The Howard Huskies are expanding. At the end of the 2010-11 season, 303 boys were registered in the Maryland-based program. Today that number is 360 — an increase of 16 percent.
Among the many reasons for this increase in registrations is USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
“We’ve grown every year over the last three years, which is good,” Huskies President Bud Bonato said. “A lot of it is we’ve had success at some levels. But we’ve embraced the ADM. Years ago we were one of the first clubs in the [Washington, D.C. metropolitan] area to do cross ice.
“Initially, there was a lot of resistance. It was new to parents. Many felt their kids wouldn’t be playing full ice. Then we had kids doing it and parents really liked it. We’ve done some half ice but more cross ice.”
Currently the Huskies have three cross-ice teams plus five teams each at the Peewee, Bantam and Midget levels.
Both the Midget Blue and Midget Silver teams have advanced to the Maryland state finals (the colors represent the talent levels on each team with blue being the highest level of ability).
“We’ve had success at that age level,” Bonato said. “Every year we’re contenders for the Chesapeake Bay League championship. Another reason why we’ve had success is that we’ve had stability in coaching at the various age levels.”
The Huskies’ Hockey Day in Columbia — which is held at the Columbia (Md.) Ice Rink — proved to be a success earlier this season.
“It was a come-and-try-hockey for free day,” Bonato explained. “We played games, we tested how fast your shot is and we had a three-on-three skills competition. Interspersed in that we had our Midget A team and Squirt team play games and our girls’ team played their first game ever.
“We got the word out. The funny thing is we had some out-of-town teams come and they had such a good time that they took part in it.”
The December holiday period also is a special time for the Huskies.
“Every day around Christmas our club partners with a group called the Patterson Park Stars,” Bonato said. “We invite inner-city kids from under-privileged backgrounds and we have player and parent volunteers that spend a morning with them.
“They have breakfast, meet with Santa and then go out on the ice and play games. We also have gift cards and presents for the kids.”
Howard’s Peewee Blue and Bantam Blue teams each received a “present” of sorts in January when they traveled to Boston for a series of games at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
“Mike Donnelly coaches our Peewee Blue team and Bob Tibbs is our Bantam Blue coach,” Bonato said. “Mike’s been doing this every year in January. They’ve gone to Canada and all over the place.
“This year they took in a Boston University game and got to meet Mike Eruzione.
Right, THAT Mike Eruzione: the captain of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team.
“The kids had a question-and-answer session with Mike,” said Bonato, “and he was fantastic with them.”
The Howard Huskies also host the Eastern Regional Silver Stix Tournament, which over the last six years has grown to the point where this season 120 teams participated.
“It’s grown so much that we have five facilities and 10 sheets of ice in the tournament,” Bonato said. “It’s a massive undertaking.”
And with good reason, considering that when the Huskies first began hosting the Silver Stix Tournament around Thanksgiving, only six teams at the Mite, Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels participated.
“If you talk to people, they’ll say it’s become such a part of the fabric of the community,” Bonato said. “It’s done so much for our families. To have all this growth is a lot of fun. Plus, we don’t have to go anywhere and are spending time at the rink.”
At season’s end, the Howard Huskies hold an annual awards banquet that, according to Bonato, invariably draws 600 people to the Turf Valley Country Club.
“We’ll pack the place,” he said. “We have an award that’s presented every year, the Tommy Nicoli Award [Nicoli was a Huskie who died in an automobile accident]. It’s given to a Midget player based on sportsmanship, character and academics.
“Michael Peters won it a couple of years ago. He was the starting goalie this season for Middlebury as a true sophomore and is a great student who has great character.”
The Huskies also present Sportsmanship Awards to a player at the Squirt, Peewee and Bantam levels.
“Kids strive for that,” Bonato said. “The bottom line is we want kids to play no matter what level. Hockey’s a game you can play as an adult.
“The level changes, but you can play a long time. It’s a life-long thing that you can do.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still a reality, the USA Hockey Officiating Program is looking forward to getting everyone back on the ice in what will likely become the “new normal.”
As we get closer to minimizing the effect the virus has had on our everyday lives, the successful completion of our USA Hockey National Tournament series and the IIHF Under-18 World Championships is a promising indication that hockey is back and will be better than ever for the 2021-22 season.
As early player registrations mirror those trends from prior to the pandemic, the following is some information as to what officials should expect over the summer months and for the start of next season.
SUMMER DEVELOPMENT CAMPS AND ADVANCED SYMPOSIUM ARE BACK!
The Summer Development Camp Program is being downsized slightly as some facilities are still not available this summer, but we have latched onto the USA Hockey Player Festivals to be able to provide a quality development experience for those officials who qualify.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium is scheduled for early August in Providence, Rhode Island. USA Hockey is working closely with the host hotel to maximize participation while still adhering to state and local COVID-19 restrictions. The goal is to be able to accommodate everyone interested in attending this one-of-kind get together of top ice hockey officials in a dynamic and engaging program.
USA Hockey is in the midst of our quadrennial rule changes process, meaning there will be an updated 2021-2025 version of the Playing Rules Book prior to the start of the season.
Although the fundamental structure of the game will not change, there are several rule changes likely to be adopted that will require officials to pay attention to their rule knowledge and commit to the proper application of the rules. Officials will play a major role in USA Hockey’s efforts to improve the culture of body checking and, in return, officials will be provided more support through organizational initiatives to curb abuse of officials and unsportsmanlike behavior.
REGISTRATION JUNE 1
Officials registration for the 2021-22 season will open on June 1. However, since the updated playing rules will not be adopted until the USA Hockey Annual Congress in mid-June, hard copies of the 2021-25 Officials Playing Rules and Casebook will not be available until early August. A summary of the adopted rule changes and a PDF version of the updated rulebook should be available relatively soon after the Annual Congress. As a result, the open book exam, online module curriculum and seminar program will become available during the week of June 21.
One of the outcomes of the pandemic was it required us to take a hard look at our seminar program and make significant adjustments to best prepare our membership for success on the ice. Officials should look for the re-introduction (local restrictions permitted) of the in-person level 1 and level 2 seminars, with the level 1 format returning to an all-day seminar experience. The level 1 standardized seminar curriculum will include the online module curriculum as part of this experience in an effort to streamline their registration process. Level 2 officials will experience a half-day in-person seminar which will include an ice session.
The virtual “zoom” classroom seminar appears to be here to stay for level 3 and level 4 officials, even though some areas may choose to also provide in-person seminars for our most experienced team members. Either way, the goal is to be able to accommodate the needs of all of our officiating members with options that provide flexibility and efficiency. The online module curriculum for level 3 and level 4 officials is also being modified to streamline their registration process without compromising the educational value.
The level 2-3-4 closed book exams will also follow a modified format like last season where they will be able to complete the exam online within seven days of the seminar they attend. It is important to note these modified closed book exams will still be timed, so they must be completed in one sitting.
ADAPTING THE BEST WE CAN
The final thing to expect for the 2021-22 season? There will likely still be some restrictions and protocols that must be followed in certain local areas. The game may not look exactly like it did at the start of the 2019-20 season. Although we do not expect any full-fledged shutdowns as happened during the 2020-21 season, we will still need to be diligent and follow local guidelines in order to keep our game and its participants safe and on the ice.
USA Hockey is excited about the opportunity to get everyone who was involved prior to the pandemic safely back on the ice. There is also huge growth potential as people feel more comfortable to get back into daily life and look for new ways to engage. There is no reason why hockey cannot be that avenue where everyone is welcomed, included and encouraged in a way that a lifelong passion for the game is nurtured.
USA Hockey thanks you for your continued support and your involvement in our programs.
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