COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Hockey’s four-day Annual Congress finished here last weekend, highlighted by the news of a record number of players in the 2015-16 season, the addition of a new Flex Hockey option for associations beginning in 2016-17, and added support for development of goaltenders nationwide.
USA Hockey’s Board of Directors learned that 542,583 total players were part of the organization in 2015-16, the most in the 79-year history of USA Hockey. Overall, it represents an increase of 9,411 players from the 2014-15 total. Also, the number of coaches (56,515) and officials (23,186) grew from 2014-15, meaning that USA Hockey had a record 622,833 players, coaches and officials in 2015-16. Finally, by adding in the 498,412 non-participants (defined as administrators, team managers/volunteers, and parents), USA Hockey finished with a record universe of 1,121,245.
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“The success of our sport depends on our volunteers and we’re fortunate to have what I believe to be the very best volunteers there are,” said Jim Smith, who completed his first year as USA Hockey’s president. “Scott Blackmun (U.S. Olympic Committee CEO) said on Thursday at our Town Hall session that USA Hockey is at the top of the ladder when it comes to national governing bodies and that’s a credit to our volunteers and certainly our professional staff as well.”
“It’s terrific to see our organization continue to grow,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, “particularly the number of players, and at all age levels. We work hard to provide a safe and fun environment for everyone and on the youth side, an age-appropriate environment where every player can reach his or her full potential.”
At Saturday’s Board of Directors meeting, the Board unanimously voted to formalize a new structure at the recreational level called Flex Hockey. The initiative is designed to keep players in the game and provide opportunities to play for enjoyment, fitness, relaxation and fellowship. The focus is on creating a fun, safe environment where participants can be active in the sport of hockey with flexible participation commitment. Play will have no body checking and programs could allow optional rosters, combined age categories and age-appropriate playing rules.
“While associations have always had the ability to have no-check hockey, and some have offered it, we wanted for put together guidelines from a national standpoint for a more formalized opportunity,” said Dave Klasnick, vice president of USA Hockey and chair of the organization’s Youth Council. “We took the feedback from those throughout the country and feel like this Flex Hockey option is a positive step forward.”
On the goaltending front – led by Phil Osaer, USA Hockey ADM goaltending manager; Kevin Reiter, USA Hockey national goaltending coach, Hall of Fame goaltender John Vanbiesbrouckand Ron DeGregorio, co-chair of USA Hockey’s Board of Directors – attendees learned details of the effort to populate every affiliate with goaltending development coordinators to help further training and education of goaltenders and coaches. In addition, the new quick change goaltending pads that allow youth players at the entry level to transform into a goaltender in under a minute were showcased.
Elections also took place at the Board meeting with Gavin Regan (Potsdam, N.Y.) re-elected as Vice President and chair of the International Council; John Vanbiesbrouck (Spring Lake, Mich.) re-elected as Vice President and Junior Council chair; and Bill Hall (Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.) re-elected as Secretary. In addition, Shelley Looney (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Bruce Urban(Queen Creek, Ariz.) were both elected to Director At-Large positions and Mike Trimboli(Massena, N.Y.) was elected to serve as Director Representative to the Executive Committee. In addition, Tom Koester (Lafayette Hill, Pa.) and Joan Mariconda (Edmond, Okla.) were elected Director Emeritus.
NOTES: USA Hockey President Jim Smith presented President’s Awards to Paul George, Joe Eppolito, Ashley Bevan, Paulette DiGiacomo and Ben Smith … The Board recognized Ron DeGregorio, co-chair of USA Hockey’s Board of Directors, for being elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation Council.