a problem helping out wherever I can,” said Hegberg, a car salesman in his hometown.
He runs the popular East Central Hockey School, which made its debut in Stettler last summer and returns this August with a full complement of participants.
Hegberg played minor hockey in Stettler until he moved to Red Deer for bantam AAA and midget AAA. He went on to play four years each with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League and the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.
The former Lethbridge captain also played a year of pro with the Victoria (B.C.) Salmon Kings.
He stepped into the coaching ranks with his brother Rob and they coached the junior A Drumheller Dragons for four seasons.
Hegberg has seen enough elite hockey to believe that Stettler can produce more players for higher levels.
He envisions a time when local residents can watch Hockey Night In Canada and hear a player credit Stettler minor hockey for providing the foundation for an NHL career.
Five players from the Stettler and Big Valley area played midget AAA or minor midget AAA in Red Deer this past season, and all of them were standouts.
“They did very well, (but) I don’t think we see that often enough,” Hegberg said.
“I think, with a community of this size, we should be seeing more (reaching higher levels). And I’m not saying it’s only for the elite athletes, but we should be seeing more kids coming out of our community and going to play elsewhere.”
Hegberg is confident the structure is already in place to nurture the development of players — and people — in Stettler’s minor hockey system.
“I think we’ve got a great community,” he said. “I think we’ve got a great facility.
“The only thing I really want to make sure — not that it hasn’t been done (in the past) — is that we focus on the development of kids right from the first time they step on the ice. I think we can all do a better job of that. That’s what I’m going to try to get our board on board with, and I think everyone wants to see that happen.”
Hegberg also wants discipline *and respect instilled in Stettler minor hockey players.
“Life skills need to be a lot better,” he said. “We want to teach these kids to be good people, first and foremost. The hockey taught is secondary.
“That’s the way we run our hockey school.”
REGISTRATION NEXT WEEK: Stettler minor hockey registration is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19, and Wednesday, June 20, from 5 to 8 p.m. each night at the Stettler Recreation Centre. A $50 late fee is charged after June 20.
“We generally get most people registered right away,” Hegberg said. “It just gives us a head-start to see what numbers we have so we can get things rolling. I know it’s mid-summer, but people need to realize that a lot of things need to be done in order for kids to play hockey.
“There’s a lot of paperwork. You can start seeing how many teams you’re going to have, and who’s going to be your coaches, or projected coaches.”
More than 200 players are expected to register with the Stettler Minor Hockey Association, which iced 22 teams last winter.
NEW BOARD MEMBERS: The minor hockey board has added three new executive members: Neil McCallum, the vice-president of registration; David Zondag, the vice-president of operations; and Katie Bainbridge, the secretary.