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USA Hockey Foundation to be Beneficiary of Celebrity Golf Tournament Featuring Kings, Avalanche

04/15/2014, 3:00pm MDT
By USA Hockey

A celebrity golf tournament featuring members of the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings will be held Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, at The Broadmoor Golf Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo., with all proceeds from the event benefitting The USA Hockey Foundation.

The tournament will be held in conjunction with an NHL preseason game between Colorado and Los Angeles at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on Oct. 2.

"We're most grateful to have The USA Hockey Foundation as the beneficiary of the celebrity golf outing," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "We also thank both the Kings and Avalanche for their continued efforts in in working with USA Hockey to positively affect the growth of hockey, particularly at the youth level."

Foursomes for the tournament are available and include the opportunity to golf with Avalanche and Kings personnel, tickets to the preseason contest between the two clubs Oct. 2, and opportunities to win prizes, as well as breakfast, lunch, and a cocktail reception.

For more information, click here or call (310) 535-4466.

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From the Bench to the Booth, Mleczko Makes a Difference

03/19/2014, 10:45am MDT
By Pat Sullivan

While there have been plenty of United States Olympians who’ve embodied the “Got Milk?”-like wholesome symbolism of success over the years, A.J. (Mleczko) Griswold, gold medalist in 1998 and silver medalist in 2002, may top them all. The Nantucket, Mass., native’s credentials border on unassailable.

In 1999 alone, she won a national championship with the Harvard University women’s hockey team, she was selected First Team All-America, she earned the second-ever Patty Kazmaier Award and she claimed Bob Allen Women's Player of the Year honors. She is also a member of two halls of fame: The New England Women's Sports Hall of Fame (2002) and the Women's Beanpot Hall of Fame (2011).

One could convincingly argue that the self-actualization box has been checked.

USA Hockey caught up with Griswold at her Concord, Mass., home recently, where she had just returned from her third Olympics as a hockey broadcaster for NBC Sports. Reflecting on her transition to the media, she said, “It was very different. I had played in two Olympics, retired and started a family. Like anyone entering the field, I had to audition, which was scary, and then take on a steep learning curve. I was seven months pregnant when I first went on the air for the network in Torino.”

As for the contrast between playing a game and communicating a game’s happenings to viewers, Griswold said, “Initially, it was hard to watch and not be involved. It was a new challenge though, to look at hockey in an analytical way, and entirely different to watch a game and form opinions. Furthermore, you have to be impartial. In spite of playing with many of the (Team USA) women on the ice, I noticed it was not as hard to be unbiased.”

She also added, perhaps surprisingly, that “you have more free time as an athlete.” As a broadcaster (at any Olympics), Griswold regularly preps for, and calls, two to three games a day.

When it came to the alleged, Twitter-fueled mishaps in Sochi, Griswold was quick to debunk them.

“I didn’t have the experience (as an employee of NBC Sports) of a typical attendee, but I can tell you my hotel was great and the weather was great. While the four previous host sites spread the Olympics around the respective cities, there was an Olympic Park with beautiful, state-of-the art facilities in Sochi. I ate my meals at the NBC Commissary, where American food was served.”

The byproduct of such a layout, however, was that “I didn’t feel like I was in Russia.”

When asked how she stays close to the game and USA Hockey, the mother of four with husband, Jason, was excited to mention that she is an athlete director with USA Hockey and also a board member with the USA Hockey Foundation.

It’s in coaching though, often times with Jason, a hockey player himself and a lacrosse player in college at Colgate University, that she feels is the best way to stay involved and keep learning.

“Coaching kids, including our own, is the best way to give back, to share your expertise,” she said. “It’s at the grassroots level where you make a real difference.”

Blind Hockey Debuts at Disabled Festival

05/18/2015, 9:45am MDT
By Kelly Erickson

Christine Osika started losing her sight as a teenager. She will always have her peripheral vision, but she’ll continue to lose her central vision. 

Osika is blind. She’s also a hockey player. 

A hockey lover all-around, Osika didn’t want to give up her favorite game due to disability. In the fall of 2014 she co-founded Courage USA to give herself and others like her across the United States the chance to play hockey. 

Osika and her Courage USA teammates debuted blind hockey at the 2015 USA Hockey Disabled Festival in Buffalo, New York. With 71 teams and 147 games from April 9-12, the new discipline drew the largest audience. It was simply another case of the human spirit conquering adversity.

“That was really nice,” Osika said of the full house cheering on her team at the festival. “That was probably the biggest crowd any of us have played in front of, let alone for blind hockey. That was really cool.”

Blind hockey players have to have 90 percent sight loss. They play with a larger puck that has noisemakers in it so the players can hear where it is on the ice. They also have one particular rule in that when the puck enters the zone, they have to make a pass before than can shoot it on net. When that pass is made, a ref blows a high-pitched whistle to let the goaltender know the puck can now be shot on net. 

Despite these specific rules and modifications to their game, the players are working at full speed, using their senses to make their way across the ice.

“I saw it quite a few times, in amazement, a player skating down the ice and feeling the presence of another skater coming in to check them, and moving away from that player,” Norm Page said, who helped organize this year’s festival. “It was incredible. It was amazing to see the human spirit. It was powerful.”

While it was the first year blind hockey was a part of the USA Hockey Disabled Festival, it was the 11th installment of the event itself. What started as a small gathering of a few programs has grown exponentially over the years.

