BOSTON, MA -- Those who read this column on a regular basis know I have been spreading the word on the mass exodus of experienced officials and the lack of new officials coming in to replace them.
Those that do come in are three to four years away from advancing into the advanced levels of hockey be it juniors, college, or the professional ranks.
Take this a step further: with the turnover rate for new officials at over 50 percent after the first year and 25 percent after two years, this creates a much bigger problem for the youth leagues.
The problem is that the skill set continues to flatline because we are constantly putting an effort into keeping the new officials, only to have them leave and the cycle starts right back over.
In some areas, the new officials are put into situations where they are working by themselves, creating even more tension with coaches and parents expecting them to get it right at the Mite and Squirt levels.
For some assignors and leagues that buy into secondary training, they also run into the problem of losing the officials after two years because retirements of the older officials are advancing a lot quicker. Players, coaches and parents are expecting a lot more out of the new officials sooner, creating a lot of pressure on those who advance. Burnout or stress has them second-guessing if this is something they want to continue.
Kevin Collins, an NHL linesman with over 2,000 league games, 296 Stanley Cup playoff games, and a 2017 USA Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, was the guest speaker at the Successful Advanced Officiating Symposium in Bloomington Minn., in July.
He set the tone immediately about the emergency level of officiating in the game in front of the 250 in attendance.
“Sitting idly by and watching the mass exodus of talented young whistleblowers could not only risk the next generation of promising officials, but could plunge the future of the game into uncertainty,” said Collins. “The past is positive, but the present and the future are not quite as rosy. Abuse by coaches and parents is taking its toll on young and old officials alike. This is not a regional issue, but a national one.”
To help stem the tide of officials leaving the game, Collins called on the 250 high-level officials in attendance at the symposium to take matters into their own hands by providing support to those just starting out in the game.
“I’m asking you to do your part to help save our game and the future of it,” Collins implored the crowd. “I’m asking you to take this message back to your local associations and convince your leagues to reach out to coaches and parents, and to hold them accountable for their actions.”
Kevin also stated “We need to protect their backs,” about hockey officials.
WILMINGTON, MA -- The Boston Shamrocks, simply put, just do things differently. What other girls’ hockey programs boast a former NHL practice facility at their complete disposal and an organization completely built around the pure all-around development of each and every player? Not many, if any, to say the least.
It’s those differences that have made the Boston Shamrocks one of the featured girls hockey organizations in the country and a desired spot for young, aspiring female hockey players to venture to Wilmington, MA for a chance to further their hockey careers.
Founded by Bob Rotondo about 10 years ago, the Shamrocks quickly became the preeminent girls hockey organization in the Northeast. Rotondo had been at the forefront for women’s/ girl’s hockey in New England, starting the Northeast Women’s Hockey League, which featured players from junior high and high school in the Boston area. He later helped establish the East Coast Wizards, then after a few years, went out on his own and founded the Boston Shamrocks.
NEWINGTON, CT -- Although the “dog days” of summer will soon be upon us, the Connecticut Chiefs organization is hard at work preparing for their sophomore season in the Eastern Hockey League.
A major undertaking for the Chiefs is the building of new locker rooms for a trio of teams within the organization.
“There is a lot going on with our facility,” explained head coach Neil Breen. “We have three new locker rooms being built for our top three teams: our Eastern Hockey League team, our EHLP team and our 18U AAA team.”
“The best way to build a program is to treat players the way they deserve to be treated for all the hard work they do to push to the next level. The facility is a big part of that. They spend a lot of time in there so we are sprucing that up.”
The Chiefs have assumed a wing of the building and the locker rooms are an integral part of that area of the facility.
“These are three good sized locker rooms that each have about 30 stalls in them. We are going to set them up so the boys have a great little home at the rink,” added Breen.
Breen has a background as a mixed martial arts instructor and competitor in addition to having served as a strength and conditioning coach in the USHL.
Those experiences will provide his players opportunity in fitness training that may be unique to the Chiefs’ program.
