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New Beginnings, Bright Futures in Las Vegas

By Greg Bates - Special to USAHockey.org, 09/16/15, 2:45PM MDT

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Rebranded association has new leadership and new momentum

With Welcome Back Week upon us, it’s a new beginning in more ways than one for the Las Vegas Flames.

The youth program is filled with excitement from the staff, parents and players as it embarks on its first full year. Eric and Julie Littman are helping lead the charge, rebranding the former Las Vegas Junior Wranglers and rebuilding the program.

It’s been a busy but productive last five months as the Littmanns prepared to launch the Flames’ inaugural fall programming.

“We had to do a lot of restructuring and putting a lot of the right pieces in place, along with just organizing paperwork in many different aspects,” said Eric Littman, the program’s vice president. “We were busy trying to do that right before the summer session and summer skills and then progressing into the fall league.”

Despite the scramble, Littmann has heard a great deal of feedback from parents who say that he and his wife, who is the Flames’ president, are involved with the program for the right reason.

“The only reason we’re doing this is keep kids on the ice,” said Eric Littmann, who doesn’t have any children who play with the Flames. “We didn’t want to see a program fail. We decided to take on the responsibility of trying to keep it afloat and rebuild it and rebrand it, and that’s what we’re in the process of doing right now.”

Jenifer Picciurro, a Flames board member and parent of a son playing in the program, has witnessed positive changes in the first months of the Flames era.

“We’ve revamped the program and brought in new coaches for our Hockey 101 program and our house league,” Picciurro said.

And though the Flames are still in a rebuilding stage, the organization was able to conduct a summer skills program as well as form a house league and three traveling teams — 8U, 10U and 14U — for the fall.

“The core and the foundation of the program is the Learning-to-Skate and the Hockey 101, because that’s the future,” Littmann said. “We give a lot of good, personal instruction to the kids with a high level of coaching.”

When the Wranglers first morphed into the Flames, numbers were deteriorating, but the tide has since been stemmed. Now enrollment is steadily increasing, with 65 kids to date ranging in age from 6 (Hockey 101) to 14 years old (bantams) participating in the fall.

“When we originally took over, I don’t think there was a confident expectation that we would have any travel teams in the fall,” Littmann said. “But once we were able to prove some stability with the program, we saw a spike in people coming over. People are continuing to come over and the kids are interested in the program.”

Picciurro has certainly noticed the great attitude of the players and their parents who want to help the program succeed.

“We were just so amazed how these kids meshed together, the families meshed together,” Picciurro said. “The family environment is just amazing. I’m so happy for the people that stayed and the people that joined us, because we’re really truly a big family.”

And there’s a lot to look forward to for the sport in Las Vegas.

“There’s a lot of excitement right around the corner,” Littmann said, referencing the city’s hopeful momentum toward an NHL expansion team. “The trickle-down effect from that is going to be tremendous.”

The Flames, who practice at the Fiesta Rancho SoBe Ice Arena, are aggressively trying to build their own momentum as well, with several fundraisers planned, including a major event – a golf tournament at Red Rock Country Club – on Nov. 8.

As a board member, Picciurro would like to see the Flames’ program flourish on the ice and off this season.

“For me, I’d like to see our organization move towards doing community events,” Picciurro said. “It’s not just about playing hockey, but also getting involved in your community. In two different ways, it makes us look good to the community and it gives us a look where people want to sponsor us because they see us in the community.”

Littmann knows the first full year of the program is the toughest to build a strong foundation.

“If we can have successful seasons by our travel teams, if we can continue to build Hockey 101, if we can gain one kid on the ice a week, that would be great,” Littmann said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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