For the Portland Junior Pirates in Maine, “Giving back to a community is an important part of what we do,” says youth hockey director Jeff Libby.
And the Junior Pirates have certainly done their share of giving back.
For a third consecutive year, the Junior Pirates in Saco, Maine, joined forces with the Salvation Army during the holiday season for the latter’s Angel Tree program, which benefits southern Maine families in need.
“This year we gave over 200 gifts as compared with 100 that we gave last season,” Libby said.
The Junior Pirates of Lewiston, Maine, shared the holiday spirit with the elderly at St. Mary’s Residences. Players from mites to bantams took part in a giving tree to benefit the elderly.
Another Junior Pirates Squirt team prepared meals for a group of homeless teens that reside in the Volunteers of America Homeless Youth Transitional Living Program in Auburn, Maine.
“The kids and their families went there before Thanksgiving and donated food items and prepared food,” Libby said.
Additionally, every year, Junior Pirates teams spend a weekend at work camps in various communities in southern Maine where they help out veterans.
“We’ve painted, cleaned, put in floors and put up shelves,” Libby said. “We even demolished a garage and put down a laminate floor. It’s basically a community weekend that the kids participate in.
“We have a U18 midget team, and I spent a weekend with them at the work camp. Those kids worked extremely hard. The organization that benefitted was extremely proud of our kids. The kids see while doing this that there are people in situations where they need help. For these kids to see this and to be fortunate to play hockey helps them to be successful because you never know where life is going to take you. They learn not to take things for granted.”
This philosophy has been ingrained in the Junior Pirates since the organization was founded prior to the 2003-04 season.
“It’s important for these kids to take a step back and realize how fortunate they are in terms of health,” Libby said. “At the end of the day, it’s a great life lesson to give back to others who are less fortunate. It’s important to teach kids at a young age to give back to communities.”
When the Junior Pirates first stepped on the ice, the organization only had one Junior-A independent team. In 2013–14, the Saco Junior Pirates have 19 teams from mites up to junior — most of which are full-season teams and some half-season. The Lewiston Junior Pirates have 10 teams from mites to midget.
USA Hockey’s American Development Model is an integral part of the Junior Pirates.
“We’re big fans of the ADM,” Libby said. “We believe properly-run practices are more important than games. We take into consideration the number of games and keep that at a level we’re comfortable with. The 3-to-1 (practice-to-game) ratio that USA Hockey uses is where we’re at with most teams.
“Our job is to run practices, but more so, it’s to work on the appropriate skill set and to make sure the kids are having fun.”
By adhering to this philosophy, the Junior Pirates have enjoyed a fair share of success.
The Saco Tier IV squirts won the 2013 Husky Youth Holiday Tournament; the Lewiston Tier III peewees won the first Turkey Shootout in December; and the Saco bantam Tier III team captured the Winter Classic in Hooksett, N.H. But winning tournaments isn’t the be-all and end-all for the Junior Pirates.
“At the end of the day if we win, that’s great,” Libby said. “If we don’t, that’s fine. I’m not concerned with winning every tournament. The most important thing is getting the most out of the tournament. It doesn’t do our kids any good if they’re playing against lesser competition.
“To me, winning has never been the key to this organization. We’re about developing players. In my eyes as the director, if every team finished at .500 that’s great because it shows they’re playing teams that are commensurate with their skill level.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.