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Girls’ Hockey Day in White Bear Lake, Minn. a success

02/05/2013, 2:15pm MST
By Mike Scandura

Without question the first Girls’ Hockey Day hosted by the White Bear Lake Area Hockey Association in Minnesota was an unqualified success.
“On a normal day, the bleachers [at Vadnais Heights Sports Complex] would be half full,” WBL Girls’ Hockey Director Steve Snyder said of the Jan. 12 event. “On this day, the bleachers were all full and people were standing around the boards. This definitely was outside the norm.
“Throughout the day, because there are two rinks at this arena, people who were at a boys’ game trickled over. Throughout the entire day there always was a large group of people.”
The event in the Minnesota community consisted of seven girls’ hockey games played consecutively throughout the day. Besides teams from the WBLAHA, neighboring communities such as Highland, Stillwater and Forest Lake also sent youth teams. In addition, games were played between the varsity teams of White Bear Lake High School and Cretin-Derham Hall.
“The idea was a collaborative between our White Bear Lake High girls’ coach Jerry Kwapick and me,” Snyder said. “We asked ‘What can we do to celebrate girls’ hockey?’ The intent was the promotion and recruiting and how to get more girls involved in girls’ hockey.
“It morphed into a celebration because we had hockey associations from the area come into town and play.”
Overall, approximately 200 girls participated, commencing with Under-10 all the way through the high school level.
“When we first started talking about it two years ago we were opening a new arena [Vadnais], which offered us two additional sheets of ice,” Snyder said. “Prior to the rink being built, it would have been difficult to host this event.
“I didn’t want to throw this on a calendar so we wouldn’t be able to make this a competitive event.”
One of several reasons why the day was a success was because of the work of a dedicated group of volunteers who helped plan and coordinate the event. One person, for example, secured ice time. The group as a whole was in charge of creating and distributing marketing material.
“We had people solicit items to be donated to the event,” Snyder said. “As we talked one of the main goals was — because there were going to be seven games throughout the day — we wanted a girl who played at 10 in the morning to stay all day.”
As a result, every hour a drawing was held only for girls from the White Bear program, and the lucky girls received a $10 gift card.
“Besides that, every game that a person attended received a raffle ticket, and we had another drawing during the second intermission of the high school game,” Snyder said. “The big prizes were headphones, plus a bunch of stuff that was donated by the University of Minnesota women’s national championship hockey team from last year — things like signed hockey sticks and posters.
“We wanted people to stay throughout the day. At the end of the day we had almost 600 raffle tickets in the bucket.”
In addition, every girl who participated received a gift bag.
Snyder didn’t exactly have to twist arms to persuade other organizations to participate.
“After we secured ice time, nobody had to be coaxed into participating,” he said. “We reached out and said, ‘We’d like your participation. Here’s the date and the teams you’ll be playing.’”
Another factor in enticing people to fill Vadnais almost to the rafters was the amount of marketing material that was distributed around town.
“One thing we really tried to capture is girls’ hockey has been booming,” Snyder said. “But over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a decline in the number of girls playing hockey. I was trying to re-energize our local community and help other communities.
“The bottom line is I want girls’ hockey to remain front page news rather than being stuck on the last page of the sports section.”
Parents from the aforementioned communities were urged to bring their girls even if they never had played hockey.
“We wanted them to see what this truly is about in hopes that they might say, ‘Hey, this is something I want to be a part of because it looks like it is fun,’” Snyder said.
In the same vein, player retention and recruitment were goals for the Girls’ Hockey Day.
“Luckily in White Bear Lake we’ve had a high retention rate,” Snyder said. “In our younger ages, we’ve seen a decline in new girls signing up. But I’m hoping come registration time, we’ll see a spike in numbers.”
Not surprisingly, Snyder has expanded his vision when the second annual Girls’ Hockey Day is scheduled for 2014.
“This year we considered it a baseline,” he said. “Next year we would like to make this bigger. What I’d like to do is find associations outside our district — outside of the Twin Cities area where they’re struggling for numbers.
“Bring them down into our area for this day and try to energize girls’ hockey. We want to have a farther reach than in the Twin Cities area.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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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.

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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.

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