Already one of the nation’s most successful youth hockey programs, Detroit’s HoneyBaked Hockey Club keeps girls happy and coming back thanks to off-ice initiatives and a commitment to the most advanced coaching methodologies.
HoneyBaked held its second annual celebration of IIHF World Girls Hockey Weekend on Oct. 8 at the Suburban Ice-Farmington Hills rink northwest of downtown Detroit.
And for the second year in a row, HoneyBaked Girls Hockey Director/19U coach Lyle Phair not only felt it was a success but also served a distinct purpose.
“Growth of the game is the No. 1 priority,” said Phair. “It’s about celebrating how much fun it is for girls to play hockey. It’s not a sport girls typically think about playing in Michigan. We want to try to get more girls to play the game.
“The girls could bring friends. It raises awareness of girls playing the game.”
One of the ways the association tries to channel that awareness is by getting prospective players out on the ice to give the sport a try. Girls Hockey Weekend was no exception.
“We have a try-hockey-for-free-day on that day,” said Phair. “Even if they don’t try it that day, if they hear about it, this may spark their interest.
“They can start this week or a month from now. For us, it’s an ongoing effort.”
While try-hockey-for-free-day got new girls out on the ice, HoneyBaked also hosted its first ever “Girls Hockey Party” to celebrate the young ladies that already play hockey at the Suburban Ice-Farmington Hills rink.
The party focused on all the great off-ice aspects of playing hockey, like friendships and camaraderie with teammates. Players could venture into the game room where there was a photo booth, tic-tac-toe with hockey pucks, punch-a-puck for prizes, a Plinko board and even a cookie decorating station.
One particular highlight for the players was the pie-in-the-face challenge.
Each girl who participated in a contest asking them to design a poster featuring their idea of the best thing about girls hockey, or brought money that could be donated to hurricane relief efforts, received a whipped cream pie to toss at their coach.
“I think the whole weekend was important,” said Phair. “In our eyes, it’s a celebration at a time the IIHF chose to have a celebration of the game. Other girls teams came into the rink and played.
“Whether it was donating money or throwing a pie in the face, we saw it as something we could do as a part of it.”
The HoneyBaked Club consists of Tier I teams at 12U, 14U, 16U and 19U.
“We’ve had the full number of teams for at least eight years,” said Phair.
HoneyBaked also has built a reputation for winning state championships and developing girls to play at the collegiate level. Several have been selected to participate in USA Hockey National Player Development Camps.
“We work hard at getting new girls into the game, developing their skills and helping them enjoy hockey,” said Phair. “We’ve had girls come into our program from Day 1 and work their way up through the program to play at whatever level they’re capable of playing. We have girls developing into really good players who’ve been invited to national camps.
“We have excellent coaches and have a strong development model. There are girls who played boys hockey until a certain age and then transitioned to girls hockey. Given our tradition, it has attracted girls to come to us.”
One of those girls who was attracted to HoneyBaked is current Boston College defenseman and U.S. National Women’s Team player Megan Keller, who grew up in Farmington Hills.
“Megan is a great kid and obviously a great hockey player,” said Phair. “Beyond that, she’s a great person and a great role model.
“She comes here during the summer and is very active with the players. She loves hockey and is one of those kids who understands her significance in the game and tries to give back to it.”
Age-appropriate training is one of the HoneyBaked Club’s staples.
“For the people who’ve been involved in our organization, this enables us to develop skills and hockey players,” said Phair. “Age-appropriate training is a huge part of it. We make a concerted effort in our program.
“We continue that all the way up. We understand what concepts and skills should be taught at each age level, and USA Hockey has done a good job of communicating the ADM principles. It’s helped parents and players understand it better. Coaches too. You always can learn as a coach.
“It’s great stuff. There is research behind it and it’s been proven over time.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.