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Try Hockey for Free Day Draws Record Numbers

By USAHockey.com, 11/07/13, 1:15PM MST

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A record 12,602 boys and girls participated in USA Hockey's Try Hockey for Free Day last Saturday (Nov. 2). A total of 486 locations, representing 48 states, put on events that provided free equipment and a chance to experience youth hockey for the very first time.

“We’re thrilled with the record turnout during last weekend’s Try Hockey for Free Day,” said Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of development. “We greatly appreciate the energy from our volunteers who introduced our sport to the next generation of hockey players, and the support from all levels of the game, particularly the NHL and its member clubs.”

Among the hundreds of rinks that participated in Try Hockey For Free Day, which is supported by Total Hockey and Liberty Mutual Insurance, highlights included:

  • Many NHL franchises promoted local Try Hockey for Free opportunities and several sponsored their own events.
  • Across the state of Minnesota, nearly 2,000 kids participated at 74 different events to lead the nation.
  • Over two sessions, Bay County (Mich.) Hockey Association put 150 youngsters on the ice at Bay County Civic Arena.
  • The Richmond (Va.) Generals Hockey League drew 51 children to SkateNation Plus.
  • The Oshkosh (Wis.) Youth Hockey Association had 114 first-timers.
  • Fifty-seven kids flocked to the Taos (N.M.) Youth Hockey Association event at Taos Youth & Family Center.
  • The Portland Jr. Hawks had 63 players at the Winterhawks Skating Center in Beaverton, Ore.

Complete information for rinks that participated in the event can be found at TryHockeyForFree.com. The next opportunity will be March 1, 2014, as part of Hockey Weekend Across America, presented by CCM.

NOTES: Try Hockey For Free Day is designed to provide youth hockey associations a national platform to introduce new kids to the sport. It is part of Come Play Hockey Month, a joint‐effort between USA Hockey, the National Hockey League, and NHL member clubs. Total Hockey and Liberty Mutual Insurance are the official sponsors of Try Hockey For Free Day.

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Your Latest Officiating Update

By Matt Leaf 05/26/2020, 4:45pm MDT

What to expect for 2020-21 Officiating registration

With another registration season upon us and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, this 2020-21 season is likely to be like no other. The challenges we all face to make a safe environment requires everyone involved in hockey to be creative, flexible, respectful and patient. Although we would love to have all of the answers for you right now, the reality is the unknown still exists; so, we are doing our best to bring everyone up to speed on what to expect over the summer months for registration.

USA Hockey continues to post updates regarding COVID-19 on our main website. This information is to keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for the most recent news and for other hockey information.

First, a quick update on the Advanced Officiating Symposium scheduled for Providence, R.I., in late July. The current landscape has made it impossible to conduct a program of the scope and nature that we strive to achieve through the Advanced Symposium. As of now, the 2020 event has been postponed until August 6-8, 2021, and will still take place in Providence. We appreciate the interest and commitment of those who had already registered. We will simply roll over those registrations to the 2021 event. For those still interested in signing up, more information will be available soon. Registration for the 2021 Advanced Officiating Symposium will open in September.

Officials can register for the 2020-21 season on May 26. The open book exams and the online seminar curriculum is scheduled for May 27. Check out the links to the registration rules and tips that are included in this edition of STRIPES so you are up-to-date with the current process and requirements.

SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (for those who have reached 18 years of age by June 1) are also available to complete at this time. Since COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, this is an ideal time to fulfill these requirements.

The biggest unknown is the timing and formats in which we will be able to conduct seminars. This is where creativity, flexibility and patience will be most prevalent as our volunteer District Referees-in-Chief navigate the landscape in their respective areas. The uncertainty of availability of facilities and potential restrictions on gatherings means that in-person seminars may not be posted or scheduled as quickly as it has in the past. The use of virtual seminars is being explored and will undoubtedly become part of the solution in some areas of the country. All of the necessary information will be posted on the seminar registration page as it becomes available over the summer months. Please check there regularly.

Retention of officials continues to be a significant issue within USA Hockey. Three initiatives will be emphasized prior to the start of the next season.

The first initiative is an update to the Zero Tolerance Policy. It strongly recommends for local youth hockey associations to take a more active role in spectator behavior issues and hold those of unsportsmanlike behaviors accountable for their actions. They are also mandated to support officials by strictly enforcing Rule 601: Abuse of Officials and Other Misconduct.

The second initiative asks our experienced officials (those with five or more years of experience) to take an active role in mentoring new officials.  The goal is to provide new officials with support and guidance through the registration process as well as working games. This is in an effort to create a positive experience so they will get hooked on officiating and return to our ranks year after year.  Look for more information on the Mentor Project in the coming months.

USA Hockey also recognizes the critical role assignors play in the environment that is created for local grassroots officials. Therefore, additional resources for assignors and local youth hockey associations are being created.  This initiative will encourage the parties to work together and hold each other accountable in following best practices in the operation of an officiating development program. It will also help create a positive atmosphere in which the game can be played.

Finally, the Officiating Program is launching a new weekly Officiating Webinar series in June.  These webinars are open to all officiating members free of charge and will focus on topics that are pertinent to today’s game. USA Hockey’s top instructors from professional, international and grassroots hockey will lead the sessions and a Q & A opportunity will be included after each presentation. Stay tuned to USAHockey.com, social media and your inbox for a complete listing of June webinar topics and registration information.

Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey. Don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.

COVID-19 and the 2020-21 Season

By Matt Leaf 04/02/2020, 11:30am MDT

Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”

Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future. 

USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.

On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo. 

At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.

The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1. 

SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.

The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.

The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.

These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.

Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.