Exciting new came down the pipe from Hockey Alberta late yesterday afternoon for Cochrane area minor hockey players.

The Cochrane Minor Hockey Association (CMHA) has been granted an U16AA expansion team for the 2024/25 season from Hockey Alberta. It will carry the CMHA's Bow Valley Timberwolves brand.

CMHA president Corey Oaten says the addition of this team will aid in the development path of their athletes moving forward.

"We are thrilled to announce the expansion of the U16AA model to include Cochrane as a designated AA recruitment area host for U16. This significant milestone caps off all levels of AA for our draw zone community and Cochrane Minor Hockey Association, showcasing the remarkable talent and dedication of our young athletes." 

"We want to extend our thanks to Ashley Rabbis, vice-president of operations, for his tireless efforts in making this expansion a reality," the statement continues. "His dedication to the sport and to our youth has been instrumental in securing Cochrane's place in the U16AA Hockey landscape. 

"Additionally, we would like to express our gratitude to Airdrie and their minor hockey association for the partnership over the last few years at the U16AA level."

The addition of a Cochrane U16AA team will see the current Airdrie U16AA recruitment area divided into two. The U16AA Timberwolves will draw players from Cochrane, Canmore, Banff, and Cremona. Airdrie will recruit players from Airdrie, Beiseker, Crossfield, Carstairs, and Didsbury.

Previous it was one recruitment zone for the Havoc, whose operations were moved exclusively to Airdrie this season.

In 2021-22, the South Central Alberta Hockey League (SCAHL) and Hockey Calgary were selected to host the initial U16 AA pilot project. With the inclusion of the Rural & Edmonton Minor Hockey League (REMHL) the next season, it became a provincewide pilot. Following the 2022-23 season, the pilot tag was removed, rendering U16 AA a permanent piece of the AA Hockey Model.

Hockey Alberta officials say the review reaffirmed the value of the U16AA category of play as a feeder to other elite levels of hockey. Over 70 per cent of U16AA players had been previously playing U15AA or AAA, and over 60 per cent of U16 AA players go on to play AA or AAA in the season after their U16AA experience.

The existing Airdrie/Cochrane 16AA recruitment area was the only one in the province that consistently fell outside the parameters and norms of the U16AA model.

The number of U16 players available was a major factor. Both Airdrie and Cochrane are projected to have over 100 U16 age players for at least the next two seasons. Last season, Airdrie had the highest number of players attend U16 AA tryouts in the province.

Elsewhere in the province, the Peace River U16AA recruitment area will be reunited with the Grande Prairie area. Peace River was awarded expansion this season but was unable to ice a U16 AA team.