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U-18 Worlds is a life experience for up-and-comer Lexie Laing

01/08/2013, 8:15am MST
By Doug Williams

Lexie Laing has been playing competitive hockey since she was 6, so there’s nothing new to her about lacing up her skates and putting on a uniform.
 
Yet when she slipped on her USA jersey for the first time as a member of the Women’s Under-18 National Team, she admits it was special.
 
Laing, 16, a promising forward from Marblehead, Mass., was getting ready to take the ice against Russia in the opening game of the International Ice Hockey Federation U-18 Women’s World Championship in Finland on Dec. 29 when she knew she’d crossed a threshold.
 
“This moment will most likely be in my memory for the rest of my life,” she wrote recently from Finland in an email interview. “That first time I pulled the jersey over my head a bunch of feelings started rushing through my body. Nerves, excitement, anticipation and any other happy emotion you could think of rushed through my body.
 
“That moment, everything had changed and everything had become real. I was about to represent USA.”
 
Nerves or no nerves, Laing played well in her debut, getting an assist in Team USA’s 7-0 victory over the Russians. In her second game, she added another assist in a 10-0 win over the Czech Republic. The U.S. continued to roll, beating Sweden 8-0 and then topping the Czechs again in the semifinals, 10-0 — with Laing recording another assist — to set up a showdown with Canada for the gold medal, which the Canadians won 2-1 in overtime.
 
For Laing, the entire experience of traveling to Finland, getting to know new teammates and coaches and competing for the national team in an international tournament for the first time has been tremendous.
 
Though Laing has had a successful youth career and comes from a family rich in hockey experience, her participation in the U-18 World Championship has been an eye-opener. For one thing, the talent she’s playing with and against has forced her to adapt and play a different game than even what she’s been used to on a very successful Assabet Valley club program in Massachusetts.
 
“I’ve learned to keep my head up and move the puck to the open player right away, instead of making another stickhandle and either losing the puck or making a bad play,” she wrote. “Another thing I’ve learned is to be a lot faster, because as soon as I touch the puck someone is on top of me, especially at such a high level of play.”
 
She says playing with new teammates and raising her game was “challenging, at first,” but she believes she grew.
 
The trip, however, has been about more than just hockey. The flight, the jet lag, the new people, a foreign country (and a new language), new friends and essentially being on her own turned it into a learning experience.
 
The first thing she noticed upon arriving in Finland was its beautiful countryside and “a lot of snow” — on the roads and in piles everywhere. At first, because of the time difference, she had trouble sleeping and kept waking up in the middle of the night. Eventually, though, she settled in. The Finns were friendly, and many of the workers at the rink took time to teach her words and phrases in their language.
 
For Laing (who prefers to go by Lexie rather than her given name of Alexandria) it’s all been one more step in her hockey and life education.
 
Her father, Dennis Laing, a coach and former college and pro player, got his youngest daughter on skates almost as soon as she could walk, and she soon was playing hockey just like her older sisters Denna and Brianna. Denna now plays for Princeton, and Brianna — a goaltender on the U.S. team that won a silver medal at last year’s IIHF U-18 World Championship — has committed to play at Harvard.
 
When she was first learning to skate, Lexie says she initially thought she might want to be a figure skater, but that passed, and soon she was winning championships and accolades in hockey. She’s helped Assabet Valley win three USA Hockey national championships (2008-09, 2012), won the 2009 USA Hockey Easton Skills Competition for 12-and-Under and helped her Noble and Greenough School to championships in 2011 and ’12.
 
She says her father has been the biggest influence in her hockey career, but her sisters, too, have been invaluable supporters.
 
She said it was Brianna who gave her advice before going off to Finland, telling her to trust in her game and work hard.
 
“Before I left she told me, ‘You know how to play, so just go out and play because if you think about each mistake and each play then you will start to make more mistakes.’ ” Also, her sister told her: work hard, take advice and have fun.
 
When Laing returns to the States, she hopes to help Assabet Valley win another national title. Eventually, she’d like to play college hockey like her sisters, with her sights set on someday being part of a U.S. Olympic Team — and perhaps pulling on another Team USA jersey at an Olympic venue.
 
