Tag Archives: michigan hockey

And so it begins. . . .

Here I am, on August 30, sitting in a hotel room just outside Chicago for our first tournament of the year.  One game in the books and it was a thriller.  Another one today and then two more tomorrow.  Then off to Canada next weekend, followed up by a trip to Detroit the weekend after that.

BANG!

Was that just the starters gun I heard?  Off and running on another season of hockey. . . . .

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

The chill of the rink, the quiet before the teams come on the ice, the nervous anticipation of the first drop of the puck on a new season – wondering what will happen, how will the team play, will it be an up and down game or will it be a “grind it out” type of game?  All these things going through your mind and then you realize what must be going through the players’ minds – “let’s get it on”.

It is thrilling to see the anticipation in their eyes, the realization of another season beginning, the coming together of players to form a true “team”.  What a great time of year this is.

It may be 85 degrees outside, but inside that rink you’d swear it was 25 degrees with 2 feet of snow on the ground outside – the dead of winter – fully engulfed in the glory of another hockey season.

Enjoy it everyone!  Cherish this time – they grow up so fast and before you know it – it is a series of fond memories you’ll look back on and smile.

Let’s play hockey!

See you at the rink.

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Jumping

As in jumping teams prior to signing a roster or in some cases after a roster has been signed.  This is one of the biggest opportunities within youth hockey today in my opinion.  We have too many instances where a verbal commitment is made and then a change of heart comes along and the jumping begins.  This is something that absolutely needs to be addressed – whether that be locally within districts, state wide via MAHA or across the country through USA Hockey.

 

There are two sides to this of course – the coaches side and the players side.  Each side contributes to perpetuating the actions on the other side.  When a coach decides to bring in another “better” player after selections are made and cuts a player who was already offered a spot on the team, a ripple effect takes place as that player now begins looking for another place to play.  The opposite is true as well, when a player makes the choice to go to another team it sends the ripple effect the other way.

 

The problem I see here is that someone is initiating this sequence of events –whether it be a coach who is looking to fill out a roster or increase the skill level within his team or a player who is becomes dissatisfied with his team selection over the summer – maybe during pre season skates or maybe through conversations with other players.  Regardless of where it starts, it needs to stop.

 

I responded to a message on the mlive forums regarding this topic – my response is below:

 

All things being equal off the ice, the only reason for a coach to go back on a commitment to a kid is because he is focused on wins and losses.  That is not what youth hockey or youth sports is all about.  You held your tryouts, you selected your team – if you knew you had some “projects” on the team then step up to the challenge and teach them.

As a kid, there are many reasons to switch teams some of which don’t have anything to do with wins and losses – more friends on the other team etc.  However, it is still not acceptable once you have made a commitment to a team.

 

There should be a personal commitment, supported by integrity that would prevent this from happening.  But reality has proven otherwise.  We need to ask ourselves what values we are instilling in these young athletes when we condone and perpetuate this type of behavior.  What type of adult are we creating when honor and integrity are not priorities?

 

We have all seen the examples of this type of selfish approach in professional sports.  The athlete who holds out for more money, when millions of dollars are already on the table in compensation for playing a game they supposedly love to play.  The dissatisfied player who doesn’t play to his abilities or refuses to play because he is unhappy with management, the coaching staff, the team etc.  Browse any forum on these topics and you’ll see the negative comments associated with this behavior.  If that is the case, why do we condone this type of behavior from a child and why do we set this example for these children as a coach?

 

The answer is to lead by example through our actions and words to teach these athletes the importance of honoring your commitment.

 

See you at the rink.

 

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Inspirational Hockey Quotes

You find that you have peace of mind and can enjoy yourself, get more sleep, and rest when you know that it was a one hundred percent effort that you gave – win or lose.  Gordie Howe

 

Hockey’s a funny game. You have to prove yourself every shift, every game. It’s not up to anybody else. You have to take pride in yourself.  Paul Coffey

 

You’ve got to love what you’re doing. If you love it, you can overcome any handicap or the soreness or all the aches and pains, and continue to play for a long, long time.  Gordie Howe

 

Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.  Wayne Gretzky

 

Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.  Stephen Leacock

 

Hockey players have fire in their hearts and ice in their veins.  Unknown

 

The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.Wayne Gretzky

 

I found out that if you are going to win games, you had better be ready to adapt.  Scotty Bowman

 

Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. – Satchel Paige

 

I won’t accept anything less than the best a player’s capable of doing, and he has the right to expect the best that I can do for him and the team! – Lou Holtz

 

Winning is only half of it. Having fun is the other half.Bum Phillips

A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are. – Ara Parasheghian

 

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual. – Vince Lombardi

 

Ability is what you’re capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it. – Lou Holtz

 

Show me a guy whos afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.-Lou Brock

 

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club wont be worth a dime. – Babe Ruth

 

See you at the rink.

