COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo./PLYMOUTH, Mich. - The USA Hockey Foundation and Compuware Arena have an agreement in place, that subject to due diligence, could result in the Foundation acquiring the Plymouth, Michigan, facility by the first half of 2015.
“Both parties felt it best to make public that there is intention to move forward with a sale, however, there are many steps in the process left to complete and nothing is final at this point,” said Mike Vellucci, representing Compuware Arena on behalf of owner Peter Karmanos. “It’s important to note that the Compuware youth program would remain at Compuware Arena and be supported by Mr. Karmanos. Further, Mr. Karmanos will continue to own the Plymouth Whalers. While there are likely to be questions, out of respect for the on-going process and confidentiality involved, we’ll have no further comment.”
“Our intention is to relocate the National Team Development Program to the facility and also use it to host and showcase other USA Hockey programs and international events,” said Ron DeGregorio, president of The USA Hockey Foundation and USA Hockey, Inc. “In addition, keeping the current users of the building is important to both us and Pete Karmanos. There are a number of issues we’re still working through, and while I know people will have questions, we’ll have nothing further to say until a final resolution is reached.”
Many sports across the board have begun to see a decline in their number of officials. USA Hockey is no different, with numbers lagging slightly behind player growth.
With that in mind, USA Hockey has made a particularly concerted effort over the last couple of years to incentivize officials to stick around.
Not surprisingly that was the main topic discussed at the annual USA Hockey's Winter Meetings, according to National Referee-in-Chief Dave LaBuda.
“I'd say the overriding tone of the meeting was us talking about retention and trying to come up with ways in which to address that particular issue,” LaBuda said. “It's a very complex situation. There are a number of different factors that go into why an official decides not to stay registered. We can only address a certain number of those factors and the rest we have to hope fix themselves in some way.”
In an effort to be proactive, USA Hockey has implemented sweeping change in the registration process for existing officials.
It started by revamping the registration fees, and while some of the other minutiae is rather hard to digest, the most notable change is the reduction of registration requirements for officials that reach the Level 3 or Level 4 status.
As soon as an official has obtained Level 3 or Level 4 status for three consecutive years, they will become eligible to apply for tenured status. In order to attain that tenured status, officials must also attend what USA Hockey is calling an advanced officiating symposium.
“It's designed to encourage people to continue their level of registration and to advance to a higher level of registration,” LaBuda said. “Just getting them to climb that ladder and try to attain the highest level of registration will make them better officials, and in turn, improve the game.”
Essentially, USA Hockey wants to send a message to its officials, making it clear that their time is important to the organization.
“We understand that people's time nowadays is becoming tighter and tighter,” LaBuda said. “We wanted to make sure that we made the entire process as efficient as possible from a time standpoint.”
It seems to be working so far as USA Hockey has been able to stabilize its registration numbers over the last few years, according to LaBuda.
“We are starting to see some movement in that retention area,” LaBuda said. “It seems like every sport is experiencing a critical loss of officials to work their sport. We are hoping that these changes in the registration process will help us retain more officials down the road. It’s been a positive step in the right direction so far.”