Wow, is it March already? As the hockey season begins to wind down and many start looking toward their spring and summer sports of choice (hello lacrosse and baseball!), many coaches, parents and players take the time to reflect on all that they’ve learned in 2017-18.
Here are a few ways we hope you’ve grown as a player, and as person this year. Share your own personal lessons learned by tweeting @mass_hockey using hashtag #massproudlessons
1. How to be a team player. No matter the age, no matter the level, teamwork — from tape-to-tape passes, to celebrating a linemate’s goal, to holding the dressing room door for a teammate — is the heart and soul of hockey. Note: It also comes in pretty handy throughout life, too.
2. Trying is better than not. Knowing you made the effort — to play, to participate, to experience the fast-paced, no-substitute-for-it speed of this great game — makes each practice and game worthwhile. Particularly for coaches who won't shorten the bench!
3. Failure is just fine. Very few sports traffic in failure the way hockey does. Pucks don’t always behave the way you’d like. Skating, let alone handling the puck at the same time, can be just plain hard. But getting even a little bit better every time out is success enough.
4. Patience is a virtue. Hey, hockey in general can be hard (see #3). Practicing patience — patience when you skate the puck, when you enter the offensive zone, when you decide to take the puck into traffic or set yourself to take a perfect shot — will pay off in the form of teaching the art of patience for a lifetime. There's no need to panic with the puck!
5. I can make a play. When you’re faced with the choice in the defensive zone of winging it around the glass or making a play with the puck … make a play. When you’re faced with the choice near the offensive zone of dumping the puck or making a play with it … make a play.
6. We love small area games. If you’ve been following along in this space all year, you know the players and coaches we talk to believe in small-area games. And if you’ve spent some time getting more touches, making more decisions, thinking quicker and learning more about the game and yourself in the process, you’re probably a convert.
7. These are lifelong memories. Young players may not realize it now, but their teammates and the good times they share today will become the great memories of their adulthood.
8. Hard work will be rewarded. The gift of talent is great and all, but very few players can realize their potential without working harder than everyone else. Shooting pucks in the driveway; stickhandling in the basement; extra skating at every opportunity. This is as true at the younger ages as it is for Bobby Butler, whose hard work on perceived weaknesses has paid off with a career in hockey – including a recent and unforgettable appearance on the Olympic team in South Korea.
9. Gold is good! So many of us were inspired by Team USA’s golden shootout win over rival Canada, and there are few feelings in the world as good as singing the national anthem with your teammates. If you were inspired by the likes of Mass natives Kacey Bellamy, Kali Flanagan and captain Meghan Duggan, you aren’t alone.
10. Oh! And that I should say thank you. Thank you, moms and dads, families and fans, coaches and volunteers, rink operators and zamboni drivers, snack bar and pros shop folks. Hockey is a family, and it extends far beyond the dressing room and the bench.
Women and men used to gaze up at the stars, awed at the sight and size of the universe, much like Detroit Red Wings fitness trainers used to be in awe at the sight and size of Brett Hull's butt during his final Motor City days.
My understanding of the sky's map is limited to the Big Dipper (good nickname for Buffalo's Tyler Myers, by the way) and the constellation Orion. Orion is located on the celestial equator and can been seen across the world, much like Pat Quinn's head. Its name, Orion, refers to a hunter in Greek mythology. Since my late teenage years, whether I am in Mingo Junction, Ohio, or Vancouver, British Columbia, I always look up and locate Orion. It's my satellite to home and youth.
I first became aware of Orion from the now bankrupt movie production company Orion Pictures Corporation, which made movies from 1978-1998. I remember the company's animated intro prior to the start of a movie: stars from the constellation would twirl into the letter "O" before the entire word "Orion" was spelled out.
It seemed as if 46 percent of movies produced in the late '70s and early '80s, my HBO sweet spot years, were produced by Orion. I am sure this number is probably much lower. "Back to School," "10," "Hoosiers," "Platoon," "No Way Out" and others all began with the animated Orion logo. I would like to publicly thank the now defunct movie company and HBO for my astronomy acumen and the indelible image of Bo Derek jogging on the beach with wet, braided hair. ("Before the Internet, there was HBO." Now there is a slogan to believe in.)
Today, kids, teenagers, adults and Sean Avery don't so much stare up to the trees, clouds, airplanes, stars and 6-foot-9 NHL linesman Mike Cvik as much as they used to; now, most stare down at their cell phones and personal digital assistants (Jim Balsillie's PDA BlackBerry, yo). As a result of all this "looking down," we miss so much up in the heavens. We even look down at these things during dinner, hockey games and Heisman Trophy presentations. People even look down at their PDAs while they drive. Who needs a moon roof on a clear summer night when I can play Tetris on I-95 while I soar through the E-ZPASS lane?
