In 1985, the Massachusetts towns of Abington and Rockland merged their single youth teams into one team.
Then, as youth hockey became more popular on the South Shore in Massachusetts, it eventually led to the formation of the South Shore Eagles, which now includes players from towns like Bridgewater, Hanson, Middleboro, Taunton, Pembroke, Whitman and Norwell.
But as is the case in any sport, the Eagles have experienced their share of ups and downs.
“I took over the position last July,” President Danielle Larouco said. “Over the past two years or so the Eagles were in a decline in terms of players. We share a rink with the Bay State Breakers in Rockland, so we have a huge competition especially with elite players.
“A lot of our players moved to their organization about two years ago.”
However, in the 2012-13 season, the Eagles have taken flight.
“We were on the downward part of the curve and now we’re on the upward part of the curve,” Larouco said. “The Eagles program has seen an increase in players over the past year, players who’ve come back to the program.
“A big part of the reason people come back is there’s a good, positive vibe because we weren’t held in the highest regard in recent years. Now I think we have a good group of newcomers who realize the program has a lot to offer and cares about developing each and every player.”
What the Eagles program offers is two-fold in nature:
“The Yankee Conference is primarily a C level league,” Larouco said. “Because there were so many kids that wanted to skate at all age levels, it led to the formation of the Yankee Conference.”
The importance of the Yankee Conference Instructional League to the Eagles is underscored by the fact that 21 of 22 players at the Mite level returned for this season.
“We had a 95 percent return rate at the Mite instructional level,” Larouco said with a hint of pride in her voice. “Now, that’s snowballed. Ask any of those kids and they’ll say they love Eagles pride.”
To say the coaches “love” working in the Eagles program would be an understatement.
“We give our coaches warm-up suits,” Larouco said. “They’ll say ‘ “I’ve been coaching for 20 years and nobody ever has given me warm-up suits.’
“It’s the little things that have meant a lot.”
While USA Hockey’s American Development Model couldn’t be classified as a “little thing,” it has meant a lot to the Eagles program.
“We follow USA Hockey’s ADM,” Larouco noted. “It’s a four-on-four program run out of Hingham. It caters to a smaller ice surface with more touches and opportunities to become involved.
“We’ve had great success. Over the last couple of years, the kids who’ve come through the program on the ice have loved it. The end result of what the Eagles provide — and the ADM is part of it — is quality instruction at a great cost.”
Larouco herself brings an inordinate amount of quality experience to the South Shore Eagles.
A Brown University graduate (she played at Brown during a period when the Bears captured several ECAC and Ivy League titles), she also played for the U.S. National Team, served as an assistant coach at her alma mater, and attended several USA National development camps.
“My background definitely has helped me in terms of knowledge of hockey,” Larouco said. “I’m fortunate to be in an area where I can give back to the program. Last year, I was in the instructional league.
“No matter what my business is, we talk hockey all day long. I get along with the guys and we can talk hockey, and I can relate to the boys. At the end of the day, you want to mold the kids, plus I love hockey.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
March 27, 2017 | When USA Hockey implemented its American Development Model in 2009, one element of the nationwide age-appropriate training blueprint sparked more debate than any other: cross-ice hockey for 8U players. In the years since, an abundance of evidence, both data-driven and anecdotal, has proven the developmental advantages of cross-ice hockey.
This week, Hockey Canada announced that it too will introduce its players to the game through cross-ice play beginning in 2017-18.
“Re-sizing the playing surface to cross-ice or half-ice means more puck touches, which result in more chances to practice puck control and shooting, as well as overall more movement and motor skill-development – twisting, turning, balance, coordination, agility,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada, in a release today. “Their field-of-play matches their size, and these players hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”
The Grassroots Show on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 weighed in on the decision. Click the audio link below to hear how Canada is embracing cross-ice hockey for the coming season and beyond.
Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, appeared on the Grassroots Show to discuss the nationwide shift to cross-ice hockey, beginning this fall for 5- and 6-year-olds and expanding to all of Canada's Novice (8U) level in 2018-19.
“When you see 10 or 12 or 14 or 16 kids out on the ice in between periods and they’re playing 200-by-85 and 3 or 4 kids touch the puck in that whole six minutes, yet there’s people in the stands clapping and thinking it’s wonderful, I just can’t help but think about the 95 percent of the children that didn’t even touch the puck or get from one end of the rink to the other and I ask myself what are we doing when the opportunity is certainly there to have 30 kids on the ice playing cross-ice and everyone is having a much better opportunity to touch the puck, skate a shorter distance and really play. It just boggles my mind,” said Renney.
“We completely embrace, at the Initiation level and the Novice level, cross-ice hockey and we have mandated that in the Initiation program and we will mandate it across the country in Novice hockey.
“This is about the pure enjoyment of the game, and your first connection with it has to be something that’s pure fun, on a surface of play that is conducive to much more participation and joy.”
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