It’s not every day that a Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine drives down a city street in Boston.
That was the case on Oct. 6, though, when Parkway Youth Hockey took over Center Street in the West Roxbury neighborhood for the association’s inaugural opening-day parade. PYH President Mike O’Brien came up with the idea, taking a cue from the local Little League program.
“Why can’t hockey do it if Little League does?” said Paul Conneely, the second vice president of the association that serves the West Roxbury, Roslindale and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods. “It generates excitement. People saw these kids go up Center Street, and people came up to me and said, ‘I loved it.’
“It builds a sense of pride. At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.”
Approximately 250 youngsters wearing team uniforms marched in the parade and were preceded by a fire truck, a Massachusetts State Police canine cruiser, a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine and bagpipers.
“Where do you see something like this?” Conneely said. “[The Zamboni] was the highlight. The parade wasn’t about just showing up at the rink and playing hockey. It was about kids hanging out with each other and having a good time.”
Leading the parade was Parkway’s squirt A team that captured last season’s Massachusetts Tier II championship.
“I coached a few kids on the squirt team at the mite level, and they used the ADM — small-area and cross-ice games,” Conneely said. “We practiced on a small rink at Hyde Park.
“Quite frankly, that was the best thing I’ve ever done with the mite team.”
Looking back, Conneely said USA Hockey’s American Development Model might have been one of the “best things” that’s happened to PYH.
“The ADM was a 50-50 proposition,” he said. “Half thought it was ridiculous. But as a whole, we embraced it. [Babson College coach] Jamie Rice even came in to run a coaching clinic.
“As a board, we decided to integrate the ADM as much as possible, especially in terms of how they should practice small-area games. It’s helped our program tremendously.”
Conneely was quick to note that the age-appropriate ADM guidelines for players from mites to midgets have helped PYH retain more players and, in some cases, attract kids who are new to the game.
“Absolutely it has,” he said. “The way it’s helped is we’ve gone exclusively to cross-ice games [for mites]. The parents feel their kid has fun playing cross-ice hockey. Once they’re in, they’re hooked.”
This season, PYH consists of six mite non-travel teams in addition to two bantam, two midget, three peewee and four squirt travel teams that play in the Valley Hockey League. And under the umbrella of the McLaughlin Development League is a house program, a learn-to-skate program and instructional hockey.
As a result, PYH coaches and administrators focus on teaching and developing skills while always emphasizing the importance of sportsmanship, fair play, teamwork and responsibility in the overall context of having fun.
PYH also utilizes something else that helps entice more kids to play ice hockey: Coppinger Court Hockey, which is a street hockey league.
“We’ve given the kids a street hockey league that offers development for kids 4 to 12,” Conneely said. “Maybe 300 kids play in this league.
“It’s drawn kids into playing street hockey, which, in turn, has prompted kids to play ice hockey. Many parents have said, ‘My kid loves street hockey, so how do we get him to play ice hockey?’ Now, he plays street hockey with his own age group and feels like this is fun. Then, they’re more inclined to try ice hockey.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.