In Greek mythology, the Phoenix was a bird that rose from the ashes. In one sense, the Jaguar Hockey Club is a youth hockey version of the mythical creature.
The club was founded in 1979 and eventually joined the Northern Illinois Hockey League. However, on Aug. 16, 1991, the Inwood Ice Arena, which served as the Jaguars home, burned to the ground.
A new rink was completed two years later, and in April of 1993 the Jaguars were able to move into the new facility. In the meantime, they had to drive to Franklin Park, Park Ridge and the Southwest Ice Arena in the early morning hours on weekends for practice. All of their games were played on the road.
At the time, the Jaguars were still able to field one team at every level and also had a house league.
Now, any resemblance between the JHC of the early 1990s and the JHC of the 2013-14 season is pure coincidence. Going into this season, the Jaguars will be dressing one Bantam team, two Midget teams, three Mite teams, three Peewee teams and five Squirt teams.
“We’re expanding because of the Minor Hawks,” said Director of Marketing Coleen Krause. “We have over 60 kids in our minor hockey program. We’re a rink partner with the [Chicago] Blackhawks.
“We also play at the Canlan ice arena in Romeoville because, since we’re growing, we needed more ice. We’re a small club but we’re growing.”
The Joliet-based club is noted for its development program.
“We’re one of the few clubs that offers all levels of hockey, from pre-hockey to Midget,” Krause said. “Some of the other rinks don’t offer that. We let the kids take baby steps and then they progress right up to high school. And we have coaches at all of those levels.”
The Jaguars also are firm believers in the benefits of USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
Pre-hockey players have the opportunity to be promoted out of that level and into the ADM come mid-session. Under the guidance of Hockey Director Greg Stornello, the Jaguars are exposed to skills such as skating techniques, puck control, passing, positional drills, forward- and defenseman-specific drills, odd- and even-man rushes, shooting and teamwork.
Krause cited one Mite boy who last season was transitioning from full-ice to cross-ice.
“He was an elite player and knew he was going back to cross-ice,” Krause said. “His reaction was, ‘What? We’re not playing full ice?’”
Given the increased number of touches, plus training techniques designed to improve a player’s strength, agility, speed, coordination and quickness, the boy Krause referred to became more receptive.
According to Krause, she knows one mother who’s a member of the JHC board of directors who said that the family’s older son played pre-ADM and was pushed up too fast. The mother felt her son didn’t develop skills properly and that her younger son, who was exposed to the ADM, developed faster as compared with her older son.
“The father coaches at the Mite level and helps with the pre-hockey program,” Krause said. “He believes strongly in the ADM, too. He wishes the ADM existed when his older son joined the program.”
Another aspect of the JHC that has proven to be a plus is the Jaguars Ambitions Camp. The camp teaches skaters how to gain the upper hand in one-on-one ice battles and exposes them to skill development through drills, game theory plus an on-ice curriculum that will give the boys the necessary skills to become proficient at the sport.
“Greg started the Ambitions Camp,” Krause said. “It keeps the kids conditioned over the summer.”
Krause, who’s been affiliated with the Jaguars in one capacity or another for five years, feels the intangibles offered by the organization are of extreme importance.
“We’ve met some really good families and friends through the club,” she said. “Our boys have learned the power of teamwork and dedication.
“It’s helped them develop character and has provided an outlet for their energy.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.