What is "Balancing"?
Balancing is a term used across team sports to describe the process of creating competitive teams within a division of competition. For Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey, this refers to the process we employ to ensure our teams have comparable skill levels in comparison to other teams in their age division.
Why does Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey balance our recreational teams?
As members of the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association (PCAHA), we are mandated to have balanced teams in the recreational division. For more information on this PCAHA rule, click here and read Section B.1.b.
During the process, a button will be displayed here to take you to the Participant Information Page where all schedules and rosters will be posted.
What is the process?
In Spring 2018, a Balancing Process Task Group was formed to create a Thunderbird approach to balancing. They held a number of engagement meetings with coaches and division ambassadors and worked with these primary volunteers over a period of two months to develop a new, consistent approach to balancing all recreational teams within the association starting Fall 2018.
If you are a participant, please be sure to regularly check the Participant Information Page as that will be where all schedules and group assignments will be posted throughout the process.
Stage 1: Assessment of New Players and Goaltenders
All goaltenders and any new player to Thunderbirds registered for the recreational division will be asked to sign up for an assessment skate in order to allow the divisional head coaches to gain a familiarity with them prior to their initial placement. This assessment will occur during the first week of September and information on the session will be sent directly to those new players. Note: any new players participating in the rep tryouts will be assessed there and the information gathered through that process will be utilized for any players assigned to the recreational division.
Stage 2: Initial Placement
The head coaches and division ambassadors from each division will meet along with Thunderbird Staff under the leadership of Mike Todd (Director of Player and Coach Development - Recreational) to draft the players into initial balancing groups. Note that the head coaches are not assigned to any one group at this point and will work collaboratively to focus on the overall balance of each division. This is called a double blind draft as the coaches are not selecting their team but rather will assist in the creation of all teams without knowing which one will end up being under their leadership until the final stage. Players are drafted based on their rating from the previous season and/or from the player evaluation. The coaches do not have control over which team they will ultimately get so it is in their best interest to make sure the teams are balanced. Each group will include a mix of first and second year players, forwards and defense, and a range of experience and skills as well as being aware of parent volunteer roles such as Team Manager and HCSP personnel being spread across the teams. Note that these groups are not final teams and movement will occur. Goaltenders will be assigned out on a rotational basis over Stages 3 and 4 before being assigned to a specific group starting in Stage 5.
Stage 3: Scrimmage Round #1
All groups will enter into the first round of internal balancing scrimmages. Each division will be allocated one or two blocks of time in Week 1 to allow for a series of short scrimmages (approximately 40 minutes of scrimmage time with line changes controlled by 60 second buzzers). Each balancing group will participate in two scrimmages during their division's schedule. Head Coaches will be evaluating from the stands while assistant coaches and other parents as necessary will be asked to act as gate openers (opposite bench of their child), time keepers, HCSP personnel and to ensure the Dressing Room and Two Deep Policy is followed at all times during the sessions.
At the conclusion of all scrimmages, the head coaches and Division Ambassadors (newly created role - formerly Division Manager) will meet for a short time to review the balance of the initial groups and make changes as required. New rosters and the schedule for the next weekend will be posted on the website as soon as possible, but not later than end of business day Tuesday, September 11.
Note that final releases from rep tryouts will be done by September 15 at the latest and every effort will be made to include those players in Stage 4.
Stage 4: Scrimmage Round #2
Another round of scrimmages following the same concept as the previous weekend will take place in Week 2. The head coaches and division ambassadors will meet again to make another round of adjustments and, once balance is agreed upon across all balancing groups, head coaches will randomly draw for their assignment. At this time, they will need to conduct "trades" to ensure their child is moved to the group they have been assigned to and to allow for each coach to have the ability to request one staff person to join their group (eg assistant coach, team manager, or HCSP).
Stage 5: Thunderbird Balancing Jamboree
For the following days leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend, groups will be scheduled to play a total of four games and practices will begin to be scheduled. Please note that movement may still occur and these are still not the final teams, but as we want each player to maximize the amount of skill development they can receive in the season, the environment begins to feel much more team like at this stage.
At the conclusion of this stage, the head coaches and division ambassadors will meet to discuss any potential changes that may be required before entering the next stage.
Stage 6: PCAHA Balancing Games
Please note that PCAHA is undergoing a review of this stage of the overall balancing process, with the hope to decrease the amount of time required to achieve approved teams.
Typically, PCAHA balancing begins after Thanksgiving and lasts at least a month. During this time, PCAHA randomly places teams into balancing groups with teams from other PCAHA associations. At this point, balancing groups will be considered preliminary teams. They will wear association jerseys and play games against teams from other associations.
During this stage, PCAHA carefully monitors all teams. If PCAHA deems that a team is struggling or too strong compared to other teams in their association, they will mandate player movement. All efforts will be made in Stages 1-5 of our internal balancing process to avoid this type of late PCAHA-mandated player movement however playing against other associations sometimes shows elements that are not seen within an internal process especially in an association as large as Thunderbirds with many teams in each division.
PCAHA reviews the balancing mid-November and can ask for player movement up until the end of November. Following PCAHA balancing and once any required PCAHA movement is complete, PCAHA will deem the division ‘balanced’ and teams will be considered final and the regular season will commence.
Player movement is to be expected throughout the balancing process. Please be patient with the process and be open to the possibility that your child may be asked to move from one group to another or even from one team to another. While we will make every effort to minimize player movement, moves are sometimes necessary in order to achieve balance.
Attendance is by far the biggest factor in balancing. It is impossible to balance teams where players are absent. Parents can help the balancing process immensely by doing the following ensuring their players attend all of the balancing games and PCAHA placement games.
Division ambassadors will email parents if their son or daughter is being asked to move from one group to another. If parents receive this email, we ask that they be as understanding as possible that the move is being made with as much care and consideration as possible. Once a decision has been made to move a player, it is not possible to reverse this decision.
Parents can support the transition to their player’s new team by offering encouragement. Players will not lose any friendships made with their previous group and will have opportunities to make new friendships with their new group. Ultimately, a parents’ attitude is the biggest factor in a player’s ability to make a smooth transition to a new team and have a positive experience.
Number of Goaltenders
Goaltenders should expect to share goaltending duties with another goaltender once they are placed on a team for the season.
Schedules & Groups
Information related to schedules will be posted on the Vancouver Thunderbirds Hockey website on the Recreational tab closer to the start of the regular season. Your Division Ambassador will also email this information to you along with the Balancing Group your player belongs with.
Regular Season and Play-offs
Once PCAHA balancing is complete, PCAHA will create the regular season playing groups and the regular season will begin. Your team will be placed in the group that PCAHA feels best matches your team’s playing ability. The regular season continues until the end of January. Following the regular season, PCAHA creates play-off groups. The play-off format is a round-robin with the top two finishers qualifying to play for the banner.