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A Shining Example of ADM Success

07/15/2013, 12:30pm MDT
By Mike Scandura

Grosse Pointe Hockey Association has become a poster child for USA Hockey’s American Development Model. In fact, the Detroit-area club was featured in ESPN The Magazine in June for its success with the revolutionary youth development program.
 
Past president and current board member Jerry Bourque has several reasons why he advocates the ADM.
 
One has more to do with parents than their children.
 
“One of the most successful parts of ADM is not because it puts so many kids on ice,” Bourque said. “It also means there are so many parents at the rink. We can feel there’s an energy coming from this.
 
“I believe in community-based hockey programs. When you have 50,000 travel teams, it’s impossible to get that sense of community. The ADM has restored some of the energy that’s made it positive.”
 
Grosse Pointe implemented the ADM three years ago because, according to Bourque, the association felt “it was the right thing to do.”
 
“We made a decision because we were kind of anticipating the ADM was coming,” he said. “We were ahead of the curve. We felt this was the way to go.
 
“My slogan is ‘The kids get more ice time.’ We have the ability to put very good instructors out there. You get more ice time with better coaching for less money.”
 
The GPHA met with minimal resistance when the ADM was added; Bourque said approximately five families left the association.
 
“But we didn’t lose 30 percent,” Bourque said. “We must have grown the first year by 20 percent. We had a tremendous response from the kids. Last season, I don’t think we lost anybody who went to go and play somewhere else. Our numbers keep growing, so we couldn’t be happier.”
 
Bourque credits three people for the success and growth of the GPHA: Paul Fayad, Rob McIntyre and Don Jaeger.
 
“Once the word got out, these three guys are the ones who made it so good,” Bourque said. “Paul is one of our instructors but also is the organizer, which was critical. He needed to market and make sure the right things were going on behind the scenes because it’s a lot of work.”
 
McIntyre is the head instructor while Jaeger is an instructor who played his college hockey at Fredonia (N.Y.) State.
 
“Don brings the importance of a proper diet into the program,” said Bourque. “He’s also a great instructor and the kids love him.
 
“These are the guys who run the program.”
 
The program has been run so well that GPHA teams have annexed several championships. For example:

  • The ADM Blue Mite team, which Fayad coaches, won the 2013 Mite state championship in Port Huron, which marked the first time the GPHA had won that particular championship.
  • The 1998 Grosse Point Bulldogs captured the 2013 Bantam Major Division International Silver Stick Tournament, which also was held in Port Huron.
  • The Bantam Bruins skated off with the fourth annual Great Lakes Hockey Turkey Tournament title last November.
  • The 1998 Grosse Pointe Bulldogs won the 2012 AAA Division Bantam Major championship at the Bauer World Invite Tournament in Chicago on Nov. 4. The 40-team field included the best Tier II, and some AAA teams, from around the United States and Canada.

“I attribute [these championships] to the ADM,” Bourque said. “The Mite Blue team participated in the state tournament for the first time and won it.
 
The mite program follows the ADM's red, white and blue program and the other teams also claimed successful seasons following the ADM at other age levels.
 
Prior to last season, the GPHA decided to add an ADM program for girls. That task fell to GPHA secretary Biz Williamson.
 
“She was the one who got the all-girls ADM on the ice,” Bourque said. “We did an all-girls ADM because we believed this was a market that was completely untapped. We started off with about 20 girls. Then we opened it up and at one time had about 63 girls on the ice last season. We started from nothing.
 
“I’ve had people ask me ‘Why is our association successful?’ Do we have good programs? Yes. Do we have good instructors? Yes. If the kids can skate and have fun then they feel good about what they’re doing.”
 
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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INTEGRITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN OFFICIATING

08/25/2015, 3:30pm MDT
By USA Hockey

No one has ever said that officiating, and especially officiating ice hockey, was easy. Rule knowledge, communication skills, fitness, skating and a natural presence are just some of the skills necessary to be a successful official.  Some possess more of these skills and those are the officials who advance to higher levels. But regardless of the level achieved or the skill set the official possesses, the one quality that should be equal among every official is a high level of integrity.

The national official staff members, along with our volunteer referees-in-chief and local supervisors, have heard growing concerns over a decreasing level of integrity among our youth hockey officials. It’s sometimes said that no one is holding them accountable. A portion of this perception is likely a typical “blame the officials” mentality, but some anecdotal evidence suggests there is also some merit to this concern. That’s alarming to USA Hockey, as it affects the credibility of our entire program, along with every member it represents. The blunt truth is this: even one official who isn’t on the up and up can and will damage the credibility of all officials who do take pride in the integrity of their work.

Whether we like it or not, officials are under a microscope, and by the nature of the business, are held to a very high standard. When we signed up for this officiating gig, we committed ourselves to represent the game of hockey, USA Hockey, our local group of officials and ourselves as people of integrity who accept the responsibility and guardianship of enforcing the rules in a fair and consistent manner. Most importantly, we must remember that the game is bigger than all of us and that the game itself is what we serve. Those who lose sight of that not only compromise the competitive fairness of the games, they also make life more difficult for all of the officials by damaging the credibility of the officiating community.

An example of this type of unacceptable behavior occurred last season. A Level 2 adult official tended to work his games with a chip on his shoulder. He often created confrontation with coaches, alienated his younger partners with inaccurate advice and disregarded their help in attempting to get some calls and rule applications right. Even though the help they were providing was correct, he chose to maintain his incorrect position that affected the outcome of several games. He also tended to identify certain players and single them out for various infractions and/or on-ice lectures as a means of emphasizing his authority.

