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Cross Ice is the Name of the Game for MCIHL

09/06/2013, 11:30am EDT
By Mike Scandura - Special to USAHockey.com

Middlesex Cross Ice Hockey League co-founder Doug Michaels has a realistic and yet at the same time ambitious goal.

“Our goal is to be affiliated with USA Hockey and the American Development Model and partner with them to go out to American rinks and put [the ADM] in place,” Michaels said.

That’s not one or two or even three rinks, but as many as possible.

Considering Michaels and his older brother Jim founded the Massachusetts-based MCIHL from scratch prior to the 2011-12 season, who’s to quibble?

After Doug Michaels, a former goalie, was released from the old Johnstown Chiefs in 1996, he started a goalie academy with another former goalie, Darren Hersch. Meanwhile, Jim Michaels launched Stride Right Power Skating and Skills in 2004. That eventually led to the MCIHL.

“We could have named this the Middlesex ADM Hockey League,” said Doug Michaels. “We developed our organization, which incorporates the Middlesex Cross Ice Hockey League, Stride Right Power Skating and Skills and the Goalie Academy of Boston.

“We developed these companies before ADM was implemented. We maximize as much space as possible. We have small-area games and operate with stations. That promotes exactly what ADM is. Kids get more touches and the ice is relative to the size of the player.”

Most importantly the Michaels brothers’ philosophy allows more boys to get on the ice.

“In some cases we’re putting 32 kids on an ice sheet for a span of two minutes,” Doug Michaels said. “Then we get 32 more on for two minutes. You can get over 100 kids participating for over an hour.

“In a normal game, you’d be lucky to get 30 kids on the ice. Part of ADM is teaching the skills but also letting the kids play. Our Middlesex Cross Ice League lets the kids play.”

Going into the 2013-14 season, the Middlesex League plans to field 15 Mite teams and seven Squirt teams plus house leagues for Mites and Squirts.

“The number of kids we had registered last season almost tripled in size because we added a Squirt division,” Doug Michaels said. “What makes our system unique is how we separate the rinks into quarters. We even can separate it into thirds if we want.”

Another important aspect of the MCIHL is its low player-to-coach ratio, which emulates a low teacher-to-student ratio sought in classrooms.

“Our organization prides itself on providing a lower player-to-coach ratio,” Doug Michaels said. “Our programs are geared toward players that have a passion for the game and a desire to become a better player, which will allow them to have fun while reaching their developmental goals.

“Our coaches realize that the game of hockey is a great tool to teach life skills to our players. They utilize this tool both on and off the ice.”

The Michaels’ brothers already are planning to expand and add Peewee, Bantam, Midget and high school divisions.

“If we can get coaches to believe this isn’t going to take the place of a real game, but it’s a game for training purposes, that’s great,” Doug Michaels said. “Kids get to develop quicker hands, quicker feet and quicker decision-making. They get bumped more. They have to work on open space and getting open for a puck. They’re working harder to improve their hockey IQ.”

For the most part coaches aren’t involved, especially with Xs and Os. Their primary function is to facilitate the movement of play. In addition, scores aren’t kept and boys get to play different positions instead of being locked into, say, forward, defense or goal.

Jim Michaels, meanwhile, stressed the importance of the relationship the Middlesex League has with the Fessenden School in West Newton, which provides the rink for the MCIHL.

“This could not have happened without the Fessenden School, which believes in the teaching of athletics and academics,” he said. “It’s an international boarding school. There have been various players who’ve played in the NHL and at Division I schools.

“The Fessenden School is part and parcel of the operation.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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