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Butcher Finds a Home With Brown Bears

04/04/2014, 12:00pm MDT
By Tom Robinson - Special to

Alec Butcher spent the start of the 2012-13 hockey season bouncing to three teams in three different leagues and two countries.

After all that, he ended up back home in Alaska. Still in Alaska, Butcher came into the 2013-14 season with high expectations.

“I was very confident,” Butcher said. “I knew I could be a point-a-game guy.”

Butcher proved that in his first full season with the North American Hockey League’s Kenai River Brown Bears: He compiled the most points of any player in the NAHL during a season in which he secured his future hockey destination. The 19-year-old forward from Anchorage led the league in assists (42) and points (66) while helping the Brown Bears to the playoffs. After the season, he decided he would move on to Sacred Heart University in Connecticut to continue his hockey career.

The journey to get there was a long one, though.

After earning second-team all-state honors while helping Anchorage West to a state title as a sophomore, Butcher hit the road to boost his developing career. He spent two seasons with the Pikes Peak Minors, helping the 16-and-Under team to a division title in the North American Prospects Hockey League in his first season.

The transition to junior hockey did not go as smoothly.

Butcher played for the Prince George Spruce Kings in the British Columbia Hockey League and the Carleton Place Canadians in the Central Canada Hockey League early last season before then-Kenai River coach Oliver David made a deal to bring Butcher back to Alaska.

“I had lived away from home for two years before,” Butcher said. “Moving back was nice. It was nice being able to play in front of my parents and family and friends and having a close relationship with a lot of guys on the team with them being from Anchorage and Kenai and the surrounding areas.”

Butcher produced 10 goals and 20 assists in 41 games with the Brown Bears last season. He came back confident he was ready for more.

“Last year was kind of a rough start to my junior career with getting traded twice,” Butcher said. “I think once I came out to Kenai, I did pretty well.

“I knew that coming in this year, I’d have a good opportunity to be a top-line and maybe first power-play guy and put up some numbers. I’ve had some good linemates and some great teammates to set me up and everything worked out.”

Butcher has scored 24 goals, including six on the power play, where he has been effective while moving to many different spots. Butcher’s 18 power-play assists is the second-highest total in the league.

“With the way our system works, our coach [Geoff Beauparlant] believes we’re good players. He tells us where to start and tells us to be creative from there,” Butcher said. “Having five good hockey players on the ice, you can come up with something. I try to keep my head up and find the open guy.

“I’ve been down low, half wall, up top on the point, whatever is needed. It changes all the time. I think our coach loves that we have a flexible team and we can play any position.”

After leading the NAHL in scoring, Butcher decided he was ready to move on again. He said he is excited to head east this fall to start his next journey at Sacred Heart.

“They think I’m ready for school, and that’s what my family believes, so I’m going to head there in the fall and see how it goes,” said Butcher, who would have been eligible for one more year on the junior level.

“It’s a beautiful, gorgeous campus. It was everything I was looking for.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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March 27, 2017 | When USA Hockey implemented its American Development Model in 2009, one element of the nationwide age-appropriate training blueprint sparked more debate than any other: cross-ice hockey for 8U players. In the years since, an abundance of evidence, both data-driven and anecdotal, has proven the developmental advantages of cross-ice hockey.

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“Re-sizing the playing surface to cross-ice or half-ice means more puck touches, which result in more chances to practice puck control and shooting, as well as overall more movement and motor skill-development – twisting, turning, balance, coordination, agility,” said Paul Carson, vice-president of membership development for Hockey Canada, in a release today. “Their field-of-play matches their size, and these players hone in on their skill-development in a way that larger ice surfaces just aren’t conducive to.”

The Grassroots Show on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 weighed in on the decision. Click the audio link below to hear how Canada is embracing cross-ice hockey for the coming season and beyond.

Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, appeared on the Grassroots Show to discuss the nationwide shift to cross-ice hockey, beginning this fall for 5- and 6-year-olds and expanding to all of Canada's Novice (8U) level in 2018-19.

“When you see 10 or 12 or 14 or 16 kids out on the ice in between periods and they’re playing 200-by-85 and 3 or 4 kids touch the puck in that whole six minutes, yet there’s people in the stands clapping and thinking it’s wonderful, I just can’t help but think about the 95 percent of the children that didn’t even touch the puck or get from one end of the rink to the other and I ask myself what are we doing when the opportunity is certainly there to have 30 kids on the ice playing cross-ice and everyone is having a much better opportunity to touch the puck, skate a shorter distance and really play. It just boggles my mind,” said Renney.

“We completely embrace, at the Initiation level and the Novice level, cross-ice hockey and we have mandated that in the Initiation program and we will mandate it across the country in Novice hockey.

“This is about the pure enjoyment of the game, and your first connection with it has to be something that’s pure fun, on a surface of play that is conducive to much more participation and joy.”

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