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In Basketball, Wrestling Country, Des Moines YHA Carves Solid Niche

03/07/2014, 12:00pm MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to

The Des Moines Youth Hockey Association implemented USA Hockey’s American Development Model in October of 2010, and after seeing the results administrators say they wish the program had been around sooner.

“Reading the red, white and blue program, going through the USA Hockey class and going from station to station, all I could think about was, ‘I wish my kids could have gone through this,’” said DMYHA President Steve Miller.

Miller admitted that when the ADM was first introduced some parents felt their sons would regress.

“The first year was a tough one,” he said. “The second one was easier. Now, they love it.

“What persuaded the board to adopt the ADM was we sent out the PowerPoint presentation and parents saw how well it was put together. There was a program to follow. We plugged it into our system. It was like, ‘Why didn’t somebody think of this sooner?’ Youth hockey has grown in popularity because of some things USA Hockey is doing, including the ADM.”

DMYHA Youth Director Scott Long, the association’s only full-time, paid employee, plays a vital role in administering the ADM.

“Scott handles all on-ice activities,” Miller said. “He’s tasked with membership, scheduling and all ice events. He’s done a great job in building the ADM.

“He’s on the ice all the time and administers the program with the help of parents. The parents that help are usually from our coaching pool where we pull them from as the kids move up. Scott, like me, grew up playing in the DMYHA and has done a great job with promotion and running the programs. Without Scott, the association would not be thriving as it is today.”

Even though wrestling and basketball are major sports in Iowa, youth hockey has seen a steady growth over the years. The DMYHA, for example, was founded in the mid-1960s.

A total of 632 boys are registered for the current season and are spread out over a house league, house select teams, travel teams, the Metro High School Hockey League and two Under-18 teams, the Capitals and the Oak Leafs, that play in the Midwest Hockey League. Altogether, a total of 31 teams play under the DMYHA banner.

“Participation has been stable over the last few years,” Miller said. “We have about a five percent movement either way from year to year.”

Four Midget house teams plus a Midget travel team participate in the Metro High School League. The five teams are of particular importance to the association.

“We try to associate with the boys’ high school teams, which are basically club teams,” explained Miller. “That was our answer to the research we read in that, at ages 15 and 16, kids start leaving the game.

“We try to associate with their high schools to boost school spirit. The exciting thing for us is we’re seeing that, in the younger groups, 70-plus kids come through the Under-6, Under-7 and Under-8 programs. In addition, the boys that play on the Capitals and the Oak Leafs have come up through our program.”

The DMYHA also has benefitted from its association with the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild and the United States Hockey League’s Des Moines Buccaneers.

“We rent ice at the Wells Fargo Arena [the Wild’s home facility] and bring in teams from out of town,” Miller said. “We sell tickets and the kids play during the day and go to games at night. We play mini-games during intermission at AHL games.

“We’ve also partnered with the Buccaneers to give more exposure to the public and to expose the kids to a higher level of player that teaches and helps us on the ice. As a Des Moines hockey family, we try to partner with other entities for the city of Des Moines. Both organizations have done a great job.”

Miller, who’s been involved with the DMYHA in various capacities for the last 11 years, got his sons involved in playing hockey for the same reasons he laced on his skates.

“I got my sons involved because I loved the game growing up and wanted them to experience the same joy I had playing the great game of hockey,” he said. “That, in turn, got me involved as a coach and then, after a few years, a board member.

“I go out there now and watch these kids skate around and I say to myself, ‘These kids are really good.’”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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