Tag Archives: Michigan travel 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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Games vs. Practice

There’s a few different ways of looking at this topic and I’d like to focus on two of them.  First up:

 

Time on the ice

 

There is no question that any hockey player at any level of the game is going to get more time on the ice during practice then they are during a game.  If anyone questions that think of this:

 

During practice – the entire team is on the ice the majority of the time and engaged in some type of drill the majority of the time.

 

During a game – A max of 5 skaters are on the ice at any given time.  Consider a team with 3 to 4 lines and it’s a pretty easy equation to determine that there is less time on the ice in games.  Let’s not even consider the coach aspect (1st, 2nd, 3rd lines) of this equation at this point.

 

With that fact out of the way, now consider the differences in coaching styles.  This is a huge factor in what happens during a practice.  A coach that is utilizing his ice time its max is prepared with a good practice plan that involves every player in drills without much standing around.  Fast paced, high tempo practices with skill work intermingled.  Have a coach that comes prepared in this manner ratchets this up another notch – now not only are you getting more time on the ice during practice, but you are also becoming a better player at the same time – not just another kid that is in shape and can go hard during their shift.

 

So with that said, it definitely makes sense to keep practices at a ratio relative to games that produces high quality, highly skilled hockey players.  It can’t be all about number of games and tournaments you play.  If you want improvement – there is a balance between games and practices that is essential.  Something to look for when you decide what team to hitch your wagon to for the upcoming season.

 

The Next way to look at this topic:

 

What you do with that time on the ice

 

How many times have you gone to your son or daughter’s practice and noticed a consistent lack of effort by one or more members of the team?  Have you ever heard your son or daughter tell you that they don’t like doing drills with this player or that player because they can’t pass or can’t skate or don’t try hard?

 

The fact is that you won’t get 110% effort from every player in every practice.  But on average you expect to get 110% effort as a coach.  That’s the way you prepare drills and the expectation you want to set on the ice with your team.  The effort given by the players is in many ways tied to these expectations, but is also a product of preparation by the coaching staff.  Good drills, high tempo drills, organized practices, flow drills – all these things set the tone for the players during practice and must be there if you have the expectation of getting 110% from your players in practice.

 

The other side of this is the players themselves.  They must be willing to give 110% on the ice during practice.  There’s an old saying that I’m sure everyone has heard:

 

“Practice makes Perfect”

 

I completely disagree with this statement when it comes to hockey – and for that matter any sport.  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Here’s a version of this statement that I heard many years ago:

 

“Practice makes permanent”

 

Now that makes more sense.  I can practice a skill for hours, days, weeks, months and years and get very good at it.  However, if I’m not practicing it properly I’ve developed bad habits and potentially restricted the skill level I might have attained had I done it properly to begin with.  This is where quality coaching plays a big part.  But let’s turn that around to the player – If I practice at 75%, what am I going to do during a game?  If I don’t backcheck at 110% during practice, what happens when I’m tired at the end of a game and there’s a turnover in my offensive zone?  I haven’t practiced backchecking and because I’m tired instinct takes over and I simply give my 75% effort to get back and play some D.

 

Most players I’ve encountered that don’t give 110% in practice will tell you; “I can turn it on in games” or “I’ll have more jump when it matters”.  And my response to these players has always been the same:

 

“Practice makes permanent”

 

See you at the rink.

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Then there’s Travel Responses:

I wanted to represent some of the responses that have come across the Mlive forum since the last round of the travel debate has raged on.

 

Some were succinct:  “This *is* travel hockey after all.” And others were a little more involved.  Here’s a couple straight from the mlive forums:

89704.4.2. Thats makes as much sense

by PhilDCooler, 8/5/08 9:02 ET

 

. . . I understand that it is travel hockey but in the strict sense of the word but so are the house leagues now. There are very few true house programs any more. Almost everyone travels.

 

Travel hockey does not need to mean that I have to drive my son to Grand Rapids for a league game. I understand that those on the west side want to play in the league [snip] . . . but there needs to be a separate division. [snip] . . . we’ll see them in the playoffs.