This is my gigantic preamble to why you should one day sign up your young son or daughter to play youth hockey at a local rink near you. If nothing else, it gets them away from electronics and teaches them a small slice of humanity that they can take forward through life, a life with more heart and less battery power. The rink's cold robs electronics of their battery power and signal reception, anyway.
So, if you are a first-time hockey parent, or dream of one day spending more than $10,000 and sacrificing weekends for a decade of glamorous youth or "minor" hockey, here are 13 important things you need to know about the youth hockey universe -- and hockey in general -- to help speed up the assimilation process in joining the "Congregation of Independent Insane in the Membrane Hockey Community Union" or COIIITMHCU. If you move those letters around you eventually get Chicoutimi. A miracle from the star-filled heavens above. (I'm sure my fellow COIIITMHCU members will offer even more, and we can post next week.)
1. Under no circumstances will hockey practice ever be cancelled. Ever. Even on days when school is cancelled, practice is still on. A game may be cancelled due to inclement weather because of travel concerns for the visiting team, but it would have to rain razor blades and bocce balls to cancel hockey practice at your local rink. It's good karma to respect the game.
2. Hockey is an emotional game and your child has the attention span of a chipmunk on NyQuil. The hockey coach will yell a bit during practice; he might even yell at your precious little Sparky. As long as there is teaching involved and not humiliation, it will be good for your child to be taught the right way, with emphasis.
3. Hockey is a very, very, very, very difficult game to play. You are probably terrible at it. It takes high skill and lots of courage, so lay off your kid. Don't berate them. Be patient and encourage them to play. Some kids need more time to learn how to ride the bike, but, in the end, everyone rides a bike about the same way.
Your kids are probably anywhere from age 4-8 when they first take up hockey. They will not get a call from Boston University coach Jack Parker or receive Christmas cards from the Colorado Avalanche's director of scouting. Don't berate them. Demand punctuality and unselfishness for practice and games. That's it. Passion is in someone, or it isn't. One can't implant passion in their child. My primary motive in letting my kids play hockey is exercise, physical fitness and the development of lower-body and core strength that will one day land them on a VH1 reality show that will pay off their student loans or my second mortgage.
4. Actually, I do demand two things from my 10-year-old Squirt, Jackson. Prior to every practice or game, as he turns down AC/DC's "Big Jack," gets out of the car and makes his way to the trunk to haul his hockey bag inside a cold, Connecticut rink, I say, "Jack, be the hardest, most creative and grittiest worker ... and be the one having the most fun." That might be four things, but you know what I mean.
5. Your kids should be dressing themselves and tying their own skates by their second year of Squirt. Jack is 67 pounds with 0 percent body fat and arms of linguini, and he can put on, take off and tie his own skates. If he can, anyone can. I don't go in the locker room anymore. Thank goodness; it stinks in there.
6. Do not fret over penalties not called during games and don't waste long-term heart power screaming at the referees. My observational research reveals the power-play percentage for every Mite hockey game ever played is .0000089 percent; for Squirts, .071 percent. I prefer referees to call zero penalties.
7. Yell like crazy during the game. Say whatever you want. Scream every kind of inane instruction you want to your kids. They can't hear you. In the car ride home, ask them if they had fun and gently promote creativity and competiveness, but only after you take them to Denny's for a Junior Grand Slam breakfast or 7-Eleven for a Slurpee. Having a warm breakfast after an early morning weekend game will become one of your most syrupy sweet memories.
8. Whenever possible, trade in your kids' ice skates and buy used skates, especially during those growing years and even if you can afford to buy new skates every six months. Your kids don't need $180 skates and a $100 stick no matter what your tax bracket is. They will not make them better players.
9. Missing practice (like we stated above) or games is akin to an Irish Catholic missing Mass in 1942. We take attendance at hockey games very seriously. Last week, the Islanders' Brendan Witt was hit by an SUV in Philadelphia. Witt got up off the pavement and walked to Starbucks for a coffee, and then later played against the Flyers that night. Let me repeat that: BRENDAN WITT WAS HIT BY AN SUV ... AND PLAYED THAT NIGHT! Re-read that sentence 56 times a night to your child when they have a case of the sniffles and want to stay home to watch an "iCarly" marathon. By, the way Philadelphia police cited Witt for two minutes in jail for obstruction. Witt will appeal.
10. Teach your kids not to celebrate too much after a goal if your team is winning or losing by a lot. And by all means, tell them celebrate with the team. After they score, tell them not to skate away from their teammates like soccer players. Find the person who passed you the puck and tell him or her, "Great pass." We have immediate group hugs in hockey following a short, instinctive reaction from the goal scorer. I am proud of my boy for a lot of things, but I am most proud at how excited he gets when a teammate scores a goal. He is Alex Ovechkin in this regard.
