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Fair play, parity are top priorities for Buckeye Travel Hockey League

01/24/2014, 6:00pm MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to

Every youth league regardless of the sport stresses the importance of fair play, good sportsmanship and kids having fun..

“Every team starts with a Fair Play Point and can lose it based on the criteria,” said league president Jason Bowra. “Our original goal was to stop serious injuries. As a coach, some parents, players and officials became very obnoxious.

“Last year I had one disciplinary meeting because a kid received a match penalty. Out of all of the games we played last season (over 1,000), there only were two fights. The kids are thinking, and the coaches are preaching to the kids and parents: ‘If you get a major penalty, you’re going to lose a Fair Point.’ The kids are thinking about hits from behind and headshots. We’ve seen a major reduction in disciplinary hearings to the point where they’re almost unheard of.”

A team can earn — and earn is the operative word — a Fair Play Point with a victory, a tie and even a loss. The points are used to determine league standings per division and for seeding for championship tournaments.

The following is a list of a few ways in which a team can lose a Fair Play Point:

  • If one or more coaches is assessed a game misconduct or match penalty during or after a game.
  • If one or more of a team’s parents or fans are ejected from the game by the referees under the rules of USA Hockey.
  • If a team exceeds a specified threshold for penalty minutes during regulation time or after a game is completed. For Squirts the limit is 10 minutes, for Peewees the limit is 12 minutes and for Bantams the limit is 14 minutes.

In addition, while youth leagues generally strive for parity, not all are as successful as the Buckeye Travel Hockey League at reaching this goal. That’s due in large part to the league’s pre-season seeding tournament.

“We have an application that each team fills out,” Bowra said. “It gives us an idea if a team is A or AA. We break down the A teams into Gold, Silver and Bronze. They apply and project where they should be.

“If they’re borderline, we have them play against each other. For example, we may have two teams that project themselves as AA. Each team plays a 25-minute, non-stop game with minimal whistles. You can’t make changes on a whistle. From the score, we can evaluate the teams. A Buckeye representative is at each game and looks at the intangibles plus the number of kids on a roster.”

After that, teams are ranked from 1 to 40.

“It’s not always perfect, but we have parity between all of our leagues,” Bowra said. “Last year we had 10 championship games and each one was decided by two or fewer goals and three went into overtime.”

Want more proof? In the Great Lakes Fall Classic, which was held over the first weekend in January in Holland, Mich., 12 BTHL teams won championships in their respective divisions with six championship games decided by one goal or in overtime and three more decided by two goals.

“We feel that with 75 percent of the championship games at or under a two-goal differential is pretty good,” Bowra said.

What’s also “pretty good” is the fact that this season the total number of teams in the BTHL has increased from 69 to 98.

“When the economy tanked a few years ago we took a bit,” Bowra explained. “But one of the biggest things we have going for ourselves is that we focus on Squirts, Peewees and Bantams. We focus on those three divisions.

“When we’re looking at the divisions, some are split between Silver East and West. We look at parity first and then geography. We had one 14-team division and split it in half. We looked at it from a geographical standpoint so that all teams are in the East or West. When the playoffs are held, then teams will cross over.”

There’s more. The BTHL had four new organizations come on board this season and two the previous season. Overall, the league had 20 organizations in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia which is a new state that signed up this season.

USA Hockey’s American Development Model is a major component of the BTHL.

“The ADM is the definitive benefit,” Bowra said. “In the Midwest, hockey is second nature because a lot of our studs play football, baseball and basketball. The ADM forces parents, kids and coaches to focus on skills like skating, passing and stickhandling before [they] learn how to play the game.

“In Ohio, it’s all about getting that Division I scholarship. This is a great opportunity to tell mom and dad that we’re going to focus on skills first. I think it’s a good opportunity for kids to learn skills because as you get older you won’t learn skills as easily as you would when you’re younger.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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