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USA Disabled Hockey Festival a Showcase of Ability

By Wright Wilson - Special to USAHockey.com, 04/12/16, 10:30AM MDT

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Players like 12-year-old Ben Stewart revel in unique opportunity

FRASER, Mich. -- Take one look at Ben Stewart, and it’s easy to see he stands out from the other players on the rink.

For one, his red-white-and-blue USA Hockey jersey is a bit different from the others. He sported a purchased souvenir version, since the team-issued one he might have worn draped well past his knees.

That’s because Ben is a seventh-grader and he’s skating among fully-grown men. In this game, he gives up about two feet and roughly 100 pounds to the other players, and that makes him even more noticeable.

Take a closer look, and you’ll see that Ben’s right arm is amputated below the elbow.

But that’s not why he stands out. This time, it’s how he fits in.

The 12-year-old from Dayton, who plays hockey “four or five times a week” with the Ohio Blue Jackets AAA travel team, got an opportunity to play with the USA National Standing Amputee A Division program at the USA Disabled Hockey Festival in suburban Detroit this April.

Despite skating against players from 20 to 56 years in age, Ben played regular shifts and even scored a couple of times throughout the four tournament games, drawing praise from his new teammates and opposing skaters alike.

“He’s really enjoying it,” said his father, Kevin. “He’s being used; it’s not just token time on the ice. The other team played him straight up, I appreciate that. He can play a very high level. He skates, he does everything that any 12-year-old kid does pretty well. I’m glad he could fit in this weekend and was able to contribute.”

Ben’s teams back home are able-bodied, and only once has he had a teammate with a similar physical situation, so being a part of the standing amputee tournament was a somewhat different experience for him.

“It was harder than I’m used to,” he said. “I’m used to kids my size, my age. [The adults] have longer strides so they’ll catch up faster. It just made it more difficult. Mostly I had better footwork. I’d accelerate around them, but their reach could probably save them a little bit.”

Beyond the weekend’s hockey games, Ben went back home to Dayton Friday night — a four-hour trip from metro Detroit — so he could fulfill a promise to his mother, Tammy, to run a 5-kilometer road race together on Saturday morning before returning to the rink. But it didn’t seem to slow him one bit once he got back on the ice.

Ben has been without a full right arm since birth due to Amniotic Band Syndrome, but that didn’t dissuade him from pursuing a variety of sports, including soccer and football in addition to running and hockey.

“From the moment he could stand, he figured it was easier to put skates on than to walk,” Kevin said. “He started rollerblading around the house and he’s been going ever since. He’s been around hockey his whole life.”

Although Ben occasionally used a prosthetic device at school, he doesn’t around the rink.

“There’s no special equipment [for me], and I hold the stick not normal, but not special,” he said. “I’m not the best player, but I’m not the worst player. On most of my roller hockey teams I play for, I’m probably one of the better players.”

Dr. David Crandell, President of the American Amputee Hockey Association, was impressed with Ben’s level of play, and hopes to make more young players facing a similar situation aware of USA Hockey’s Warrior/Standing Amp program.

“When they get together here, it’s really their only time to play like players,” Crandell said. “We do have players on the team playing with upper-limb amputations, we have players with lower-limb amputations, and one of the players here from Michigan plays on two prosthetic legs. If you watched the game, you probably couldn’t tell who it was.”

In a setting such as the USA Hockey Disabled Festival, the players stand out because of their ability, not because of their disability.

“What you should see is high–quality hockey. What you don’t see is the impairment,” Crandell said. “These are folks who are obviously playing hockey at a very high level, and despite the fact that they have a physical impairment they don’t let that stop them from competing.”

Ben, who hopes to take his game all the way to the NHL, appears to be up for any game at any time.

“This is the first time he’s got the opportunity to play with a team of amputees and it’s been phenomenal experience to play with guys at this level,” his father said. “I’ve been impressed. He seems to be a part of the team right now and I want him to continue to be a part of the team.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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COVID-19 and the 2020-21 Season

By Matt Leaf 04/02/2020, 11:30am MDT

Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”

Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future. 

USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.

On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo. 

At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.

The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1. 

SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.

The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.

The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.

These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.

Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.

USA Hockey Announces National Background Screening Program

By USA Hockey 04/02/2020, 12:00pm MDT

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Why must officials be screened?
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Who is required to be screened?
Officials who are 18 years-old (or older) prior to June 1 of the current year.

Any official, 18 years-old (or older) without a completed valid background screen (national or USAH Affiliate coordinated) after April 1, 2019.

All national background screens are valid for two seasons, and starting on June 1, 2020 a national background screen must be completed and in good standing before receiving an officiating card and crest.

What are the timelines for launching the national background screen program?
Beginning on April 1, 2020, background screening will be conducted by our national background screen vendor, National Center for Safety Initiatives (NCSI), and information on background screening will be included following your registration.

As of March 22, 2020, applicants will no longer be able to submit new USA Hockey background screens through USAH Affiliate vendors, and will not be able to submit new screens through NCSI until April 1, 2020.

If you were screened after April 1, 2019 for the 2019-20 season, your screen is valid for the 2020-21 season, and you will not need to be screened under the new system until prior to the 2021-22 season. If your most recent screen is from prior to April 1, 2019, you will need to be screened under the new system, after April 1, 2020, in order to participate in the upcoming season.

All new screens submitted through the new NCSI national screening program after April 1, 2020 will be valid for two seasons.  For example, a screen submitted and approved on April 15, 2020 will be valid through the end of the 2021-22 season, which is August 31, 2022.

How can members complete their required background screen?
A link to submit for screening will be included in your membership registration confirmation email and posted in the drop-down menu under the OFFICIALS tab at USAHockey.com.

Background screens through NCSI under the national program will cost $30 for all domestic screens. For international screens (members who have lived outside of the U.S. for six consecutive months in any one county during the past 7 years) the flat rate fee is $150. If that country is solely Canada, the flat rate fee is $75.

Where can members go with questions about the national background screen program?
Please refer to the USA Hockey Background Screen webpage at USAHockey.com.

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