Ten teams of hockey kids hit the ice surface Sept. 22 at Iorio Arena in Walpole, Mass., for the first Mite Developmental League Under-8 Half-Ice Jamboree.
Plenty of cheering filled the arena. Music was played. Food was served. And the games were played using the USA Hockey American Development Model (ADM) format — with dividers set up at center ice, splitting the Olympic-sized ice surface into two so that two games could be played at once.
“I wanted to do something as a part of ‘Welcome back to hockey week,’ ” said Lisa Stampfli, tournament organizer and director of the Mite Developmental League and Walpole Express Girls Hockey program. “And I thought of a tournament where they would get to play some other teams. Just some kind of festive activities to kick off the season.”
The one-day jamboree was so popular that a similar half-ice tournament is already being planned for March. Stampfli said half a dozen teams have already contacted her. The ADM half-ice model was a hit with coaches, players and parents, and it resulted in constant touches and goals scored by the U8 players. The first half-ice games were played in September at Iorio Arena in league play.
“Everybody loves it. It’s amazing,” said Stampfli, a strong supporter of the ADM. “We’ve gotten such positive feedback from the parents on this format.”
Stampfli says the half-ice format has increased the number of touches on the puck by the U8 players.
The half-ice games featured 30-minute time periods with buzzer shifts of 1 minute, 30 seconds. Play did not stop during shift changes, but only after a goal was scored or when a goalie covered up the puck. There was no offsides or icing. But there was a referee assigned to each game. Coaches were on the bench, not on the ice.
The jamboree featured all-girls, all-boys and coed teams. Medals were given to each player. Scores were kept visible on the scoreboard, but no results and no standings were kept. And the best part for the 10 participating teams: There was no entrance fee. Northeast Elite Hockey and Walpole Express picked up the cost.
The participating teams were MDL Black Knights, MDL Blue Thunder, MDL Orange Crush, MDL All-Stars, Tri-Valley Youth Hockey, Providence Capitals, North Attleboro Devils Red Mites, Walpole Express Girls U8 Major, Walpole Express Girls U8 Minor and East Coast Wizards Girls U8 Minor.
In addition to Stampfli, Rob Barletta, owner of Northeast Elite Hockey, and Rob Reilly, director of Northeast Elite Hockey, were involved in the jamboree.
The tournament follows a summer in which the youth leagues at Iorio Arena have seen a dramatic upturn in sign-ups. Kids as young as 5 years old have joined. Stampfli has noticed the enthusiasm while seeing the kids get ready to take the ice and also among the parents. Special activities during the spring and summer helped to drum up enthusiasm, including a “Bring a Friend Day” in June and a season kickoff party in April. The U8 program had just four girls last spring. The number quickly expanded.
“I just sort of saw people constantly coming in and signing up at the U8 level,” Stampfli said. “By the end of the summer, we had 21 kids. It’s fabulous.”
And in the midst of the expansion, a commitment to the ADM has played a significant role. Michele Amidon of USA Hockey conducted an ADM clinic of more than an hour for youth hockey coaches. Dryland training sessions and skill sessions are held regularly. Coaches are encouraged to use the ADM practice plans that are posted on USAHockey.com.
“This year we’re really making a push in the direction of ADM,” Stampfli said. “I’ve been a proponent of ADM for a couple of years now.”
And what the organizers have discovered is that the kids have adapted quickly to the split of the surface at Iorio Arena.
“They’re not restricted by worrying about staying in lanes. The center can only go here, the left wing can only go there,” Stampfli said. “We just sort of give them general guidelines. They do very well with that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.