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Hockey in the Michigan Economy

8.5% unemployment rates.

 

Michigan near the top of the list consistently for home foreclosures.

 

Glut of homes for sale on the market.

 

Families split up to take jobs out of state.

 

10 out of 12 industries in Michigan posting negative employment growth.

 

There is no doubt that the economy in Michigan is one of, if not the worst in the nation.  Manufacturing jobs are disappearing, the big 3 are all suffering, and many are forced to leave the state to find work.  It’s a tough situation out there and the impact is being felt across the board, but how is this impacting youth hockey in Michigan?

 

I dare say it is having a profound impact in many different ways.  There is no doubt that the number of youth hockey players in Michigan has declined.  You can take a look at the Mlive hockey forums and see many teams posting messages about openings on their teams – looking to fill out their rosters.  I have to imagine that some of this is because of the decline in the number of players.  I’m sure there are other reasons, but much of this can be traced back directly to the declining numbers due to the economy and the mass exodus of people from Michigan in search of jobs.

 

We have also seen more chatter this year than in years past regarding the amount of travel.  I posted previously about travel, but the reality is that many people in Michigan simply can not afford to travel as much as they used to.  I’m sure some families have decided to cut hockey from their list of activities simply based on the cost of travel alone.  It’s a shame, but I believe it is a harsh reality in our great state at the moment.

 

I know there are some associations out there that have scholarship type programs available for families with children that want to play hockey but can not afford it.  My fear is that these programs will begin to dry up as participation and sponsorship decreases leaving kids without the experience of playing this great game.

 

The positives (if they can be found) are that there is some areas of growth in Michigan and there are particular metropolitan areas that are showing better growth than others:

 

Grand Rapids is at 7% unemployment

Kalamazoo is at 6.9% unemployment

Extreme Southwestern Michigan is at 6.4% unemployment

Ann Arbor is at 6.3% unemployment

 

We are also seeing some growth in Professional and Business services, Information, as well as Education and Health services across these same metropolitan areas.  This is good news that hopefully will continue and ultimately stabilize the economy to the point where it can begin positively impacting things like youth hockey.

 

Let’s all continue to do our best to keep this great sport flourishing in Michigan!

 

See you at the rink

 

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Fight!

I went to see the fight and a hockey game broke out.

 

We’ve all heard that one at some point, right?  And while it is meant to be funny it does point to an aspect of hockey that is a fairly divisive subject.  Some folks enjoy a good hockey fight, while others are repulsed at this spectacle on ice.  Of course, for the vast majority these opinions apply to the professional ranks of hockey possibly extending down to the Junior levels.  The fact is, at these levels there is a place for fighting in the game and eradicating it from the game would be a mistake.  All players need to understand there are consequences for running a star player or intentionally delivering a cheap shot on another player and that this consequence will be delivered not by the officials, but by an opposing player.  But again, this is at a different level – not at the youth hockey level.

 

At the youth hockey level, fighting is not and should not be tolerated.  There is no room for this at the youth hockey level and the consequences for engaging in this are justifiably stiff.  But it happens – each and every year it happens and like it or not it will continue to happen.  With all apologies to girls hockey teams – it is no wonder this happens when there are teenage boys, hormones raging, skating around trying to knock each other’s heads off with many talking smack to each other.  It’s a recipe for a fight and it takes the utmost discipline to stay out of it and that discipline applies to not only the players, but the coaches and parents as well.

 

A recent experience I’ve had:  Last season after a player grabbed an opposing player in a headlock, threw him to the ice head first (which knocked him unconscious) and proceeded to push his facemask up and punch him in the face (while he was unconscious) he was congratulated in the lobby of the arena by his teammates, by his parents and by his teammate’s parents.  Not only that but both players – the one doing the punching and the one knocked unconscious (when he came to) were given double minors for roughing (but officiating is another topic).  This complete lack of discipline displayed by the player, coaches, teammates and parents is reprehensible in youth hockey.

 

So what constitutes a fight in youth hockey?  The definition seems to be widely interpreted depending upon the officials, coaches, players and parents point of view.  I believe fighting is generally when you have two (or more) people attempting to hit and/or hitting someone else – whether they have their gloves on, their masks on etc. doesn’t matter.  But what about those situations where the other person is not a willing participant in a fight?  What happens if the other player turns away but is repeatedly hit or does not attempt to hit the other person?  Is that a fight?