That, she says, would “fulfill my dreams as a little girl to be an Olympian.”
 
For now, though, her goal is simple: work as hard as she can to reach her “fullest potential.”
 
So far, she’s skating in the right direction.
 
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Three ways to beat burnout

11/28/2016, 9:45pm MST
By Dave Pond

According to NHL metrics, the average hockey shift lasts somewhere between 45 and 55 seconds. There’s inherent beauty and fluidity to line changes, as skaters come on and off the ice, looking to recharge after going full throttle for their teams.

Meanwhile, your NHL officiating peers are giving their all, too – regularly logging 4-5 miles a game. Those totals are even greater at your level, where you and your colleagues officiate multiple games a day, several times per week, on a seemingly never-ending calendar.

And, although we want to perform our best every game, everyone has both good days and bad – players and officials alike. To learn more about keeping burnout at bay, we went to the experts: longtime amateur hockey scheduler Larry Carrington and former NHL official Mark Faucette.

“There is so much more to officiating than meets the eye,” said Faucette, a 17-year NHL veteran. “It may look easy from the stands, but to maintain total control of a game along with the stress, slumps, supervisors, travel, and fitness regimen takes a very special kind of person.”

Get in shape (and stay there)
We all think we’re in “pretty good” shape, but the reality is, officials must be top athletes and in great condition – even at the youngest levels.

“Conditioning is very important—the deeper into the season, the more important it is,” Carrington said. “Burnout happens physically, mentally, and emotionally. An official who is in good condition will experience less physical burnout, and that will in turn help with the emotional and mental burnout.”

Faucette stresses following a workout routine that maxes yourself at least every other day. Neither player or official should plan to use games as a vehicle toward better physical fitness.

“Where we used to go to camp to get into shape, officials today are on summer conditioning regimens and are tested as soon as they come to camp,” he said. “Taking care of your body is a total focus for the good official.

“The players are so much stronger and faster now, so it’s imperative the officials keep the same pace.”

Find balance
No, not balance on your skates (that’s a given). Rather, make sure to keep the big picture in mind, to work a manageable schedule that includes everything that’s important to you – family, friends, and time away from the rink.

Although it makes Carrington’s job as an assignor more difficult, he said it pays off in the long run.

“I encourage officials to take at least one weekend off to get away from hockey,” he said. “I certainly don't want to lose their services for a week, but the invigoration that it usually provides makes them a much more valuable asset over the course of the season.”

That’s huge in an industry where both mental and physical fatigue are commonplace.

“Every official runs into slumps, just as players do,” Faucette said. “You spend numerous hours alone as an official, and when things are not going good, where everything is negative, it can cause you duress.

“Positive thoughts and self-evaluations speed up recovery,” he continued. “So, instead of telling yourself, ‘I wonder what bad thing will happen tonight?’ say ‘I’m ready for anything – bring it on!’”

Have fun
It’s No. 3 here, but should be No. 1 on your to-do list.

“I realize the officials are all trying hard, and mistakes are part of any sport by any participant,” said Faucette, who currently serves as supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, the NAHL director of player safety and the SPHL director of officiating. “That being said, the joy I get out of seeing a young official start out at ground level and making the big time one day is immeasurable.”

For most of you reading this, the “big time” might not be the end goal (and that’s OK). But wherever you are, there’s experience you’ve gained, as well as that to come – which both point back to why you first got involved in this great sport.

As an assignor, Carrington tries to get out of the office as much as he can and intentionally varies the schedules of his officials to help keep things fresh. He also encourages his more senior officials to lend a hand to those who aren’t as long in the tooth.

“Going to the rink and helping officials help themselves get better can be very invigorating,” he said. “Even a very good, very experienced official will often find it fun and relaxing to mentor some new official at a lower-level game where the stress levels aren’t nearly as high.”

But no matter where you officiate, Carrington emphasizes keeping one thing in mind: the love of the sport and those playing it today.

“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there.”

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Bill Belisle has coached for the past 42 seasons

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