And another response:

89704.5.1.1. No perfect system….

by killjoi, 8/5/08 9:12 ET

 

. . . Maybe one solution is to limit one outstate team to each division to limit the trips, but again one could argue how is that fair if a west side team has to come over to the Metro area two or more times per month. [snip] . . . . the bottom line is enter the league, pick your preference (competitive or geographic)and then accept the results. There is no doubt that there will be unhappy people, but this isn’t and will never be 100% perfect for 100% of the teams.

And finally a response that surprised even this blogger. This was posted on the Mlive youth forums on August 6, 2008.  I would not call this representative of other’s views toward the LCAHL (Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League).

89773. Thing is the…..

by BigArn2, 8/6/08 9:17 ET

SE Michigan teams don’t NEED to drive great distances to get games with good competitive teams. [snip] . . . The need of the out state teams in not the problem of the SE Michigan teams. It isn’t the SE Michigan teams’ responsibility to play games with the out state teams or to travel to their locations for games. The “that isn’t fair to those teams” arguement is stupid. It is the SE Michigan teams responsibility to set up games so that they have the best competition for their teams [snip] . . . If we decide to travel to GR, TC, Kazoo, Midland, Bay City, Saginaw to play fine, we’ve made that decision as a team. We shouldn’t be forced to travel to those locations, any more than they should be forced to travel here. The problem is that LCAHL has forgotten that they exist at our pleasure. They have adopted the mentality that they are the be all and end all for youth hockey, they aren’t. Heck we don’t need a league to play in, we can schedule scrimmages games all year. Our team is a member of an association that gets to send a representative to districts. That is more important than the LCAHL.

We are all entitled to our own opinions for sure, but my feeling is that the LCAHL has done a tremendous job in promoting youth hockey in Michigan using *volunteers* to get that job done.  Suggesting that “youth hockey” turn their back on this league is a mistake that could be very costly to the state of youth hockey in Michigan.

 

I would also state that the vast majority of youth hockey players that I have coached, managed and spoken to would much rather play in a league where their perception is that the games “mean” something rather than being an independent team playing nothing but scrimmage games.

 

Finally, as is mentioned in this response – we all have choices – who to play for, who to play with, what team to play on , what association to be a part of, what league we play in, what level to play, and how far we want to travel.  We should all simply exercise our option to choose and this argument is dead in the water.

 

Showcase idea

 

An idea that hasn’t received a bunch of airplay on the mlive forums is the concept of showcase weekends.

 

Other leagues are doing this to alleviate some travel concerns – albeit farther than any LCAHL team is traveling – how about a Grand Rapids area team having to go to Nashville for 2 league games?  Yikes!  But hey, Nashville is a cool city.

 

Could kill many birds with one stone with the showcase approach.  At the Bantam and Midget levels – could use it as an opportunity to bring in some junior and college scouts.  At the other levels – the league could send some representatives to assess the level of play – competitiveness of the games etc.  Not to mention the obvious advantage of playing 4 to 5 league games over the course of a weekend.  If setup properly, in a division with 11 teams (20 league games total) you could satisfy the 10 home games with a couple of weekend showcase events.

 

The co-op option

 

Another option to address these concerns is to actually work together to come up with some solutions.  I’ve done this in the past – working with other local teams to coordinate ice times and dates to allow a couple of teams to make the trip and get 4 games out of the weekend.  It’s good hockey, it’s making the most out of the trip and it builds good working relationships between teams.

 

The argument to many of these comes from the viewpoint of the coach not wanting to pack that many league games into one weekend.  I can understand that viewpoint – injuries, conflicting schedules etc could have a significant impact on a weekend full of league games.  But the bottom line is there is not perfect system and you either manage the travel or come up with a solution that limits travel without limiting the league.

 

The original statement was made:

 

“I believe that is 1/2 the reason the sport of hockey is on the decline.”

 

I’m assuming that this statement was specifically about the decline within the state of Michigan.  If this is truly the case – that the “excessive” travel is causing a decline in the number of participants in youth hockey – what do you think it would do if there were suddenly geographic boundaries for the LCAHL?  So in other words, no team outside of said boundary can participate unless they are willing to have all their home games schedule within the boundaries.  I’m guessing that would have a fairly negative impact on the number of participants as well.

