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'A great program to get better': Purple Cobras set to expand

'We just want to offer kids the experience of playing full-ice hockey and learning and developing,' says Purple Cobras official

The Klevr Super League is coming to Simcoe County for U7 and U9 after the successful launch of Gold Hockey Development’s Purple Cobras U8 team this year. The Purple Cobras are now expanding to offer more teams for more age groups ahead of the 2023-2024 hockey season.

The league was started by two-time Stanley Cup Champion Kris Versteeg, who initially launched the Klevr app to help athletes, parents, and coaches improve their game. Since then Vertseeg, who played over a decade in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers, LA Kings, and Calgary Flames, created the Klevr Super League.

It began when Versteeg started the Young Kings program in the Durham area after looking for alternative options for full-ice hockey for the younger elite hockey players in the area, including his son.

“He took all the best kids in the Whitby, Brooklin, Oshawa region and started the Young Kings,” said Ryan Wood, Director of Hockey Operations for the Gold Hockey Development Purple Cobras. “They’d play against older teams, go down to the States to play tournaments to get game action, and everything was full-ice.”

After the success of the Young Kings program, this season more programs adopted the idea and joined the Klever Super League for U8 hockey.

“He saw a lot of people were interested and now this coming year will be the first year of the league for U9, U8, and U7,” said Wood. “It’s his brainchild (Versteeg’s) and thankfully my son played on the Young Kings and Kris asked me if I’d be willing to run the program in the Barrie area and here we are.”

This past November, the Purple Cobras started their inaugural season with the U8 team and began the development process.

“Once a week we did skill development practice on Monday nights and every Friday we’d do intrasquad full-ice games with our kids,” said Wood. “We had about 24 kids in our program this year and it was a great opportunity to see how the kids would develop throughout the weeks. It was evident that the kids who took part in the Purple Cobras program that played Barrie house league really stood out.”

The team even travelled to a few tournaments winning the Cleveland Grinder Tournament in February and the AAU North American Championships in Dorchester two weeks ago.

“We’re very lucky to have had those opportunities,” said Wood. “The kids get full-ice exhibition games and the intrasquad games. Right now, the majority of our kids have played 20 to 30 full-ice hockey games this year when a lot of kids wouldn’t have even had the experience of playing one.”

The league was developed to provide families with an affordable and competitive hockey league that focuses on preparing hockey players for AAA and AA when they are in the U10 age group.

“The program is geared towards kids who want to play AAA and AA hockey when they get older,” said Wood. “We’re looking for kids who have basic skills—they can skate around pylons, they can handle a puck, etc.—they have to have advanced hockey skills and showcase that in a game.

"We want to develop them and prepare them for when they do become U10 and they go to play Barrie Colts AAA or Barrie Minor AA. Those are the types of kids that we’re trying to provide additional and better hockey opportunities gameplay wise with full-ice programming.”

The Purple Cobras are looking for competitive hockey players in the U9, U8, and U7 age groups in Simcoe County who want to play advanced level hockey that focuses on skill development and preparation for high-level hockey.

“My son played in Toronto last year and the experience was okay, but the kids here in Barrie weren’t getting the additional opportunities my son was,” said Wood. “Being someone who lives in Barrie and knows eventually the kids at this age will become AAA, I wanted to try and get them to develop further so that they’re ready at U10 to play AAA.”

With his own son needing to leave the area to find a more competitive league, Wood is hopeful that the Purple Cobras program will allow for the most talented players in Simcoe County to find the development they need closer to home.

“Kids from Barrie leave here at a young age to go to Toronto and play in the North York Hockey League and then they play AAA hockey in Toronto and Barrie AAA loses out on quality kids because unfortunately the local hockey programming doesn’t allow the more advanced kids to play quality games to test their skills,” said Wood.

“It’s not a great environment for a kid to play house league and score 25 goals a game. So we’re basically taking those kids out and putting them onto what would be sort of considered an all-star team.”

Wood reiterates that the Purple Cobras program isn’t trying to take away from local leagues, but rather offer kids an opportunity that they didn’t previously have in the area.

“We don’t care if a kid wants to play in their local hockey association,” said Wood. “We just want to offer kids the experience of playing full-ice hockey and learning and developing. This is a good way of learning how to start playing on full-ice. As a dad and a hockey guy who coached Jr. A hockey for 10 years, we wanted to offer elite players a great program to get better.”

The tryout date for the Purple Cobras is April 1 at the Innisfil Rec. Centre with U7 (2017 birth year) taking the ice at 10 a.m., U8 (2016) at 11 a.m., and U9 (2015) at 12:30 p.m. The tryout fee is $40. Contact Wood at 705-345-9977 or visit the website here for more information.