The Old Bridge Junior Knights are flourishing after essentially rising from the ashes of a previous program in the northern New Jersey town.
“It’s a replacement, I guess,” said Squirt A coach and board trustee Mark Schroeder, who previously coached with the Junior Knights predecessor, the Old Bridge Wings. The Wings ultimately transferred their operations to South Brunswick in the late 1990s, and the Knights moved in to fill the void in Old Bridge.
“It was a program to develop players for Old Bridge High School,” recalled Schroeder of the Junior Knights’ formative days. “In 2000-01, it started as a structural learn-to-play program, and it’s been built out of that.”
The Junior Knights, a member of the New Jersey Youth Hockey League, now field teams ranging from Mites to Midgets and operate approximately two teams annually at each level.
“We typically run with 11 teams,” Schroeder said. “This year we’ve had a good turnout from our learn-to-play [program].”
This year the number is up to 12, including two Mite teams, two Bantam squads, and three Midget clubs. Teams are predominantly offered at the A and B levels, although there is also a Mite C squad and a Midget U-16 AA group.
“We’ve had an extraordinarily large number of Mites,” added Schroeder, noting that an independent team of 22 Mite skaters was split up into two squads of 11 players each for 2012-13.
The Junior Knight rosters every year include female players, although they haven’t yet had the numbers to ice an all-girls team.
“Only a handful of programs offer it, mostly independents,” Schroeder said.
Home ice also isn’t available to the Junior Knights all year round. Old Bridge Township John Piccolo Arena is partially exposed to the elements, and so the rink is usually only open from early October through late March. It is named for one of the Old Bridge Wings original founders, who passed away in 2009. The Junior Knights later convinced township officials to dedicate the rink in his memory.
The Junior Knights still offer a learn-to-play program on Sundays that not only teaches newcomers fundamental skills such as skating and stickhandling but also explores team concepts and game play. The program consists of 11 weekly sessions that run for 75 minutes apiece, according to oldbridgejuniorknights.com.
Besides facing off against their usual Garden State opponents, the Junior Knights had the opportunity over the holidays to play host to several teams from the Great Britain Lions Hockey Club.
“It was great,” said Schroeder. “It was a really good experience.”
He explained that the Lions were actually made up of select players from a half-dozen or so youth hockey programs in England, from towns such as Sheffield, Sutton and Cardiff.
According to a document at the Junior Knights website, the Lions were invited to play teams in the New York-New Jersey area, with players ranging in age from Mites to Midgets. They were also scheduled to attend a pair of NHL games: the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins against the New York Islanders. The Lions youngest players were even scheduled to take the ice between periods of those professional contests. Unfortunately, with the NHL lockout still underway at the time, that didn’t occur.
Still, the Lions have gone overseas with various levels of success since 1992, and this time — including the stop in Old Bridge — was perhaps their biggest American trip in the two decades they’ve been taking them.
“It was unbelievable,” said Schroeder.
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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