Bob Fiedler looks at the Enfield Hockey Association as more than an outlet for kids to play hockey a couple nights each week in northern Connecticut.
“It’s not just a hockey organization,” the association’s vice president of operations said. “It’s also a hockey family.”
That fact is evidenced in the longevity local families have in the association.
“When my youngest son was playing, a family’s third son was on my team,” Fiedler said. “We have multiple kids in the association. We have parents who played in the EHA, and their kids are going through the same thing. Now that [former players] are adults, they’re also coaching. There’s a lot of loyalty to the organization.”
The loyalty that Fiedler refers to might best be exemplified by the late Wayne Vose.
Vose, a coach when the EHA was founded in 1970, was so respected that the EHA established the Wayne Vose Scholarship Award, which is presented to a student who played in the association and who plans to attend college.
“Wayne Vose is one of those generational EHA members,” Fiedler said. “I had the privilege of coaching his grandson, Thomas. Wayne was one of the original dads who coached a team back in the ‘70s.”
“Wayne and his wife never missed a game to see their grandchildren play. To win the Wayne Vose Memorial Scholarship is quite an honor. This is another example of how the organization gives back to people who have supported us.”
The EHA presents two other awards of note. One is the Enfield Hockey Scholarship. It’s given to a graduating senior who will be attending college in the fall and who has given their time back to the association over the years.
The other honor is the Craig Janney Award, which is named in honor of an EHA alumnus who played on the 1988 United States Olympic Hockey Team and was the Boston’s Bruins’ first-round pick in 1986. This award is presented to one skater in each travel division who has given maximum effort throughout the season and demonstrates premium sportsmanship both on and off the ice.
Longevity and loyalty have helped the EHA set a strong foundation. Good coaches and a commitment to USA Hockey’s American Development Model have helped the association continue to grow.
“One thing that makes our organization so good is the people involved,” Fiedler said. “They’re very dedicated. Every coach shows up with a practice plan. They’re on time. They run fast-paced practices. There isn’t any standing around and they do a lot of reps.”
“There’s a lot of instruction. If they see something wrong, they pull kids over to the side and address any skill gaps. They spend a lot of time working with the kids.”
According to Fiedler, Enfield’s coaches work extensively with their players when it comes to the ADM.
“We’re a firm supporter of the ADM,” he said. “We believe in its practice-to-game ratio and that it enables kids to get more touches [of the puck]. We don’t want kids to play a million games a season. We focus on skill development, conditioning and the physical demands of the sport. By that I mean skill development and techniques that are specific to each age group.”
“Another thing that makes us successful is older players give back to younger players. It gives younger kids something to look up to. A lot of my boys, who are midgets and bantams, help out with the learn-to-skate program. That’s our feeder program, which is going to bring kids back. This is the only sport where kids have to stand up and learn how to walk at the same time.”
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The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.
Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.
USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?
Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.
The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.
USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process
ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.
USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?
ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.
Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.
Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.
USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?
ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.
USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?
ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.
For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.
USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?
ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.
Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.
With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.