 

I’ve personally witnessed many instances where punches are repeatedly thrown by one player while the other does not swing back.  I’ve seen the non-participant thrown out of the game for fighting and I’ve seen that player stay in the game – maybe a minor is assessed – while the other player is tossed.  Seems to me an instigating penalty of some sort (or something similar) should be adopted into youth hockey with a stiffer penalty associated with an instigation and fight as opposed to just fighting.

 

The penalties – missing the next game – the double jeopardy rule in league play are stiff penalties, but those players that are instigating fights should be treated more harshly than those that are coaxed into the confrontation.

 

I don’t think we will ever get rid of fighting completely in youth hockey, but I do think we can institute rules that will curb the behavior and need to continue to encourage non tolerance from coaches and parents.

 

See you at the rink.

 

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State of Midget Hockey

This is a portion of a posting from the Mlive Youth Hockey Forum today and is a great description of a major challenge facing kids at the midget level in Michigan.  It does not seem to be discussed very often in my experience, but the rift between MAHA and MHSAA is causing problems for associations that field teams at the midget level.  jrAAA does a nice job of talking about that in his post below:

state of the game by jrAAA, 8/1/08 11:06 ET

The arenas are also forcing teams to start contract ice in August…so you have to have tryouts in July so that come the first week of August you can pay your first 2008/2009 ice bill. When my son played the contract ice didn’t start until September. By forcing contract ice to start in August that screws up all of the timing for tryouts. In the past(and how they still do it in Canada) you had….in order…Juniors, AAA, Travel then finally house. Now it isn’t like that…you have all the travel teams trying to get the few players that are available not knowing what kids are waiting for the Junior or AAA tryouts. They take some players that end up leaving the team in October to play for their high school…in front of a big crowd, their girlfriends & family and the ice bills are cheaper…then again they play 20 games not like the 50+ the travel teams do all the time improving their game.

Now what else is hurting Midget hockey in Michigan….Of course high school hockey, then you have the so called AAA teams that sprout up every year…not to mention the new Junior C programs in the area. Everyone trying to go after all the same players and those numbers are dwindling because of economy, jobs, school and so on.

Being one of the founding fathers of the MWEHL I can share that the MWEHL was formed because the MNHL was becoming watered down with a number of weak teams that no one wanted to play. We have that again with AAA teams popping up all over.

Midget hockey will continue to die unless something is done….by MAHA and MHSAA. They need to put differences aside and look towards Minnesota and Massachusetts and how in those states they work at having both travel and high school hockey co exist and help each other.

I don’t necessarily agree that having additional AAA teams as an option for some players is a bad thing.  There are several other leagues outside of the MWEHL available for these teams and they can always choose to go independent as well.

The larger issue is that many kids at the midget level will tryout for a travel team – some tryouts as early as April (just after the previous season ends) and commit to that team for the upcoming season.  The coach limits his roster to 18 players – 16 skaters and 2 goalies – and hopes he doesn’t lose anyone to high school hockey.  But every coach at this level in Michigan knows that he will most likely lose one or more players to high school as the draw of playing in front of friends and family is strong.  This leaves that midget team with a short roster and facing a difficult season ahead.  In some cases, teams have been forced to fold after the start of league play, after they have committed to ice schedules, after parents have made payments etc.  The choices of a few end up negatively impacting everyone.

I believe we need to reach some type of agreement between MAHA and MHSAA that would provide a similar program to the one found in MN.  In addition, we (as parents) need to instill in these kids a sense of loyalty to the team to which they committed originally.  If these kids plan to play high school, they have no business involving themselves in a tryout and taking the spot of another player.

See you at the rink.

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Welcome

Welcome to the Michigan Youth Hockey Blog – a place to publish thoughts as it relates to youth hockey in the great state of Michigan.  Your comments are welcome and if you’d like to send content to me, feel free to do so – I’ll post it – unless it is in bad taste.

I’ve been involved with youth hockey for many years now and as anyone who has been involved in any youth sports, have developed my own set of opinions.  I’ve also seen some interesting things over the years from officials, coaches, players, parents, associations – you name it.

Hockey is a great sport, with many excellent people involved at many different levels.  It is fun to watch, fun to play, fun to coach and fun to be a part of.  Hopefully you find this blog a good place to get some level headed information about youth hockey in Michigan.

See you at the rink!

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