Youth hockey programs in Marathon Country in north- central Wisconsin’s Marathon County are scattered, and . Up until the early 2000s, opportunities for all-girls hockey were scarce.even scarcer.
The Central Wisconsin Storm has filled that void, specifically for girls living in Everest, Mosinee and Wausau.
“The Storm offers these three communities, as well as outlying areas, the opportunity to learn and play girls’ hockey,” said Storm committee member Brenda Piskula, noting that the next closest team is in Stevens Point, at least an hour’s drive to the south.
The Storm first stepped on the ice for the 2003–04 season and included girls from Everest, Mosinee and Wausau. More girls signed up to play the following season, which enabled the Storm to field teams at the Under-10, U12, and U14 levels.
Then, two seasons later, each team qualified for the state tournament, with the U10 and U12 teams each finishing second. That scenario was repeated in the 2006–07 season, with the U10 team capturing the Storm’s first state championship. The U12 team won its first state title in 20after the 2007–08 season while and the U14 team finished third.
With the surge in interest, the Storm played a big role in creating a local high school varsity team. The Storm name is also used for a co-operative team of four area high schools: D.C. Everest, Mosinee, and Wausau East and Wausau West.
”I think all of the girls are excited to play at the high school level,” Piskula said. “HBy having the youth program it only helps to build the friendships and the teamwork that they’ll need in high school. They’ll get an early start at it.
“[The Central Wisconsin Storm] absolutely serves as a feeder program. If you take away the youth program, then you don’t have a high school team.”
Wauasu West boys’ coach Pete Susens is leading the girls’ co-op team this season. Susens is Wisconsin’s winningest prep hockey coach with 573 career victories on his résumé.
Despite the success enjoyed by the Storm, winning championships isn’t the organization’s primary purpose.
“TI think the focus is on skill development, which leads to teams having winning records,” Piskula said. “The focus isn’t on winning. You must have skill development in order to get there.
“We’re committed to maximizing skills development of our young girls in a positive atmosphere of fun, competition, sportsmanship and equal participation.”
One way the Storm encourages girls to become interested in this sport is by holding try-hockey-for-free days.
“We held two try-hockey-for-free programs last season,” Piskula said. “We’re doing this to get girls interested in hockey at a younger level.
“We look forward to getting more girls involved in hockey and to help make hockey a positive life experience.”
Playing on the Olympic-sized rink in Everest has been another advantage for the storm, Piskula said.
After starting the program playing on a smaller rink, Piskula said they soon learned that the bigger rink suited all levels of the program better. The various teams also don’t have to travel all over the area for practices and games.
The next step for the Storm is to get more girls to try playing hockey and persuade them to play for a high-level, all-girls team, Piskula said.
“I don’t think it has to do with other sports,” she said when asked if it’s difficult to get girls to register with the Storm. “It’s a matter of getting girls interested in hockey at an early age.
“Then it’s a personal preference if they want to play with a girls’ program or on a boys’ team. Some enjoy the camaraderie they get with playing on a girls team. Our goal is to make this the most desired girls hockey association in Wisconsin.”
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It’s an off-season that continues to be full of changes, reactionary and planned, as all of us in the USA Hockey Officiating Department forge forward in the new normal. Our efforts are consistently focused on ensuring safety, fun and development for players, coaches and officials.
One issue that continues to arise is the abuse of officials and the effects it has on retention. To counter and help improve the environment, USA Hockey’s rules sub-committee has been focused and committed to solutions.
This sub-committee was established to define and recommend programs to confront this problem. As a result of this, a first step was taken at the recent Annual Congress to amend the Zero Tolerance Policy. Several proposals were made and adopted by the Board of Directors to constructively confront this problem.
These changes strongly recommend things like game officials introducing themselves to the coach during warm-ups in order to start the communication process and set some guidelines for in-game communication.
The parents/spectators section was amended to clearly state the behavioral expectations of this group. Another strong recommendation added to this section was to establish a parent/spectator monitor by each local youth hockey team for all games. Ideally, this monitor will address and de-escalate parent/spectator behavior before it impacts the game and the officials have to stop play.
Also added, a reminder to administrators that they are responsible for taking any appropriate disciplinary action towards parents/spectators that are removed from a game as a result of a violation of the Zero Tolerance Policy.
Navigating New Norms
As we all still grapple with the effects of the pandemic, the Officiating Program has been working to develop effective ways to fulfill our educational responsibilities when it comes to the annual registration process. To that end, the only process that provides educational value and a safe environment is with virtual seminars. A format and curriculum was developed and approved by the District RIC’s. This was distributed to all of the District RIC’s for implementation as they see fit. Due to the many different and ever-changing restrictions around the country, if the situation arises where in-person seminars can be held then the District RIC can also schedule them as needed. The Virtual Seminar Program is the best solution for this season. As situations change, the Officials Section will revisit this program for all future seasons.
Every Tuesday, the Officiating Education Program will present an hour-long webinar on various topics of interest and importance to not only USA Hockey’s officials but the entire membership. These panel discussions will cover topics such as abuse and zero tolerance, communication, player safety, as well as items such as game management and positioning within the three recognized USA Hockey Officiating systems. Panelists will include some of the top officials in the country and other experts from the hockey world whose goal will be to inform, entertain and encourage the USA Hockey community to learn more about officiating.
Getting officials from their first year to their third season is a key focus for the Officiating Education Program. Helping officials understand the basics of the craft and giving them a supportive resource is what the Mentor Project is all about. USA Hockey is helping local Officials Associations put together the framework where a mentor gets matched with a new official and works with them not only in their first month or second, but is a constant resource for the new official throughout their first couple of seasons. Learning about how to read the rule book, navigate the challenges of getting assignments and become a proficient official are all goals of the mentor project.
Again, we hope everyone is safe and sane as we prepare for a different landscape of hockey – but we are excited to welcome it, and you, back to the game.
See you at the rink!
Tag(s): Players & Parents