11. There is no such thing as running up the score in hockey. This is understood at every level. It's very difficult to score goals and unexplainably exhilarating when one does. Now, if we get to 14-1, we may want to take our foot off the gas a tad.
12. Unless their femur is broken in 16 places, Mites or Squirts should not lie on the ice after a fall on the ice or against the boards. Attempt to get up as quickly as one can and slowly skate to the bench.
13. Do not offer cash for goals. This has no upside. Passion and love and drive cannot be taught or bought. I do believe a certain measure of toughness and grit can be slowly encouraged and eventually taught. Encourage your kid to block shots and to battle hard in the corners. It will serve them well in life.
Enjoy the rink. Keep it fun, keep it in perspective and enjoy the madness. In this digital world of electronics, you may find hockey to be the most human endeavor you partake in. Cell phones run on batteries. Hockey players run on blood. Blood is warmer. Welcome.
John Buccigross' e-mail address -- for questions, comments or crosschecks -- is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every four years USA Hockey’s playing rules are evaluated and have the opportunity to be changed. With this being a rules change year, the USA Hockey Board of Directors voted on a number of proposed modifications during Annual Congress.
Perhaps the most notable rule change gaining approval was the elimination of the ability to ice the puck when shorthanded for age classification 14U and below. The Board also voted to strengthen language around the game misconduct penalty in Rule 601, with the new verbiage stating that a game misconduct penalty shall be issued to any player or team official who uses language that is offensive, hateful or discriminatory in nature anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game.
“I believe overall everyone feels our game is in a really good place,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey. “The most important thing we need to focus on is our current rules in place. Our officials play such a big role in the overall safety of the game and we appreciate their efforts to fully enforce the current standard of play that exists in the book.”
Modified Shorthanded Icing Rule Delivers More Skill Development
USA Hockey has modified its playing rules for the 14-and-Under age classification and all younger age classifications (youth and girls) to no longer legalize icing while a team is shorthanded. Beginning with the 2017-18 season, if a team ices the puck while shorthanded, it will result in a whistle followed by a defensive-zone faceoff. The team that commits an
icing infraction will be allowed to change lines and/or players prior to the defensive-zone faceoff.
The rationale behind this rule change is twofold.
First, and most importantly, the change will encourage greater skill development for 10U, 12U and 14U players. These young athletes are in their prime skill development windows and will benefit greatly from the increased emphasis this rule change places on promoting puck possession, puck protection and play-making (as opposed to merely firing the puck down the ice, which is a low-skill tactic). Second, the change prevents a penalized team from gaining an exception to a rule (icing) that is in effect while teams are at even strength.
“We want to encourage players to get their heads up, think and make skillful, intelligent plays,” said Ken Martel, the technical director of USA Hockey’s American Development Model. “To develop problem-solving skills, we need rules that encourage players to think. Modifying the shorthanded icing rule will accomplish that. Rather than just blasting the puck down the ice, they’ll now be encouraged to skate or pass their way out of trouble, use greater touch to chip a puck out, or even take advantage of a lazy power play and go on the attack.”
Data collected from nearly 200 games played under this modified rule showed that the average number of shorthanded icings per game was only 1.81. Therefore, there were fewer than two stoppages per game due to this rule, which dispels the myth that it will ruin the flow of games and make them dramatically longer.
USA Hockey has successfully used this modified rule for more than 10 years at its National Player Development Camps. Players adapt almost immediately and more shorthanded scoring opportunities are created by the play-making mindset that it nurtures.
“Skill development and play-making is an emphasis at the professional level and it should be an absolute priority at the youth levels, so I support USA Hockey’s decision to change the rule,” said Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and back-to-back Stanley Cup champion. “It will encourage kids to make more skill plays with the puck, and that will help develop their full potential as players.”
USA Hockey passed rule changes regarding Age Related Modules and Safe Sport Training. For the 2017 - 2018 season. No coach will be allowed to be placed on a USA Hockey roster who has not completed an Age Related Module for the level they are coaching and who have not completed Safe Sport Training.
The USA Hockey Registry will not allow them to be placed on a team's roster. There is no appeal of this matter.
These coaches are not allowed to conduct practices, coach in games or perform any other USA Hockey activities. until they have completed the Age Related Module and the Safe Sport Training.
Interested in being a Hockey Ref? Pioneer Valley Ice Hockey Officials Association is looking for new Refs! Start at the youth hockey age levels working with experienced Ref's and work your way to higher level hockey. If you are interested Call Steve Sady (413)335-8416