 

There is a common ground here.  We all just have to work to find it and not let the zealots at either end of the argument rule the day.

 

See you at the rink.

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There’s Travel and Then There’s Travel

The debate rages on at a minimum once every week.  How much travel should a travel team actually do?  Here’s a comment from the Mlive Youth Hockey forum – the latest round of this debate:

 

89704. Here is my thought on this.

I do undestand that it is ” travel Hockey ” but why should our team drive from the Detroit area up to Traverse City, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, K-Zoo etc. ? Why not make a 100-150 mile rule from Detroit, since 90% of the lchl teams are within 45 mins from Detroit. If you don’t live with in those boundries , you have to drive to within 150 from Detroit for your home games. It is too much to ask of people to drive 500 miles round trip on a weekend and spend $600 for a weekend of hockey up north for league games when we could drive 45 minutes and get a 100 game season. Traverse City can play in the nihl, so them and Muskegon would really be the only 2 teams that would have to meet the 150 mile rule. With the cost of gas and rising hotel prices it just gets to be too much on the parents and kids. I believe that is 1/2 the reason the sport of hockey is on the decline.

by slapshotlow, 8/4/08 23:29 ET

 

Interesting how when making an argument the cost always seems to be the determining factor, however spending $500 on skates, $300 to $400 on a set of matching composite sticks, $100 on gloves, and another $200 to $300 on elbow, shoulder, shin pads and pants doesn’t seem to bother anyone.  It seems the folks that complain the most about this are the same ones who outfit their kids in the latest Nike/Bauer has to offer.  How many pairs of Bauer XXXX skates did you see on the ice this past year?  The first year those skates were available at $549 a pair!

 

Let’s look at the facts:

 

From downtown Grand Rapids (Amway Hotel) to downtown Detroit (JLA) is 157 miles according to google maps.  Making for a 314 mile round trip.  Let’s round up and say you made a couple of stops on the way – 325 miles at $3.80 per gallon in a car that gets 25 miles per gallon.  That means you’ll need 13 gallons of gas.  This equals $49.40 for gas for this trip.

 

Let’s throw in a few meals.  Let’s call it two breakfasts, two lunches and one dinner.  Breakfast let’s average $20 for 3 people, times 2 equals $40.  Lunch is maybe a bit more – say $25 for 3 people, times 2 equals $50.  And a good team dinner at a decent sit down place with a couple of beers and a nice cosmopolitan for Mom – $60.  We now have $150 total for food.

 

Hotel costs can vary, but on average in my experience you can get a nice hotel room for $125 per night.

 

Let’s even throw in some incidentals at $30 for the weekend.

 

Total cost:  $49.40 + $150 + $125 + $30 = $354.40.  Only $245.60 short of the $600 cost claimed above.

 

This does not account for carpooling, room sharing or even eating inexpensively while on the road – maybe even taking snacks and drinks with you on the trip.  You can easily conceive of cutting that $54.40 off that bill to make two trips for the $600 claimed above.  And if you are really good, you could potentially cut that down to $200 per trip cut the gas in half ($24.70), cut the food bill in half ($75), cut the hotel in half ($62.50) and incidentals in half ($15) and now you’re down to $177.20.

 

The real opportunity is not to limit the travel due to the cost, but rather to get creative in how we accomplish that travel.  Carpooling is a great way to do this, but normally you see 18 different SUV’s pulling into the hotel parking lot for a weekend hockey trip.  Why?  Taking snacks, eating inexpensively – bring a loaf of bread and peanut butter, bunking with other players – these are all great ways to lower the travel costs.  It takes planning and some sacrifice to pull this off, but it is absolutely possible.

 

And finally, the kids love to travel with their teammates – not to mention the quality time you get to spend with your son/daughter.  I don’t know about others, but some of the best conversations I’ve had with my son have been on our hockey road trips.  There is no price you can put on that time together.

 

See you at the rink.

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