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PAYHA program continues growth

PAYHA has seen increasing numbers in its hockey Mites program and the benefits have produced noticeable results at the varsity level with PAYHA's feeder program to Detroit Lakes. Photo by Robert Williams/FOCUS

PERHAM -- The contributions of the Perham Area Youth Hockey Association (PAYHA) has garnered attention in the continuing program at Detroit Lakes with Perham natives succeeding at the bantam and varsity level.

Brandon Olson and Ryan Deconcini have had productive seasons for the Lakers.

PAYHA has also caught the eye of Minnesota Hockey magazine and the Minnesota Wild this season.

PAYHA was approached by Minnesota Wild to spotlight the program and growth of a young program before the NHL season was delayed.

Journalists from Minneapolis came to Perham and interviewed the team and coaches in October.

PAYHA is breaking records and exceeding expectations having been listed in the top five programs for growth in Minnesota the past five years.

To start this season, with 42 registrants, Minnesota Hockey ranked PAYHA the top program in terms of growth.

"This program is heading in the proper direction," PAYHA representative Trent Swanson said. "We are creating a 'Culture of Hockey,' introducing these youngsters to a game that is filled with passion, teamwork, sportsmanship and hard work. Our volunteer coaches are helping the youth of our town purely because they love to do it. There are some fun things happening in this program and this town."

Hockey joins the rest of youth athletic programs, including basketball, wrestling, swimming, which all have excellent numbers.

"This, of course, means that there are less kids playing video games, and other such problems that occur," said Swanson. "I am a firm believer in the PLAY 60 program the NFL promotes; every kid should get up and move for at least an hour a day. Way to go Perham athletics."

Al Lepp, one of Perham's volunteer hockey coaches was recently named Volunteer of the Month by Minnesota Hockey.

Lepp moved to Perham from Fergus Falls for employment and met Swanson, who set up the volunteer position.

PAYHA has 35 total skaters midway through their season, 16 kids less than six-years-old. Record high.

Two years ago the program had 27. Kids participate in PAYHA's program until 10 years of age, which is the typical squirt level.

Lepp has been with the program for three years and looks to a bright future for Perham hockey.

Key objectives remain acquiring or building a full indoor rink.

"Next year would be great, but it will probably be 2014 before we're skating in it," Lepp said. "I think if we got an indoor rink it's a difference maker...big time."

PAYHA will start with a traveling squirt team with the ultimate goal being the formation of varsity hockey years down the road.

"Even right now, if you look at the kids playing in DL there's probably six to eight per 18 kids are enough." Said Lepp.

PAYHA has proven consistent in keeping hockey growing in Perham, which is not an automatic task in a community with established programs that have seen plenty of success.

"We're just trying to build a base," said Lepp.

For the second year in a row, PAYHA will host Perham Hockey Day, this year on February 9.

Mite teams from Perham, Wadena, Detroit Lakes, and Wahpeton will play from noon to 5 p.m.

Concession will be sold all day.

At 6:30 p.m. an adult four-on-four tournament will be held.

For more information on registering for the adult tournament contact Al at 701-552-2561.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

(218) 844-1442