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As girls’ hockey grows, Huskies Youth Hockey diversifies teams

12/05/2013, 4:45pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to

Girls have donned the sweaters of Huskies Youth Hockey at various times over the past 15 years. It was not until recently, however, that the girls’ side really began to grow at the Gorham, Maine-based association.

Under the guidance of Girls Program Director Ruth Ann LaBrecque, the girls’ program grew enough to add a second team in 2012. Both teams played at the 14-and-under level, though, so in 2013 they had to decide whether one should switch age groups. The Huskies, who play at the University of Southern Maine Ice Arena in Gorham, watched what other organizations were doing before making their decision.

“We were waiting to see if we would break it into two 14U teams, or a 12U team, depending on what was out there with other clubs,” LaBrecque said.

With other programs in Maine producing 12-and-under teams, the Huskies decided to go with a 14U and a 12U this season rather than two 14Us.

There are 13 girls playing on the 14U team and 12 more on the 12U team that plays against three other similar clubs around Maine throughout the regular season.

“We’re able to stay in state that way,” LaBrecque said of adding the 12U team. “There’s enough teams for us that it’s not too far a distance for us to travel. We don’t have one star-studded team. We keep it age appropriate.”

Now that girls’ hockey has become a consistent part of the Huskies’ program each year, LaBrecque is concentrating on growth. She said she does not have any particular goals about adding teams at a certain age, but she just wants more girls to see what the program has to offer.

The Huskies are using different methods to try to recruit new families to the program. Youngsters in southern Maine are introduced to the sport through a Break the Ice program. Coaches and administrators are undergoing training in USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

“We have a free day of hockey and learn to skate,” LaBrecque said. “We try to entice people that way and get the word out. We’re moving toward the next step in our club. … We’re really striving to make the program more attractive and draw more people into the club.

“We have a step-up program, so they start with Break the Ice and they work their way up.”

On the youngest levels, the girls still play with the boys in a house league. As they are ready for the U12 team, the girls have a place to play together against other girls’ teams from programs in Maine and, at tournament time, elsewhere.

“We’re planting a seed for the future,” LaBrecque said. “I feel like this is going to be a clutch year for us. We have a very committed board and the coaching director we have now has just gone the extra mile.”

Nathan Spooner, the coaching director, coaches the U14 Huskies girls.

“He’s completely dedicated to making sure our organization is top-notch,” LaBrecque said. “We’re getting the right training for the coaches and making it easier for the coaches to communicate to the kids how to have fun and how to play the game of hockey.”

Mary Guimond coaches the U12 team.

LaBrecque said she expects the final schedule to work out to about 20-25 games for each team.

Playing with two U14 teams a year ago, the Huskies ended the season with one of those teams winning a tournament in Dover, N.H.

“We’re just really excited and looking forward to a great year,” LaBrecque said.

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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