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Sting Succeed Through Olympian Guidance

12/06/2016, 4:45pm MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to

Rhode Island girls hockey association grows with some help from Team USA

The Rhode Island Sting may be an answer to a trivia question: Can you name a girls youth hockey association that has two former United States Olympic hockey players as co-directors?

The players in question here are Vicki Movsessian Lamoriello and Sara DeCosta Hayes, who played on the 1998 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team that captured the gold medal. DeCosta Hayes also played on the 2002 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team that skated off with silver.

But there isn’t anything trivial about what Movsessian Lamoriello and DeCosta Hayes are doing: developing an all-girls program that’s continuing to grow.

Movsessian Lamoriello got a head start in youth hockey when she founded the Massachusetts Spitfires in 2001.

“Because of the experience I had with starting the Spitfires, I think Rhode Island Amateur Hockey saw a need to bring a product to Rhode Island that would have sustainability over time,” she said. “In 2012, I said, ‘Let me see if I could pull in Sara.’ I told her what was going on and we went into it together. You need people around you that you can trust because you want to create an environment for kids and not just teams.”

What Movsessian Lamoriello and DeCosta Hayes did was found the Sting in 2012, which Rhode Island Amateur Hockey Women’s Director Scott Gardner calls “the premier girls hockey association in the state.”

“Obviously since Sara and I were teammates and are close friends, it made sense to work together and give girls in Rhode Island a place to play at a competitive level,” said Movsessian Lamoriello. “We started with 8U all the way up to 19U."

“We had the vision of a full program and not just teams for our kids.”

From humble beginnings, the Sting suit up teams at the 8U, 10U Gold, 10U Blue, 12U Gold, 12U Blue, 14U Blue, 14U Gold and 16U/19U levels.

A 6U team is the program’s latest offering.

“[This season] we’re starting a 6U program,” said Movsessian Lamoriello. “We’ll work on skating and slowly ease into hockey.”

That the number of teams has increased since the Sting’s inception has not happened by accident.

“It’s proof of your product,” said Movsessian Lamoriello. “When our girls were younger, they started playing in the Rhode Island State League [the Sting also play in the New England Girls Hockey League]. Our 8Us would compete at the mite level versus boys."

“Some other families would see our girls teams. They saw us and it spread by word of mouth. When you’re an active participant in a state as small as this, it’s not hard to get out the word.”

Movsessian Lamoriello noted that she and DeCosta Hayes share their experiences — especially those of the Olympic variety — with the girls.

“Out of the gates, they were very responsive to us,” she said. “But if the kids can’t relate to you, your credentials don’t matter.”

Since many of the Sting parents are familiar with the background of Movsessian Lamoriello and DeCosta Hayes, it helped foster an interest in the program.

“We’re looking to expose them to the idea of all-girls teams,” said Movsessian Lamoriello. “And we also try to expose our girls to the college level. We skate out of Providence College’s Schneider Arena. We interact so much with the Providence College women’s team."

“They’ve been very supportive of us. I feel like the girls are aware of the steps and stages that go into being a hockey player. We’re exposing them to a great league. We’re working on their skating and off-ice development.”

That “off-ice development” includes off-ice training in addition to off-ice team-building events, like birthday parties, holiday parties and attending Providence College Friars women’s games.

But arguably the most noteworthy off-ice activity in which the Sting participated occurred Feb. 9 of this year when they joined forces with the Friars to make blankets that eventually were donated to a women’s shelter in Providence.

Each player on the Sting was paired with a Friars player, and in approximately one hour, 40 blankets were made.

“The thought process was, throughout the year, we had interaction with the PC women’s team in various ways,” said Movsessian Lamoriello. “It all stems from the PC women’s team and [senior defenseman] Lauren Klein. They put together ways they could interact with us beyond hockey.”

The Friars made pamphlets that were distributed around campus and which raised money to buy materials and supplies for this project.

“For them to initiate this and involve our group solidifies the idea of how they can make a difference,” said Movsessian Lamoriello.

She also credited the Sting’s embrace of USA Hockey’s American Development Model to its growing success.

“We play small-area games and we play cross-ice games in the Rhode Island League,” she said. “And with the New England Girls Hockey League, we were able to put together jamboree-style ADM games. The beauty was the girls got the benefit of playing with the NEGHL, so their families got a glimpse of where it’s headed.”        

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. 

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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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