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Safety, Player Development, Record Numbers Highlight USA Hockey Annual Congress

06/09/2014, 12:00pm MDT
By USA Hockey

Safety and player development dominated conversations during USA Hockey’s four-day Annual Congress in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which concluded Saturday (June 8). In addition, the organization reported a record number of players for 2013-14.

“We’re focused on ensuring the safest possible environment and providing a development program that helps players of all ability levels reach their full potential,” said Ron DeGregorio, president of USA Hockey. “That focus was very evident during our Annual Congress.”

“With the work of our volunteers across the country as well as the support from partners like the National Hockey League, those in our corporate partner family and rink owners, to name a few, we continue to innovate and grow,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “We’re also committed to the use of technology, particularly as it relates to the education of coaches, players, officials and parents.”

SAFETY

On the safety front, USA Hockey’s board of directors unanimously supported the hiring of a national safety director that will lead the organization’s efforts related to both on- and off-ice safety.

In addition, the board approved strengthening rules to influence the reduction of fighting in junior hockey, including adding a 10-minute misconduct to any fighting major at the Tier I and Tier II level beginning in 2014-15.

“Our efforts in player safety include a concerted focus on eliminating dangerous behavior in junior hockey,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, vice president of USA Hockey and chair of the Junior Council. “We’re making significant and continued progress, and from my standpoint as a parent, that’s a real positive.”

Another safety-related item reviewed by USA Hockey’s board of directors was the Look-Up Line, a proposed ice marking that extends 40 inches in width from the bottom of the kick plate of the boards that is “safety” orange in color. The intent is to affect the reduction of head and neck injuries. The board passed a policy statement that allows use of the Look-Up Line line and encourages rinks that utilize the mark to report pertinent observations to the USA Hockey Look-Up Line Safety Task Force.

“There was terrific collaboration on the topic of safety,” said Dr. Michael Stuart, chief medical officer of USA Hockey. “We continue to make progress on all fronts and that is extremely pleasing to see.”

RECORD NUMBERS

The visibility provided by the Olympic Winter Games, coupled with robust efforts in attracting new players to the game and an innovative development program contributed to record numbers for USA Hockey in 2013-14.

The final record player count -- including youth, junior and adult-aged players -- was 519,417 in 2013-14, eclipsing the previous high mark of 511,178 established in 2011-12.

In addition, the total number of players, coaches and officials part of USA Hockey finished at 598,841 in 2013-14, beating the previous best of 594,959 from the 2011-12 campaign.

USA Hockey also set a new mark for total numbers overall, inclusive of players, coaches, officials, administrators, team managers/volunteers, and parents. The final tally of 1,075,424 surpassed the former high of 1,061,130 established last season.

OFFICER ELECTIONS

Three officer positions were up for election and the board unanimously re-elected both Jim Smith (treasurer) and Larry Reid (vice president, marketing council chair). In addition, Charlie Fuertsch was elected to replace retiring Peter Lindberg as vice president/legal council chair.

Other Elections

Donna Guariglia was elected as the director representative to the executive committee; Shawna Davidson and Dave Meisner were re-elected as director at-large; Jenny Potter was re-elected as the athlete director representative on the executive committee; Joe Bertagna and Mike Snee were elected as NCAA directors, while Bill Daly and Don Fehr were re-elected as professional sports organizations directors. Athlete directors elected to the board included Taylor Chace, Chris Clark, Manny Guerra, Meghan Duggan, Shelley Looney, and Blake Sloan.

NOTES: USA Hockey had a record year in sponsorship revenue with final totals up 26% over the 2012-13 season and 38% over the previous Olympic year (2010). In addition, sales at the organization’s online store – ShopUSAHockey.com – were up 80% over last year and 30% above the previous Olympic year … Peter Lindberg was honored during the board of directors meeting in recognition of his contributions to the organization. He has been USA Hockey’s only legal council chair and previously served in multiple capacities with Minnesota Hockey, including as president … President’s Awards were bestowed on T.C. Lewis and Jim Johannson for outstanding contribution to USA Hockey … Representatives of 21 of the 23 U.S.-based NHL teams participated in USA Hockey’s Annual Congress. The only exceptions were the New York Rangers and L.A. Kings, the two teams currently playing in the Stanley Cup Finals … The board voted both Peter Lindberg and Brad Bekkedahl as director emeritus.

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Three ways to beat burnout

11/28/2016, 9:45pm MST
By Dave Pond

According to NHL metrics, the average hockey shift lasts somewhere between 45 and 55 seconds. There’s inherent beauty and fluidity to line changes, as skaters come on and off the ice, looking to recharge after going full throttle for their teams.

Meanwhile, your NHL officiating peers are giving their all, too – regularly logging 4-5 miles a game. Those totals are even greater at your level, where you and your colleagues officiate multiple games a day, several times per week, on a seemingly never-ending calendar.

And, although we want to perform our best every game, everyone has both good days and bad – players and officials alike. To learn more about keeping burnout at bay, we went to the experts: longtime amateur hockey scheduler Larry Carrington and former NHL official Mark Faucette.

“There is so much more to officiating than meets the eye,” said Faucette, a 17-year NHL veteran. “It may look easy from the stands, but to maintain total control of a game along with the stress, slumps, supervisors, travel, and fitness regimen takes a very special kind of person.”

Get in shape (and stay there)
We all think we’re in “pretty good” shape, but the reality is, officials must be top athletes and in great condition – even at the youngest levels.

“Conditioning is very important—the deeper into the season, the more important it is,” Carrington said. “Burnout happens physically, mentally, and emotionally. An official who is in good condition will experience less physical burnout, and that will in turn help with the emotional and mental burnout.”

