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McCormack Spreads Hockey Love in California

By Mike Scandura - Special to USA Hockey, 11/16/16, 12:30PM MST


Longtime coach implements on and off-ice vision at Simi Valley Iceoplex

Pat McCormack gave a straightforward response when asked why in August of 2012 he accepted the position of director of the InHouse Hockey program for the Iceoplex in Simi Valley, California. 

“I’d been coaching here for about 15 years,” said McCormack. “I was asked to take the program and grow it further. I accepted the position because I wanted everybody in the community to love hockey as much as we do.” 

He is also the head coach of Mariners InHouse Hockey there, responsible for over 200 players.

McCormack’s ability to “grow the program” is underscored by the relationship he’s established with the Los Angeles Kings. 

“I’ve developed a very good relationship with the Los Angeles Kings,” he said. “They bring many of their new youth programs to us to develop and then use that as a model for other Southern California rinks to follow. 

“One example is the Lil’ Kings program. We’ve been recognized by USA Hockey as having the highest retention rate in the United States for our introductory hockey programs. Our InHouse program has doubled over the last four years.”

What McCormack has done to grow the program is in the same spirit of what USA Hockey has done throughout its 80-year history. It also speaks to the wisdom of Iceoplex General Manager Scott Slinger. 

“Pat’s vision fits perfectly with our philosophy of providing local youth hockey with a healthy character building experience,” Slinger said in a news release at the time of McCormack’s appointment. “His experience and natural ability to relate to kids and their families combined with his passion for introducing our programs to a rapidly expanding customer base makes him a natural choice for heading up our youth InHouse Hockey program.”

To say McCormack and Slinger have the same philosophy would be an understatement. 

“I’m very aware of the impact a coach can have on a young player,” said McCormack. “It’s very simple. The examples that we set now will not only create a life-long love of the best sport on the planet, but will encourage the kind of individual and team values that will be of benefit in other aspects of our kids’ lives. 

“I’m trying to help create confident, self-reliant, and productive adults. To me this goes an important step even beyond home, school, work, and community. I hope that they'll be comfortable and feel the same sense of accomplishment even when they're alone. I like to celebrate success not by the score, but by effort and improvement.”

McCormack wasn’t a stranger to hockey when he moved to California in 1976. In fact, he developed his passion for the sport while growing up in Massachusetts. 

“I started playing pond hockey when I was five,” said McCormack. “Even at elementary school age we worked very hard. At the end of the summer when our small pond dried up, we dropped trees, pulled stumps and expanded it to a respectable sheet of ice. Like all New Englanders, when we went to play, we carried a stick, a bag of gear, and a shovel. 

“I went on to be the captain of my high school team [Northeast Metropolitan Regional in Wakefield, Massachusetts]. Sometime after I came to California, I played adult Division I hockey. Frankly, I don’t think I belonged there but they kept asking me to come back.”

The lessons McCormack learned in New England have held him in good stead since he’s lived in California and by extension also have benefitted the Iceoplex InHouse program. 

“Southern California has not been a traditional hockey market,” he said. “To promote the sport, we've needed to make families aware that hockey is statistically much safer than most other youth sports and that discipline, pride and humility are what define the hockey community.

“Locally, people now know there is a rink here. More and more kids have classmates that play hockey and regionally, not only in southern California but around the West Coast, people have become aware of our success here at Iceoplex as well.”

As part of its mission, Iceoplex is “committed to providing a family-oriented hockey environment where players of all ages and skill levels can look forward to safe and enjoyable hockey experiences.” 

McCormack has taken that mission and skated with it as fast as humanly possible. 

“We involve families,” he said. “We have the best kids and the best families in all of sports. We create a community and a culture where not only the kids, but the parents, make life-long friends.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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QUESTIONWho determines if a player is injured, the Referee or the injured player's Head Coach or Trainer? Should the Injured player be allowed to remain on the bench or be required to leave the game?

ANSWER: Since almost all game officials are not medical professionals, USA Hockey instructs them to use their best judgment while determining  whether a player is injured, and always error on the side of caution. Ultimately, it is the decision of the player and team staff to determine if the player should remain in a game. The best an official can do is make note of any "irregular behavior" and bring this to the coach's attention (and it would be very wise to record and file this incident in a summary email report to the Local Supervisor of Officials).


QUESTION: In the offensive zone, is a player allowed to use his hands while the puck is on the ice to hold it for himself (essentially, he covered the puck with his hand and moved it to himself after he fell)?

ANSWERRule 618.a in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“Play shall be stopped and a last play face-off shall occur anytime a player (except the goalkeeper) closes his hand on the puck and does not immediately drop the puck to the ice.

A minor penalty for delay of game shall be assessed to any player, other than the goalkeeper, who picks the puck up from the ice with his hand(s) while play is in progress.

A penalty shot/optional minor penalty shall be awarded to the non-offending team anytime a defending player, other than the goalkeeper, picks the puck up off the ice with his hand or holds the puck while play is in progress and the puck is in the goal crease. If this infraction occurs while the goalkeeper has been removed from the ice and prevents and obvious and imminent goal, a goal shall be awarded to the non-offending team.”

The “spirit and intent” of this rule is to keep the puck in play at all times and prevent a player from making the puck “unplayable by an opponent” by covering it.


QUESTIONWhile in Team A’s defensive zone, a player on Team A blocks a shot by a player on Team B. The puck hits an un-padded part of the body and the player immediately falls to the ice with an obvious injury. The official allows play  continue while the injured player lies on the ice unable to move. Team B then gains possession of the deflected puck and proceeds to score a goal. Should the goal be allowed?

ANSWERRule 206.a in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“When a player is injured or compelled to leave the ice during a game, he may retire from the game and be replaced by a substitute under the player substitution rules.

When a player is injured and is unable to continue play or go to his bench, play shall be stopped immediately unless the opposing team is in possession of the puck, in which case play shall not be stopped until a change of possession has occurred.

In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately."


QUESTION: During a game, a team received their third consecutive penalty and the ref made the team play three players short. I always thought during my playing career that the third player (even though in the penalty box at time of penalty) would not start until the oldest penalty expired or a goal was scored.

ANSWERRule 408.a in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“If a third player shall be penalized while two players of the same team are serving non-coincidental penalties, he shall proceed to the penalty bench immediately and may be replaced by a substitute on the ice. However, the penalty time of the third player shall not begin until the first such penalty has expired.”


QUESTIONCan a team forfeit in the middle of a game? We just played a game today and we were winning 3-0. With five minutes left in the third period, the other team got up off the bench and said they were forfeiting. Our coaches and the refs tried to get them to finish the game, but the coach from the other team said our kids were too big.

ANSWERRule 633.a in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“With both teams on the ice, after the game has started, a team for any reason refuses to play after being ordered to do so by the Referee, the Referee shall warn the Captain and allow the team 15 seconds to resume play.

A bench minor penalty for delay of game shall be assessed to the offending team who still refuses to start play and if the same team refuses to continue play, the Referee shall suspend the game and assess a match penalty to the responsible Team Official(s).”


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