The U.S. National Sled Team is set to compete at the 2012 World Sledge Hockey Challenge this week in Calgary, Alberta at the WinSport Athletic & Ice Complex. Beginning the 2012-13 season as the two-time defending International Paralympic Committee sledge hockey world champions, Team USA has been injected with a shot of new blood. Four new comers have been welcomed the national squad for this tournament, and none younger than 15 year-old Declan Farmer (Tampa, Fla.).
Earning a roster spot on the U.S. National Sled Team may not be a common goal for many fifteen-year-olds, but Farmer has done just that. The teenager from Tampa, Fla., said that while he had always enjoyed playing sports and staying active, becoming a part of Team USA was not in his original plans.
“I started playing five or six years ago and I was just looking around for disabled sports in the Tampa Bay Area,” Farmer said. “The Tampa Bay Lightning had a sled hockey program and I just started from there.”
Gaining valuable experience while playing for the Lightning helped Farmer to develop his mature skillset. Armed with excellent speed, a hard shot, and advanced hockey sense, Farmer is able to make an impact all over the ice. He said, however, that his favorite part of the game is when he is right in the middle of the action.
“I think playing with the puck is probably one of my biggest strengths,” the forward said.
While he has continues to improve on the ice, Farmer noted that he has experienced tremendous personal growth throughout his time with Team USA as well. He has looked to several team veterans to help him as he transitions to the game on the international level.
“Just being 15 and playing here is pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m playing with a bunch of older guys and everyone knows what they’re doing. So far it’s been a great experience this season,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of great coaching; lots of fun off the ice.”
Now that he has found his comfort zone and proven himself to be a force on the ice at such a young age, Farmer is determined to achieve success while representing the U.S. Showing his dedication and determination to reach the pinnacle of his sport, Farmer laid out his vision in very simple terms.
“Long-term goals? Just win as many gold medals as I can.”
If you’ve ever called USA Hockey with officiating registration questions, you’ve likely heard the voice of Helen Fenlon. As the manager of officiating administration, Fenlon is the brains behind registration operations. She started working with USA Hockey in 1991 and joined the officiating department in 1993.
Fenlon took a break from readying eager officials for the upcoming season to tell us more about herself and the registration process.
USA Hockey: How did you first get involved with USA Hockey? Did you lace up the skates or make the call on the ice a time or two?
Helen Fenlon: (Laughs) No, I wasn’t a ref or player. I was a mom and I had a child that played. I volunteered at the local association for a number of years and volunteered at USA Hockey. Before I knew it I was employed by them and have been doing this job ever since. It’s nice because I’ve seen the volunteer side and know how the local and state boards work because I did all of that when my kids were growing up.
USA Hockey: What’s a typical day like for you?
Helen Fenlon: I work on the officiating registration. When everyone registers (to be an official) they are mailed out books to do the test and emailed information about doing the test online and ways to sign up for seminars online as well. Then I score the test when they come in for the closed-book test and basically answer all the questions that pertain to the ice hockey refs. I manage approximately 24,000 registrations when from August 1 through March. Once the registration period is over, we start getting ready for next year.
USA Hockey: How has the registration process changed in your 21-year tenure?
Helen Fenlon: When we first started, we used to mail them out the application, have them mail it back with a check and then we would process it. Once that was done, we would mail them a test and they would mail us back their answer sheet when they were done. It was all done by hand back then. Now, for registration, they just go online and pay with a credit card and the test is also done online. It’s much easier for everyone involved.
In the past, we also would just do an open-book test, but it’s evolved into different levels of doing an open-book and closed-book test, and some do a skating exam, too. Also going into place this year, everyone will do an online seminar.
USA Hockey: Officials must be happy to have the process accelerated thanks to online capabilities.
Helen Fenlon: It’s great for people to access the test faster and be able to turn materials around faster so they can start working. To some of these people, it’s a job. Others do it because they want to help kids. People do it for all kinds of different reasons. For me, it’s impressive to see people who stick with (officiating) for so long.
USA Hockey: How have the resources available to officials changed through the years?
Helen Fenlon: Right now, with the new rules and programs in place, the amount of resources available for officials education is improving, but we’re always looking for more ways to help our officials be successful.
USA Hockey: What’s one thing you want to remind everyone about?
Helen Fenlon: It’s always been my goal for everybody across the country, whether you’re in Colorado Springs, New York, California or anywhere in between, to follow the same rules as far as being able to become an official and complete the registration. That’s the fair way, and it’s the best way to ensure the best quality of officiating throughout the country.
Tag(s): World Sledge Challenge