“If you have a group of guys that aren’t really engaged in lifting weights, you can get them going on Jiu-Jitsu and they are having a blast and don’t realize what a great workout they are getting. Over the years I have found that the more non-traditional stuff you do with these guys, the more you get out of them,” offered Breen. “That’s a whole other level of engagement for them.”
“If I was doing it (martial arts training) with groups other than hockey players, it wouldn’t work,” assessed Breen. “Hockey athletes just seem to grasp onto mixed martial arts really easily.”
Breen has been encouraging additional engagement from his team as he has the squad communicating with each other via social media throughout the summer.
“Since camp, the guys have been doing that and the new guys have been jumping on. I will send out messages and get a network of discussions going,” Breen said.
Wanting no part of the lethargy of the summer months, this Chiefs team is engaged and working toward the 2019-20 EHL season.
Follow Jim Smith on twitter @BlueLineNotes.
PEORIA, IL -- Tryout camp time is getting closer for the Peoria Mustangs. In fact, it’s now less than a month away.
Camp is scheduled for Aug. 2-4 in Peoria.
“We’re looking forward to the camp. We normally have about 40-50 kids in camp and it should be competitive,” Peoria head coach Steve Ortman said earlier this summer.
A lot of the players who will be at the camp are already hard at work in training sessions, both on and off the ice. He said the trainer has put together a great program for the players.
“He has put a great workout program together and the players really benefit from it,” Ortman said. “They are really put to the test by the program.”
Ortman said the players tend to make the most of the opportunity to train, knowing it is likely to pay off in the long run.
“They take advantage of the opportunity to put in the work to be ready for the season,” Ortman said. “It’s a great way to show off our hockey program to potential new players. And we get a chance to continue evaluating them.”
Ortman has said before that recruiting in junior hockey is a non-stop job and that hasn’t changed as the summer has rolled on.
“It’s a tough job. We are keeping up with so many different kids. We want to find the best players for our team, and we are still waiting to see how things go with some of the kids in NAHL camps,” Ortman said.
Peoria is coming off another successful season, reaching the playoffs once again. They finished fourth in the NA3HL Central Division before falling to the Coulee Region in a competitive opening-round playoff series.
“We’re hoping for another good year. We feel confident we can put together a pretty good team again,” Ortman said.
For more visit www.peoriamustangs.com.
FRASER, MI -- The Metro Jets don’t rebuild. They reload.
Today, the Jets took a big step to reshaping the team for the 2019-20 USPHL season by signing defensemanJesper Svadang, a 1999 birth year out of Sweden.
Svadang compiled five goals and 12 points in 24 games last season playing for Borlange HF in the Swedish Elite U20 league. He was also an assistant captain in 2018-19.
“I feel a little bit nervous about the fact that it is another language and new people, but I am really looking forward to moving to Detroit and playing for the Metro Jets,” said Svadang. “I have only heard good things about the Metro Jets’ seasons and that it is a hard-working team, so it will be fun to become one of them. I am looking forward to getting to know everyone.”
Svadang joins a list of recent import players to play for the Jets, including defenseman Sergey Golov (2014-15), forwards Mathias Tellstrom (2015- 17) and Louis Boudon (2016-17, will play at NCAA Division I Lake Superior State University this fall) and goaltenderFredrik Meurling (2018-19).
“We are excited that Jesper chose to sign here,” said Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville. “We have been fortunate over the years to get some high-end imports, and Jesper will be a great addition to our back end. He has good size with experience at a high level and will have immediate impact on the ice. We look forward to working with him on his development and helping give him the best opportunity after junior hockey.”
A two-way defenseman who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at 185 pounds, Svadang says he has a strong skating technique and a good shot.
“I will do everything to make the team win,” Svadang said.
Aging out of juniors after this season, Svadang has immediate goals with the Jets and also goals for this time next year.
“My short-term goal is to earn a spot on the team and get a lot of playing time and confidence,” said Svadang. “I also want to develop and become a better hockey player. My long-term goal is to get the team in the playoffs, go on a long run and produce some points. Another goal that I have is that I want to grow as a player so that I have the skill set to play in a higher league and to earn a place there after next season.”