Faucette stresses following a workout routine that maxes yourself at least every other day. Neither player or official should plan to use games as a vehicle toward better physical fitness.

“Where we used to go to camp to get into shape, officials today are on summer conditioning regimens and are tested as soon as they come to camp,” he said. “Taking care of your body is a total focus for the good official.

“The players are so much stronger and faster now, so it’s imperative the officials keep the same pace.”

Find balance
No, not balance on your skates (that’s a given). Rather, make sure to keep the big picture in mind, to work a manageable schedule that includes everything that’s important to you – family, friends, and time away from the rink.

Although it makes Carrington’s job as an assignor more difficult, he said it pays off in the long run.

“I encourage officials to take at least one weekend off to get away from hockey,” he said. “I certainly don't want to lose their services for a week, but the invigoration that it usually provides makes them a much more valuable asset over the course of the season.”

That’s huge in an industry where both mental and physical fatigue are commonplace.

“Every official runs into slumps, just as players do,” Faucette said. “You spend numerous hours alone as an official, and when things are not going good, where everything is negative, it can cause you duress.

“Positive thoughts and self-evaluations speed up recovery,” he continued. “So, instead of telling yourself, ‘I wonder what bad thing will happen tonight?’ say ‘I’m ready for anything – bring it on!’”

Have fun
It’s No. 3 here, but should be No. 1 on your to-do list.

“I realize the officials are all trying hard, and mistakes are part of any sport by any participant,” said Faucette, who currently serves as supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, the NAHL director of player safety and the SPHL director of officiating. “That being said, the joy I get out of seeing a young official start out at ground level and making the big time one day is immeasurable.”

For most of you reading this, the “big time” might not be the end goal (and that’s OK). But wherever you are, there’s experience you’ve gained, as well as that to come – which both point back to why you first got involved in this great sport.

As an assignor, Carrington tries to get out of the office as much as he can and intentionally varies the schedules of his officials to help keep things fresh. He also encourages his more senior officials to lend a hand to those who aren’t as long in the tooth.

“Going to the rink and helping officials help themselves get better can be very invigorating,” he said. “Even a very good, very experienced official will often find it fun and relaxing to mentor some new official at a lower-level game where the stress levels aren’t nearly as high.”

But no matter where you officiate, Carrington emphasizes keeping one thing in mind: the love of the sport and those playing it today.

“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there.”

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Shadow me

11/29/2016, 10:15am MST
By USA Hockey

Officials in Colorado Springs are benefitting from a shadow program

It was roughly five years ago when Tim Whitten noticed a problem in his association. Whitten, an assignor in the Southern Colorado Hockey Officials Association, observed that while new and young officials were signing up, few were returning the following season.

That’s when he berthed the idea of a shadow program.

Andy Flores, president of SCHOA, took time to tell us more about the program and how the association and its officials are reaping the benefits.

USA Hockey: How exactly did the shadow program come to be? What specific problems were you guys noticing?

Andy Flores:
It started with Tim Whitten. He found that we had a large exit rate, mostly because our newer and younger officials didn’t seem to be comfortable. We would be getting up to 10 new officials a year and we’d lose about 40 percent of them. When that happens, it puts a huge hole in your officials pool. So Tim came up with the idea to have veteran officials shadow newer officials to build their confidence on the ice.

USAH: How does the program work?

Flores:
The program is designed for the new officials, the Level 1s who are in their first year. For the first five games on the ice, they are assigned a shadow. It’s general for a game assignment, a 10U C-level game or something like that. Typically on the ice we will have one senior official, one second-year official and the new officials. The shadow is assigned and works with the new individual. After five games, the shadow identifies if the person needs a little more work or if they are strong and have gained enough knowledge to do it on their own. At that point, they don’t get assigned shadows anymore. If they need a little extra help, they are assigned a shadow as long as they need it.

USAH: Are the shadows technically working the game or are they there as a silent helper?

Flores:
The shadow’s primary job is to teach, not actually officiate. As a shadow you’re not there to influence the game. We don’t work in a capacity where we are working the game. We don’t call offsides, we don’t call icing and we don’t call penalties; it’s strictly educational purposes for the new individual. A shadow is there to give them support and confidence. A simple ‘Yes, you’re making the right call,’ or, ‘I would have maybe called offsides there,’ is what they are there for. That’s why we have shadows work at some of the lower levels of the game, because they are at a stage where coaches aren’t going to go after a ref for minor mistakes and it allows the new officials to learn in an environment where they aren’t necessarily going to get yelled at for everything.

USAH: What’s the feedback been like?

Flores:
The senior guys definitely love it. They enjoy the teaching aspect. That’s why I officiate, because I enjoy teaching the game as well as being a part of it, so for those senior guys, it’s fun to be sharing the knowledge. In Colorado Springs, our experience for our guys ranges anywhere from the NHL, USHL all the way down to the local stuff, so we have a vast array of knowledge. I think the newer officials are enjoying it, too. They keep coming back, so we must be doing something right.

USAH: Has the retention improved then?

Flores:
Absolutely. More than 60-70 percent stay on now for a second year. Plus, we’re getting anywhere from 20 to 30 new guys each year. It’s definitely had a positive impact.

USAH: So you would recommend that other officiating associations give a shadow program like this a try?

Flores:
Absolutely. You take advantage of those prime opportunities to teach at the time they’re occurring. You don’t have to holler across the ice to try and say ‘Hey, do this,’ or, ‘You can’t do that.’ You don’t want to spend time during the game and you don’t want to slow down the game. With the shadow program, you keep the game flowing while teaching. Plus, I can’t speak enough about the retention. People leave officiating because they don’t feel confident. Now we give them that confidence.

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