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Sturdy foundation keeps Amherst YHA going strong

03/03/2014, 12:00pm MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to

Travel teams notwithstanding, the Amherst Youth Hockey Association’s learn-to-play program is the foundation for the organization that serves the western Massachusetts communities of Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Hatfield, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Ware.

“About halfway through the season we look at the learn-to-play house program and look for players who have heart, hustle, energy and enthusiasm,” said association President Dan Feldman. “But it also is a matter of recognizing hockey instead of just free skating. The kids seem to have an understanding of the game. They have an idea. They have the beginnings of the concept of being ready for a pass and getting back on defense.

“The other factor is their families also have to be enthusiastic in terms of supporting their kids’ desire to plug away with hockey because it’s a team effort.”

Another major component of the AYHA is its learn-to-skate program.

“Six years ago we had 62 kids in that program,” Feldman said. “That program has increased to as many as 118 kids. If we can maintain about 100 kids in the learn-to-skate program, we’re doing a good job and it allows them to meet their potential.

“Then, I think our future is bright.”

This season, the AYHA is fielding five mite teams, three squirt teams, three peewee teams, two bantam teams and one midget team. Each team is distinguished by a color — primarily red, white and blue.

The AYHA has 267 boys registered this season, which is consistent with the number that has registered in recent seasons.

“We don’t turn away any kid who wants to play hockey unless there is a behavior issue,” Feldman said. “But if we have a kid who just loves hockey, who has a great attitude, who wants to get better and is coachable, we don’t cut him from the program.”

An intense marketing program is another reason why the AYHA is able to maintain consistent numbers, as well as the fact its home base is the Mullins Center — a state-of-the-art arena that’s on the campus of UMass-Amherst.

“Our program has grown a lot in the last five to six years because of marketing and public relations and also because we use some of USA Hockey’s tools like Try Hockey for Free Day,” Feldman said. “We also work really hard to keep it affordable.

“We have an Olympic-size facility that’s beautiful with good parking. Kids love going there because their parents aren’t freezing.”

In summation, marketing, affordable fees and good coaches — approximately 50 of them — combine to make the AYHA a successful association for western Massachusetts.

Not to be overlooked, however, is the fact the AYHA adheres to USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

“We embraced the ADM the first year it was rolled out,” Feldman said. “Our ADM practices are run right out of the USA Hockey website. We have drill stations for mites where we discuss and demonstrate and then have the kids perform.

“We explain to them and demonstrate and then we have them do it. We correct where needed. I think this is one reason why we have pretty consistent attendance at our practices.”

AYHA travel teams have enjoyed a fair amount of success this season.

The Bantam Red team won the Kittredge Tournament in Pittsfield, Mass., and the Squirt Red team won the Simsbury (Conn.) Hockey Tournament. In addition, the Bantam Red team also reached the finals of the Thanksgiving Goblet Tournament in Foxborough, Mass.

“In order to get to the finals [of the Goblet Tournament], we beat Boston-area teams,” Feldman said. “It’s not that common for western Massachusetts teams to beat eastern Massachusetts teams because of the population factor.

“But what we’re trying to do is provide a safe and supervised environment for the children to be able to enjoy the sport and treat it as a recreation instead of a job. It’s a place where they can go to have fun. We want to use our know-how and our resources to help kids compete at a high level.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Update on 2015-16 USA Hockey Officiating Registration

07/08/2015, 5:15pm MDT
By David LaBuda, USA Hockey National Referee-in-Chief

District Referees-in-Chief implement changes to registration procedures

As we enter the 2015-16 registration season for officials, I want to give an update of what changes to expect this season.

The Officials Section has been busy since the 2015 Winter Meeting, working on implementing the registration changes that were discussed and voted on by the district referees-in-chief, along with refining the testing and online seminar programs.

For 2015-16, there will be an informational video available before an official registers with USA Hockey outlining the requirements and commitment that an individual will need to fulfill in order to complete their registration.


Next, and a very important change, starting with this season, in order to register for a seminar, an official will have to first register as an official (online) with USA Hockey in order to gain access to the online program to register for a seminar.

This change was due to a number of individuals who would never register as an official with USA Hockey and then ‘no show’ to the seminar that they registered for, which frequently led to other registered officials being denied attendance at that seminar because the seating capacity had already been reached.

This change will provide more incentive for every individual who registers as an official -- and registers for a seminar -- to attend that seminar and complete the registration requirements.

The open-book testing process has also been modified for the coming season. What hasn’t changed is that a Level 1 official will still have to answer the first 50 questions, while Level 2, 3 & 4 officials will have to answer 100 questions. However, the passing score for a Level 2 official has been modified to 80 from 85. All other passing scores remain the same as last year. Those minimum passing scores are 35 for a Level 1 official and 90 for Levels 3 and 4.

While an official is taking the open-book exam, there will be immediate feedback provided after each answer is submitted. If the question was answered incorrectly, the rule reference for that missed question will be given with the appropriate rule book language.

After completing all of the required questions, a summary will be sent of all incorrect responses with their rule references. If a passing score is obtained, then the open-book exam requirement will be complete.

If the result is a failing score, after the seven-day waiting period has passed, the official will only have to retake those questions that were incorrectly answered on their first open-book exam. The retake questions will be based on the same rule reference as the originally missed questions, but will cover a different aspect of the rule.

Once all of the retake questions are answered, the number of correctly answered retake questions will be added to the original test score to hopefully obtain a passing grade. As a reminder, there is no third attempt to pass the open-book exam.

During the winter meeting, the Officials Section spent considerable time discussing seminar program feedback, and in particular, the online modules. All feedback was taken seriously and an action plan was discussed and adopted.

Two work groups were established to address the new classroom curriculums and to improve the online video modules. Both were comprised of grassroots members who could bring a grassroots perspective to their work. Both groups have completed their work and their recommendations have been adopted. The new shortened classroom curriculums have been distributed for application to this coming seminar season and the online modules are being re-engineered with improved formatting, better sequencing, animation replacing some video clips and reduction of music and voice-overs to allow the viewer to better focus on the presented material.

We’ve also evaluated the number of required modules for each level, and based on the user analytics that the first years’ experience produced, we have reduced the number of required modules in some cases.

Lastly, as a reminder, once an official begins their first online module, they will need to complete all of their online module training within a specified time period. The online module completion time periods are 60 days for Level 1 registered officials and 45 days for Levels 2, 3 and 4. If all of the required and elective modules are not completed within the specified time frame, the official will have to restart all of the module training from the beginning. This requirement was waived during last year’s registration season due to the delayed rollout of the online module program, but it’s back in place this year.

This completion requirement was put in place by the District RICs to encourage all officials to complete their registration as early as possible and to provide continuity in the overall seminar education process.

As a reminder, to complete an official’s registration an applicant must:

  • Register online with USA Hockey
  • Register and attend a classroom seminar (reduced attendance times depending on registration level)
  • Complete the required and elective online training modules within the required time frame
  • Pass the open-book exam at their registration level
  • Pass the closed-book exam (no closed-book exam at Level 1) for their registration level
  • Complete their online USA Hockey SafeSport training at the end of every two-year cycle


Work will continue on improving our educational programs, and as always, we will continue actively listening to your constructive feedback. Without your involvement and support as a community, we cannot continue moving forward.  Acknowledging that improvements were needed was only one step in the process.  Implementing those changes in a way that meets the needs of our officiating community is the next step and we’re excited to be taking that step.

Have a great 2015-16 season and as always, skate hard and have fun when you’re on the ice.

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