SLOUGH Jets and Slapshot Ltd have announced their objective to focus on junior development is starting to yield tremendous results. Jets, this week, issued a letter to its fans identifying a lack of opportunity on the ice for junior players across the UK.

The letter also points out a lack of high quality coaching and facilities that are run for profit, and not the benefit of young ice hockey stars.

And now, in a bold bid to address the issues, Jets have formulated a plan to drag UK ice hockey up to a par with other major European countries.

This involves devoting ice time to junior players in Slough, and focusing resources on coaching, rather than a senior team in the English Premier Ice Hockey League. The statement read: “With the 2014/15 season fast approaching, Slough Jets have moved to address the issues of a lack of practice and game time available for children, and enough high quality coaching.

It is a widespread problem in UK ice hockey, as the average junior player gets a maximum of two hours of ice time per week.

That compares to major European countries, such as Czech Republic, where the average junior player practices four or five hour per week.

Also, UK juniors player on average 14-18 games a year, compared to 36-48 in other countries. In Canada and the United States that figure is even higher, with 16 to 18-year-olds playing in excess of 60 matches.

With such a major ice time deficit, it is not surprising that the UK - despite relatively high participation numbers - have very little international success.

Most UK juniors do not end up good enough to play in the Elite League while the English Premier Ice Hockey League provides, at best, enough money to cover travelling expenses and two practice sessions.

In major European countries, quality coaching is at a very different level with salaries paid to the staff up to eight times what an average junior coach in the UK would make - that is if they get paid at all.

Most clubs do not have specific netminder coaching and in general struggle to put on the ice enough qualified professionals.

The reason why there is so little ice time available is that the country has not invested in facilities and most rinks are overcrowded between different users.

It is also fair to say most facilities are run for profit and as such more of the ice time goes to higher income generating events, such as senior hockey and public skating.

For example, Toronto has 250 ice rinks with a population of two million. Compare that to London where a population of eight million share just five ice rinks.

Slough Jets and Slapshot Ltd has taken the decision to change this grim reality by allocating significantly more ice time to the children, and come as close as we can to other ice hockey nations.

By dropping down from the EPIHL, we have now been able to allocate an additional five hours of ice time a week. We have also committed further resources that we used to spend in the EPIHL.

As a result of these changes, children on average will skate the same amount of time as all other major European countries.

Our second task was to further improve the level of coaching. On top of our established coaching base led by the English Ice Hockey Association, we have introduced a number of top level coaches to the organisation to help bring our junior programme up to international standard.

We have done that through our co-operation with Minnesota Advancement Program, which has over 50 National Hockey League draft picks in its roster and some of the best coaching in the world.

We have also brought in experts from Russia to focus specifically on netminder development. EIHA veteran Mark Beggs has been helping us in our efforts and Steve Lyle has joined us as head of goaltending.

We feel we now have an absolutely first-class organisation. In August, we will be sending our first juniors to Minnesota for a camp and trial.

Results will not be immediate, but we are confident that over the next 36 months we will significantly improve the level of junior hockey in Slough and the UK.

In terms of senior hockey, are objectives are to provide junior players with an opportunity to compete and develop further.

We are confident that with our efforts, we will be able to ice a significant number of our junior prospects in the National Ice Hockey League.

The chance to play in NIHL Two will now double the number of games that juniors will normally play.

With these exciting plans now in place for the junior programme, and Slough Jets in a position to move our young talented players into the NIHL 2 team.

We can achieve a longer-term goal of getting the club back to the heights of yesteryear.” **PICK up a copy of the Observer, out now, for all the latest sports news and action** **FOLLOW the Observer on Twitter at @Observer_sports**