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Lady RoughRiders charting a new course in Colorado

01/08/2014, 4:30pm MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to

It’s sometimes said that necessity is the mother of invention. That was certainly the case for the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders.

Because of dwindling enrollments, four Colorado associations — Arvada Hockey Association, the Boulder Hockey Club, the Hyland Hills Hockey Association and the Northern Colorado Youth Hockey Association — found themselves without enough girls to remain viable for the 2013-14 season.

“They would have kept going on the same way and some organizations only would have been able to fill a rec 19 team, if that,” Lady RoughRiders President Calvin Abila said. “We decided if we all combined and had a program that was developed in the northern part of the Denver metro area, it would be best for all parties concerned.”

What transpired next was that the boys’ hockey directors for Arvada (John Mckibbon), Boulder (Chris Lockren), Hyland Hills (Shawn Kurulak) and Northern Colorado (Aaron Grosul) approached Abila, who at the time was the Rocky Mountain Lynx girls’ hockey director, with the express purpose of establishing a new girls’ program.

“They said let’s become the Lady RoughRiders and become affiliated with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders,” Abila said, referring to the Tier I junior team from Iowa. “Prior to that, they had reached out to Cedar Rapids and asked if it was okay to start a program involving all four associations and they said it was, and they elected me president.

“We wear the same jerseys as the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and even have the same logos.”

When the Lady RoughRiders stepped on the ice this season they were able to skate teams at the Under-19 AA and Under-14 AA levels in addition to having Under-12 plus Under-8 recreational programs. The U8 program is a learn-to-skate program that’s open to all girls ages 5 through 8, or girls from 5 through 19 who have zero prior hockey experience and want to learn the game.

“We’re also teaching kids how to play,” Abila said. “But by combining with a great organization [the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders], it brought us an established, branded, successful program that’s known around the country. Now, more girls want to be a part of the Lady RoughRiders.”

When it comes to success, the U14 AA team already has exceeded expectations. In October, it captured the Western Regional Silver Stick Tournament and the Lady Ducks Fall Classic. Then, in November, the team participated in a showcase tournament, Chill in the Hill at the Edge Ice Arena, and posted an impressive 3-0-1 record.

“They played against good talent,” Abila said. “They were successful because their team was well-coached and the girls are hard workers.

“They came together as a unit and wanted to compete to the best of their ability.”

Jean Cote, a veteran youth coach in area associations, is the U14 AA head coach. His assistants are Shane McGregor and Jordan Slavin who, during the 2009-10 season as a freshman, became the first active University of North Dakota female player to compete for the United States in the IIHF World Under-18 Championship (where the team earned the silver medal).

The Lady RoughRiders are realistic about what they hope to accomplish not only this season but also in the future.

“Our goals are to get girls on the ice to play ice hockey and learn the game of life,” he said. “We’re offering them opportunities to play ice hockey.

“If a girl goes on to play college hockey, that’s a bonus. We want good structure, practice time and game time and, most importantly, for the girls to have fun. All that other great stuff like winning and getting college scholarships is a bonus.”

Another bonus, so to speak, is the play of the U19 AA team that faces off against girls in a league that has AA teams plus club teams from local colleges such as Denver University, the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University.

“Our high school-age girls are really playing against college-age girls,” Abila said. “They’re competitive in all of their games. We have a young team this year. Most of our girls are freshmen and sophomores.

“They’re getting that experience and they love it. That’s what we’re offering.”

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.”

Gerry Letourneau Helps All Rhode Island Kids Get a Chance to Play

12/01/2016, 9:45am MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to

Founder of Rhode Island Special Hockey works to give equal opportunities

Shadow me

11/29/2016, 10:15am MST
By USA Hockey

Officials in Colorado Springs are benefitting from a shadow program

It was roughly five years ago when Tim Whitten noticed a problem in his association. Whitten, an assignor in the Southern Colorado Hockey Officials Association, observed that while new and young officials were signing up, few were returning the following season.

That’s when he berthed the idea of a shadow program.

Andy Flores, president of SCHOA, took time to tell us more about the program and how the association and its officials are reaping the benefits.

USA Hockey: How exactly did the shadow program come to be? What specific problems were you guys noticing?

Andy Flores:
It started with Tim Whitten. He found that we had a large exit rate, mostly because our newer and younger officials didn’t seem to be comfortable. We would be getting up to 10 new officials a year and we’d lose about 40 percent of them. When that happens, it puts a huge hole in your officials pool. So Tim came up with the idea to have veteran officials shadow newer officials to build their confidence on the ice.

USAH: How does the program work?

The program is designed for the new officials, the Level 1s who are in their first year. For the first five games on the ice, they are assigned a shadow. It’s general for a game assignment, a 10U C-level game or something like that. Typically on the ice we will have one senior official, one second-year official and the new officials. The shadow is assigned and works with the new individual. After five games, the shadow identifies if the person needs a little more work or if they are strong and have gained enough knowledge to do it on their own. At that point, they don’t get assigned shadows anymore. If they need a little extra help, they are assigned a shadow as long as they need it.

USAH: Are the shadows technically working the game or are they there as a silent helper?

The shadow’s primary job is to teach, not actually officiate. As a shadow you’re not there to influence the game. We don’t work in a capacity where we are working the game. We don’t call offsides, we don’t call icing and we don’t call penalties; it’s strictly educational purposes for the new individual. A shadow is there to give them support and confidence. A simple ‘Yes, you’re making the right call,’ or, ‘I would have maybe called offsides there,’ is what they are there for. That’s why we have shadows work at some of the lower levels of the game, because they are at a stage where coaches aren’t going to go after a ref for minor mistakes and it allows the new officials to learn in an environment where they aren’t necessarily going to get yelled at for everything.

USAH: What’s the feedback been like?

The senior guys definitely love it. They enjoy the teaching aspect. That’s why I officiate, because I enjoy teaching the game as well as being a part of it, so for those senior guys, it’s fun to be sharing the knowledge. In Colorado Springs, our experience for our guys ranges anywhere from the NHL, USHL all the way down to the local stuff, so we have a vast array of knowledge. I think the newer officials are enjoying it, too. They keep coming back, so we must be doing something right.

USAH: Has the retention improved then?

Absolutely. More than 60-70 percent stay on now for a second year. Plus, we’re getting anywhere from 20 to 30 new guys each year. It’s definitely had a positive impact.

USAH: So you would recommend that other officiating associations give a shadow program like this a try?

Absolutely. You take advantage of those prime opportunities to teach at the time they’re occurring. You don’t have to holler across the ice to try and say ‘Hey, do this,’ or, ‘You can’t do that.’ You don’t want to spend time during the game and you don’t want to slow down the game. With the shadow program, you keep the game flowing while teaching. Plus, I can’t speak enough about the retention. People leave officiating because they don’t feel confident. Now we give them that confidence.

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