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Atlantic Jamboree: Lots of Hockey, Lots of Fun

By Jim Hague - Special to, 10/02/15, 3:15PM MDT


Players, families delight in annual cross-ice jamboree

​WAYNE, N.J. – Giancarlo Sears may only be 6 years old, but he already knows one of the most important aspects of hockey.

“I love to pass the puck to everybody,” said Giancarlo, who plays for the Woodbridge Wolfpack 6U squad. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.”

His teammate, 5-year-old John Gall, wasn’t as patient.

"Are we going to play yet?” John asked his mother, Victoria Porcaro. “It’s so exciting to be here.”

The youngsters were at the Wayne Ice Vault this past weekend to take part in an American Development Model 8U Jamboree, a two-day smorgasbord of hockey for kids who are beginning their march down the hockey path.

More than 100 youth teams from all over New Jersey converged on the Ice Vault, an endless parade of kids carefully carrying their sweaters on hangers, dragging equipment bags that are both bigger and heavier than they are.

The event, run by USA Hockey’s Atlantic Affiliate, gave youngsters a chance to kick-start their regular seasons that will begin soon.

Nick Regas is the hockey director at the Ice Vault and the New Jersey Bandits organization. He helped organize the 1,000 or so players in the jamboree.

“One team comes in, another goes out,” Regas said. “It starts at 7 a.m. and goes to 7 p.m. But it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great atmosphere. Look at the kids’ smiles.”

All games are played on the half-ice standard, with hard-board dividers to segment the rink. There are 25-minute periods, played with running time. No score is kept. Face-offs only happen at the start of the game. If a penalty occurs, that player is removed from the game and replaced for the remainder of his shift.

These modifications encourage kids to play, learn and efficiently develop skills instead of being a spectator for much of the game. There are no benchwarmers in the ADM.

“It’s more skill-oriented,” Regas said. “It’s really improved the pace. The skill development, skating, passing, has gone through the roof. The kids really enjoy it.”

This was the third year for the jamboree, and this year’s event had the biggest participation yet.

“They’re able to compete in a fun environment,” Regas said. “If they play now and we keep them intrigued, then they’re hooked for life. It’s huge to get them interested now.”

Parents seem to agree. Deborah Nixon’s 8-year-old son William plays for the New Jersey Bandits. She says he loves hockey and he loves the ADM jamboree format because it means he gets to play more.

“When he was on a team with 20 kids, he’d get on the ice twice in an hour,” Nixon said. “This way, the excitement level increases. He gets up in the morning and says, ‘Yes! I have hockey today.’”

And as for the atmosphere of the jamboree?

“It’s electric,” Nixon said. “It makes the kids feel like they’re important. This is their NHL. Of all the teams and kids here, maybe one might make the NHL. Right now, in their heads, they are [Henrik] Lundqvist or [Ryan] McDonagh.”

Nixon also enjoys the family aspect to the tourney.

“William wants to be here all day, being with the other kids, it becomes a family thing.”

Giancarlo’s father, Todd Sears, loves hockey and the ADM approach. Giancarlo just started skating in February but he’s already hooked.

“He came off the ice and said that he never wanted to leave,” said Sears. “It’s been a positive for him, as he develops respect for other kids and his coaches. He follows direction. He listens. I can absolutely see the change in him.”

“[John] comes from a family of hockey players,” Porcaro said. “But this teaches him a lot about teamwork and sportsmanship. It’s pretty amazing to have something like this for him.”

Scott Buzney coaches the New Jersey Stars from Princeton, N.J. He believes that the tournament serves many purposes.

“It gives the kids something to look forward to,” Buzney said. “It’s been motivation in practice for the last few weeks. I think this format is great for their age. They can see the ice, touch the puck and move the puck.

“They think it’s the greatest thing on earth. It’s the best motivational tool I’ve ever come across.”

Tony D’Anna is a coach with the Montclair Hockey Club who also applauds the ADM approach and the jamboree.

“It’s great,” D’Anna said. “You see all the smiles on the kids. They really enjoy it. It took a little while to get used to, but now I’d much rather play the smaller ice with the smaller nets. My boys played full-rink in their day. I wish they had this. USA Hockey has done a great job educating everyone about the ADM.”

So how much do the kids enjoy it?

“When I played my first game, I was extra excited,” John said. “It was better than Santa Claus.”

It doesn’t get much better than that.

NOTES: The Atlantic Affiliate hosts its annual 8U ADM jamboree in two locations, the Ice Works in Aston, Pennsylvania, and the Ice Vault in Wayne, New Jersey. This year they welcomed involvement from the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.

In Aston, 67 8U and 6U teams participated in the event, with each team playing four games over the weekend. Flyers alumnus Brad Marsh greeted them, along with packages of swag direct from Broad Street.

In Wayne, the Devils provided giveaways and interactive off-ice activities. Three-time Stanley Cup champion Ken Daneyko was also there to greet players and families, along with N.J. Devil, the mascot, who was a huge hit with the kids. The New Jersey half of the jamboree featured 100 teams playing four mini-games in a single day in a full-blown festival atmosphere with food, music and fun.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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New Season, New Rules for USA Hockey

By Greg Bates 09/24/2021, 11:45am MDT

USA Hockey board approved rule changes for 2021-22 this past June

Changes to the Registration Process for the 2022-23 Season

By USA Hockey 07/15/2022, 1:00pm MDT

Q-and-A with USA Hockey’s Director of Officiating Education Program Matt Leaf

The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.

Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.

USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?

Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.

The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.

USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process

ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.

USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?

ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.

Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.

Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.

USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?

ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.

USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?

ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.

For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.

USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?

ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.

Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.

With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.