Page noted that this year’s event needed two arenas with six different ice sheets. With sled hockey, special hockey, deaf/hard-of-hearing hockey, standing/amputee hockey, and now blind hockey, the festival celebrates these athletes who dedicate just as much time to their game as standup, sighted hockey players do. 

“It’s just incredible to see the growth,” Page said. “I think that we can relate that to so many different things, but a lot of it is the support of USA Hockey. It’s a huge piece of that. Being able to go out do things like clinics and talks with different programs, helping to teach the education piece in all aspects of hockey, and helping folks develop their own disabled programs, helping them support their own programs in the long run. I think really speaks volumes about the education process that we’ve been able to do.”

With that ongoing education and an annual spectacle of the sport, constant awareness is brought to the different disciplines of the game. Thanks to the help of USA Hockey Foundation donor dollars – which puts $25,000 toward the festival each year – the cost of the weekend is decreased, while the exposure of disabled hockey is increased. Simply because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they aren’t a hockey player.

“I’ve been doing disabled hockey for 18 years now and I don’t think we’ve ever seen — be it standup or disabled hockey — I don’t think we’ve ever seen the popularity like we are now,” Page said, who’s own son, Adam, is a Paralympic sled hockey player. “It’s things like this, getting people to see different types of hockey and understand that anybody can play the sport. 

“When we talk about USA Hockey and that hockey is for everyone, that’s really what it’s all about. We believe it and live and breathe it every day.”

The Festival and disabled hockey itself would not be possible without the efforts of everyone involved in the game. Without the help of the USA Hockey Foundation and its donors, the coaches, volunteers, and the family and friends that get the players to the ice, the sport wouldn’t be anything near what it is today.

“Without your support system, you can’t make it happen; you can’t get to the rink,” Osika said. “My husband has to bring me, or my father, or friends of mine. We can’t do it without them.”

“It’s everybody,” Page added. “It really is a complete community, starting right from the top with USA Hockey and the USA Hockey Foundation and their huge commitment to disabled hockey. It starts there and works its way right down the rinks.”

1996 World Championship Team

Raising the Bar: 1996 U.S. Men’s National Team

06/16/2014, 10:30am MDT
By Jessi Pierce

With one final blare of the goal horn, it was over. Wiping away more than three decades of IIHF World Championship frustration, Team USA had toppled Russia.
 
This wasn’t the universally known Miracle on Ice of 1980, but it was a watershed moment, sending a powerful message about USA Hockey on the international stage. What the 1996 United States Men’s National Team accomplished in a 4-3 overtime defeat of Russia in Vienna, Austria, was a step toward more consistent success at the World Championship.

“It was pretty dramatic,” said 1996 team member Tom Chorske. “It was a shorthanded goal by Brian Rolston, so that was pretty incredible. The Russian team was always good, and that was a time just after the heyday of the Red Army teams…so it was a big deal to beat the Russians.”

The win cemented a bronze medal for Team USA – its first medal-finish in the tournament since 1962. In total, the boys in red, white and blue have taken home 10 medals at the World Championship, with three of those being claimed since the 1996 team won bronze.

“After we got that medal, I think guys started to realize there was something to play for,” said Joe Sacco, a forward on the 1996 team and assistant coach of the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team that competed in Minsk, Belarus. “I think the players don’t understand how important (the World Championship) is to other countries. It’s almost like their Stanley Cup over there. It’s a great tournament and it was a lot of fun. To bring home a medal in the process, the first in 34 years, you leave a mark when do something like that.”

According to Sacco, it wasn’t a star-studded roster; rather it was just a bunch of working-class guys extending their hockey seasons, but that’s what made it work.

“Anytime you are able to get a team to come together quickly as a group, it’s going to help your chances,” said Sacco, who fed Rolston for the eventual game-winner. “It was a lot of blue collared-type attitudes, a lot of good guys and we were all on the same page pretty quickly.”

With Ron Wilson at the helm, Team USA worked its way to the bronze-medal game with preliminary wins over Austria, Germany and Slovakia. A quarterfinal win over Sweden and semifinal loss to the eventual gold medal-winning Czech Republic set up the third-place contest.

Rolston’s goal at 4:48 of overtime sealed it for the Americans. The medal win was 34 years in the making, and it put USA Hockey back on track. That impact wasn’t lost on the players.

“To be on this team was really something,” said Chorske. “It proved that USA Hockey was ascending to be one of the top teams in the world. It was a step forward in our success internationally for a long time to come.”

USA Hockey has been a stepping-stone in the careers of Chorske and Sacco, too.

“I’ve been very fortunate. USA Hockey has been a part of my life since I was 16,” said Sacco, now an assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres. “USA Hockey has been a part of my development as a player and as a coach. It’s been a really good relationship for both sides.”

Chorske is currently working in the business sector but also serves as a hockey broadcast analyst for Fox Sports North in Minnesota. He is forever grateful for the opportunity to represent his home country.

“USA Hockey is a national community that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “All of the friendships I’ve made over the years, with those teams, and getting to play alongside other American star hockey players was a lot of fun. Certainly medaling with two of those national teams (he was also a member of the 1986 U.S. National Junior Team that earned the first-ever IIHF World Junior Championship medal for Team USA), it’s a big part of what made up my hockey career.

“Behind winning the Stanley Cup, one of the most successful moments of my career was with that USA Hockey team at the World Championship.”

 

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