Prior to the 2012-13 season, the Western Connecticut Junior Colonials had never won a state championship. Then, in the spring of 2013, the Danbury-based association’s Peewee A team annexed the Connecticut Hockey Conference Tier III title.
One year later, the Junior Colonials Mite A and Bantam B teams followed suit with two more state titles.
Junior Colonials President John Browne was quick to point out that the recent spate of success was no coincidence.
“We’ve used the ADM since its infancy,” said Browne, referring to USA Hockey American Development Model. “It’s instrumental in the development of our overall program. The obvious benefit of the ADM was the Peewee A team that won the 2013 Tier III state championship.
“Last year, our Mite As and Bantams Bs won state titles. That’s three state championships in the last two years. All three were accomplished through the benefits of the ADM.”
The ADM’s age-appropriate guidelines are designed to improve player development from mites through age 18 and beyond, and one part of that development is ensuring the players have a positive experience on the ice. The Junior Colonials have seen that first hand.
“The reaction is they’re having fun when they’re out there,” Browne said. “They’re developing into very good hockey players. The specific stations break up practices and allow for (more) skill development. It really allows them to enhance those skills.”
Upon seeing the results of ADM, the parents of the Junior Colonials have embraced the guidelines too.
“The parents come in with their kids and want them to be hockey players,” Browne said. “But when they see the ADM in a practice, they realize the benefits and realize how quickly their children will develop as hockey players.”
That, in turn, has led the Junior Colonials to change their philosophy in regard to coaches.
“Specific to our organization, we’re bringing in non-fathers — coaches who are more independent and who adhere to and agree with the ADM,” Browne said. “We want coaches who really believe in the ADM.”
Despite the recent success of Junior Colonials teams at the state level, the association doesn’t believe in a win-at-all-costs philosophy.
“Winning is fine,” Browne said. “Obviously, it’s a lot of fun to win. But our priorities are development and making sure kids have fun on the ice. And when they get off the ice, they can’t wait to get back on the ice for the next practice or game.”
The Junior Colonials have also had great success in attracting new players. In fact, the association placed among the top five in the nation for registering new players through USA Hockey’s CCM Incentive Award Program in 2012. As a result, the Junior Colonials received 20 sets of helmets and gloves.
“We did a good job of advertising and spreading the word,” Browne said. “We are trying to grow the program through the greater Danbury area. We’ve held a try-hockey-for-free day where we provided players the opportunity to get fundamental instruction, which helps grow our program.”
The program has grown to the point where, this season, it fields two mite teams that play cross-ice games, two squirt teams, two peewee teams, two bantam teams and two half-year midget teams. The half-season format allows the players to also play high school hockey.
“This past year, we’ve seen an increase in the number of kids registered from last season,” Browne said. “We hope that number keeps growing so we can continue to grow the game in the greater Danbury area.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.