Once the trends were identified, concerns were voiced by several parents and coaches to the local assigner and supervisor, who acknowledged they had never seen the official’s work, but would keep throwing him out there working the same teams and levels that had expressed concerns regarding his attitude. This included intentionally assigning him a playoff game involving the coach who was the most vocal in expressing concerns. This official was then instructed to “throw the coach out if he says anything.”

That playoff game went without a hitch – a tight 2-1 game with a couple of close off-side plays and maybe an icing or two missed. In the post-game dressing room, the official in question, in the presence of his partners and the officials scheduled to work the next game, said, “It’s always a great day when you can make one or both of the coaches mad. It’s too bad the white team coach didn’t want to play along today.” The partners sat there in silence until finally a 12-year-old Level 1 official who was working the next game said, “I don’t think that’s right. We’re not supposed to bait coaches.”

The official got dressed quickly and left the room without saying another word. Kind of ironic that it was the innocent 12-year-old that seemed to “get it” and instill a sense of accountability among those in the room. Imagine how any 12-year-old player feels on the ice when they see the official(s) displaying an attitude that is simply not to the standard the game deserves. And yes, more often than not, they can see through those who do not have the level of integrity expected.

Fortunately, these types of officials are few and far between. But they do exist and to simply stick our heads in the sand and not address the concern is irresponsible. Each of us, as officials, has an obligation to behave in a professional manner at all times and take our role seriously. We have made a commitment to approach each game with the understanding that the game is about the players and we should be invisible until the players require us to appear as a result of infractions that occur. Respect is a two-way street and simply putting on the sweater with the USA Hockey crest suggests respect is warranted, but only if supported by your actions.

USA Hockey has an obligation to create a non-threatening environment that promotes respect for officials and an opportunity for officials to improve through education and evaluation. USA Hockey does this through playing rules, points of emphasis, zero tolerance policies and comprehensive education programs for officials, coaches, parents and players.

In return, the game expects USA Hockey officiating members to bring a professional image to every contest and an attitude that creates a positive environment and makes the game better. We realize everyone makes mistakes – it’s part of the game. However, laziness or unprofessional behavior is unacceptable and being creative in rule enforcement and not holding players/coaches accountable for infractions will only make the next team of officials’ jobs much more difficult and set them up for failure.

The reality is that the game official must always hold themselves to the highest level of integrity and behavior both on and off the ice. Maybe that’s fair, or maybe not, but it is the expectation we are required to meet.

As we head into the 2015-16 season, ask yourself if you are willing to meet that expectation. If the answer is yes, welcome back and we look forward to a great season.

SZKOLA TRADES TOE-PICK FOR WORLD-WIDE WHISTLE

08/27/2015, 9:00am MDT
By Kelly Erickson

When it comes to women’s hockey, there is no argument that USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have the two premier programs in the world. Earlier this month, their young talent took to the ice in Lake Placid, New York, as a part of the U18 and U22 Select Series.

While there were several athletes on both teams who competed for their country in such an event for the first time, it also marked a special occasion for Melissa Szkola. An experienced official who has worked a handful of International Ice Hockey Federation events, Lake Placid marked her first USA-Canada affair. USA Hockey caught up with the Michigan native to talk about the amazing international experience and her evolving officiating career.


USA Hockey: What was it like to be a part of the U22 and U18 Select Series’

Melissa Szkola: The experience was wonderful. It was fantastic. We’ve essentially got the two best teams in the world competing against each other, so the learning experience, working with the officials that we have, is always amazing. You leave here a better person, a better official; that’s what we’re here for. That’s what I look forward to the most at these big-time events: the level of hockey and what you get out of it as a whole.

USAH: How did you first get into officiating?

Szkola: It’s been nine years since I got my start. I was a competitive figure skater and my older brother played hockey, so I’ve always been around the game, but it was my husband who actually got me into the officiating side of it. When we started dating, he was a roller and ice hockey official. He asked me to come with one time and I said ‘okay.’ That’s how I got started. It’s something he and I have in common and he is my biggest supporter. I wouldn’t be here without him.

USAH: So nine years under your belt, how would you describe some of your past IIHF events?

Szkola: I’ve had a handful of experiences with international tournaments. Each one has brought a new set of skills to my plate. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot from your supervisors from different countries as well. To get out and work with other female officials and learn from them and your supervisors is amazing.

Being in another country, where sometimes there aren’t people who even speak English, is a really unique experience as well. The communication that you learn to speak with non-English speaking officials really makes you appreciate what you have in common – hockey.

USAH: How did the Select Series compare to those events?

Szkola: The level of play, it’s definitely much higher at the Select Series than any of the championships that I’ve been to. I wouldn’t say that the intensity is much different, because at each level they are competing for their highest achievement. The intensity is the same, the importance is the same, but the level of play is definitely much better; it’s faster, it’s crisper. Your awareness just has to be that much higher.

USAH: Did calling a game with high-caliber players like those at the Select Series shake up any nerves?

Szkola: I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous before we got on the ice. I’ve watched Team USA and Team Canada compete before, so you know the level at which they intend to play. Being out there with it, you just know where the emotions can go sometimes. It was a little nerve-wracking before the start, but as soon as that puck drops, you have a job to do. USA Hockey does a fantastic job developing us; I feel like they wouldn’t put you out there if you weren’t ready. Once that puck drops, you’re kind of at home.

USAH: What’s next for your officiating future?

Szkola: The support that I have, not only from my hometown in Michigan, but also the support and development USA Hockey has given really sets you up for success if you want to take it in that direction. That is my goal. I do want to skate in the Olympics. Moving forward I am going to continue to improve upon each experience that I have, because you can always be better. Mistakes do get made, so you learn from those and improve yourself. 

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