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Niagara Junior Purple Eagles take a lead in on-ice and off-ice issues

04/02/2013, 2:00pm MDT
By Mike Scandura

What happens on the ice is one thing.
What happens off the ice is another.
That’s why the Niagara Junior Purple Eagles, in conjunction with the New York State Amateur Hockey Association, have implemented a no-hazing policy.
Through awareness, education and supervision, hazing is banned of any participant involved with any USA Hockey-sanctioned program, hockey clinic, regional tournament, national tournament, coaches’ clinic and referee clinic.
Moreover, this applies to volunteers as well as organization employees.
“We’ve gone with it all the way across the board,” Junior Purple Eagles Girls’ Director Vicky Maslona said. “It’s been a boon to the organization in terms of putting the minds of the kids and parents at ease.”
The Niagara Junior Purple Eagles also were ahead of the curve when it came to implementing USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
“As soon as it came out, New York State recommended it and we went with it even before it was mandatory,” Maslona said. “We already got a pretty good jump on it. Our 6-Under, 7-Under and 8-Under girls participate in the ADM.
“We’ve found it improves the girls’ skating skills as compared with kids that came out of the old program. We have more girls sticking with it. We have a good number of girls in our 10-U program who initially participated in the ADM. A lot of girls who are 6, 7 and 8 have become good little skaters because of that program. Otherwise, I don’t think their skating skills would be as strong.”

A girls’ program was added to the Junior Purple Eagles prior to the 2007-08 season through the efforts of Maslona’s predecessor, Bob Schiffhauer.
“Bob started the program and did a ton of work for it,” Maslona said. “But, eventually, his daughter aged out, and I’m in my first year [as the Girls’ Director].”
This season the Junior Purple Eagles have girls’ travel teams at the 12-U and 14-U levels plus a 10-U house program.
Niagara University’s Dwyer Arena is their home rink and the travel teams play in the Great Lakes Girls Hockey League.
Unfortunately for the Junior Purple Eagles, Niagara dropped its women’s hockey program after the 2011-12 season.
“That really was unfortunate because they had been very good with our girls,” Maslona said.
One way the organization has attempted to get more girls interested in playing hockey has been by holding a free instructional program.
“The instructional program is for girls at any age and where they can learn basic hockey skills,” Maslona said. “That’s four weeks for free.
“If parents’ children like it, they can pay for the rest of the season. It’s primarily for parents who aren’t sure if their children will like hockey.”
As if to underscore the popularity of that instructional program, Maslona’s voice perks up when discussing the 10-U team.
“What’s given me a lot of satisfaction is the number of girls that signed up for the 10-U program which was started last season,” she said. “We ended up having 17 girls sign up, and the fact they’re excited for next year is a great sign for the program.”
Another incentive is the fact the New York Girls Ice Hockey Federation was formed for the 2010-11 season, which meant high schools could offer girls’ hockey programs, which wasn’t the case in prior years.
“I hope they’ll see that girls are able to play hockey,” Maslona said. “That’s why we had fewer girls playing. They think that girls dance and boys play hockey.
“Once kids play hockey, they get hooked on the sport. I’m hoping that the number of young girls we have will stick with it as they get older.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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