The Arvada (Colorado) Hockey Association was one of the first organizations in the country to be designated a USA Hockey Model Association for adopting USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
The association in suburban Denver has always been a big proponent of ADM and its focus on fun through age-appropriate, long-term athlete development.
And when 8U through 18U players were allowed to get back on the ice earlier this summer after two-and-a-half months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their reaction was not surprising.
“The kids got on the ice and they were so excited,” said Kibby McKibbon, hockey director for the AHA. “It was unbelievable.
“I’m a huge ADM advocate. What our kids are getting is no different than what they usually get. They’re used to station-based stuff, some smaller game stuff, long-term athlete development.”
With AHA’s priority on safety, some things are different, including the number of players allowed on the ice at one time.
In addition, everyone is administered a temperature check prior to entering the facility. The players are then assigned a locker room. There is a limit of five players per locker room and players are asked to come fully dressed, if possible.
Skaters, instructors and staff are all required to wear masks while in the facility. Colorado was one of the first states to adopt the mask mandate. Spectators are not allowed in the arena.
The two rinks at the facility – Apex Center Ice Arena -- are staggered by 30-minute intervals to avoid crossover of skaters in the lobby and locker rooms.
Following their practice, kids have 10 minutes to exit. The staff then has ample time to clean before the next group enters. All door handles, handrails, benches, walls and any “touch” areas are constantly wiped down with disinfectant.
“We have not had an outbreak,” McKibbon said. “We think that everybody wearing the masks in the room and the cleaning procedures that are put in place, the social distancing that happens in the locker rooms has proven to be very, very effective.”
On the ice, social distancing is happening almost by default as four to five kids work on skills in stations.
“We’re absolutely trying to have a blast with them,” McKibbon said. “It’s new times and we’re adjusting, and I never thought we’d have 30 minutes in between ice sessions.”
The AHA, which had almost 500 kids in its association at the end of last season, is currently running its summer skills and drills small group sessions. McKibbon is also running his annual “Kibby Camp,” which is working on skill development. This year has been a little different twist.
“We aren’t doing anything off ice; we kind of stayed away from that this summer,” McKibbon said. “I think that was an easy one for us early to say, ‘You know what, let’s pump the brakes on the amount of time on that end. Let’s not do that part.’”
“I know mom and dad want to see them play hockey and they want to see them in a game,” McKibbon said. “But we all know the development happens in a well thought out, well-ran practice.”
Having more opportunities to practice is going to be just what McKibbon is hoping for in the AHA when games resume.
“Let’s just envision that the season isn’t going to be normal in any way, shape or form,” McKibbon said. “Our kids are going to be used to training for the skillsets, and being age appropriate skills at that, and at some point, this might benefit them even more. When you unleash them in [the season], they will have spent a lot more time developing IQ through smaller games, individual skills, skating ability.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.