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