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Midland University Hockey Players Lending Time and Talents to Develop Next Generation of Athletes


Student-athletes on the men’s hockey and women’s hockey teams at Midland may come from many different states and countries, but they are working together to build a community in Fremont.

In an effort to foster a connection with young hockey players in the community, Midland players have been volunteering their time and talents to work with players through the Fremont Flyers program. On Monday and Thursday evenings at the Sidner Ice Arena, Midland players are helping the next generation of players learn the finer points of the game.

“It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the sport,” said Jason White, Midland University Director of Hockey, Head Women’s Hockey Coach. “Anyone who has ever played this sport had someone who was a big influence on them. We hope we are giving these kids that experience and building a hockey culture.”

Building a culture was important to White when he took over as the women’s head coach six years ago. With the men’s program having already established a fanbase within Fremont, he set out to build a similar core of fans for his program. “Our program didn’t have a lot of support or fans, and I wanted to change that culture,” White said. “We provided an opportunity for our team to volunteer with the younger players. It gave them a chance to get to know these kids and be a coach and a mentor. In turn, these kids wanted to watch them play, and we started to get more people at our games.”

Dan O’Malley, President of the Fremont Flyers, believes the cooperation between the programs has strengthened the growth of hockey in Fremont. “Having Midland hockey help with our intro to hockey and mite level hockey is critical to the success of our program,” he said. “This allows for a strong ratio of players to coaches on the ice, which makes it among the top development programs for kids to start playing hockey in the region. This year, we have the largest number of mites in the program’s history, and it’s been invaluable to have those extra skaters on the ice working with them.”

Since its inception in the mid-2000s, the Flyers program has enjoyed steady growth. They work with players of all ages and levels, ranging from kids simply trying to learn to skate, to being part of the high school team. “We have a great relationship with Midland and coaches Jan Dam (men’s head coach) and Jason White,” O’Malley said. “Seeing the Midland players interact with the kids has been fun to watch, and it’s clear to see that both the Midland players and our Flyers players are having fun out there.”

Rylee Martin, a sophomore from Nesbitt, Manitoba in Canada, and a member of the women’s team at Midland, enjoys being part of the development process for young players. “I love being able to see these kids grow their love for hockey and improve throughout the year,” she said. “Some kids go from not being able to skate on the ice by themselves to being able to skate in circles with a puck. Seeing these improvements is what makes working with them so enjoyable and fulfilling. Working with them makes my day and helps me walk away with a smile on my face!”

White is excited to see the growth in youth hockey across the area, especially among girls. “It used to be that girls would show up to watch their brother play, but now girls are showing up to play, and that’s been awesome to see,” he said. “Hockey is still considered a niche sport in the Midwest, but it’s such an exciting sport. It’s fast-paced and aggressive and once kids start playing, they get hooked. We hope being involved leads to more kids wanting to get involved and play hockey. We’d love to see these girls playing for Midland someday!”

Being involved in the community has been a staple of Midland athletic programs for many years. As much as they are dedicated to succeeding in their sport, student-athletes are also determined to build relationships that will last a lifetime. “The most important part is that our kids are developing relationships with these young players,” White said. “We always talk about giving back, and this is a chance for us to do that. We want to take advantage of that opportunity.”

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