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Girls Take Center Stage in St. Paul

By Greg Bates - Special to, 12/22/16, 1:00PM MST


Minnesota Wild Girls Hockey Weekend delights at Xcel Energy Center

The smiles on their faces said it all.

The 180 girls and women who participated in the first Minnesota Wild Girls Hockey Weekend enjoyed their chance to get on the ice, hone their skills, and receive hands-on instruction from some of the sport’s top players. The Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Hockey, Minnesota Whitecaps, Schwan’s and USA Hockey all collaborated to put on the event at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Dec. 16-18.

“It was awesome; it was really awesome,” said Jess Christopherson, who helped lead the clinic portions of the event and is the Wayzata (Minn.) High School girls’ hockey coach. She also serves as Minnesota Hockey’s district associate coach-in-chief for female coach development.

“We’re really blessed to have our NHL team stand behind it and not only open up their venue, but sponsor the event and provide some of these resources for us with staffing and everything else ... That’s how you pull something like this off.”

Three-time U.S. Olympian Natalie Darwitz, former University of Minnesota women’s hockey coach and current Minnesota Whitecaps coach Laura Halldorson, and Kristen Wright, USA Hockey manager of girls’ player development, all participated in the event.

“It was fantastic to see the Wild, Minnesota Hockey, and the Whitecaps come together to celebrate girls’ hockey,” Wright said. “There was an exciting energy surrounding the weekend, and it is always great to see so many girls and women gathered at the Xcel Energy Center to play hockey. Having the Minnesota Whitecaps and all female coaches on the ice during the clinics gave the players positive female role models to look up to.”

Said Christopherson: “Super cool opportunity for those kids to get to play for female coaches. We didn’t have those opportunities 20 years ago.”

Having the Whitecaps, who are a professional women’s hockey team, offer some of their players as instructors made a huge impact on the young skaters and showed them that, if they work hard, playing at a high level is an achievable dream.

“I think it’s awesome for them to come out and see female role models that are in the position that they want to be in, whether that be older players or coaches or Olympians or professional players,” Christopherson said.

Story continues below event video.

The weekend began Friday with Darwitz becoming the first female skater to ever practice with the Wild.

On Saturday, young girls hockey players were able to watch the Wild beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1. The flag bearer for the game was a female, Darwitz announced the traditional “Let’s play hockey” to the crowd and Whitecaps players participated during in-game activities. After the game, fans were able to watch the United States Women’s National Team compete against the Canadian Women’s National Team in the Team USA Champions Series live on the arena’s video board. That night, there were separate clinics for 8U and 10U girls, along with dryland training in the concourse for 10U skaters.

On the final day, 12U girls took part in a clinic, followed by a session for adult women ages 19 and over.

Maple Grove native Natalie Heising, a two-time member of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team (2016 and 2017) helped with the clinics.

“Giving back to the hockey community here in Minnesota is important to me, because I learned from clinics growing up, so having the opportunity to participate now provides me with the chance to help develop the future generation of girls hockey players; to be part of something bigger than myself,” said Heising. “I enjoy seeing the girls game grow and seeing more girls have the opportunity to participate in an event geared toward both on- and off-ice hockey development.”

Each hour-long clinic implemented USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

“That’s the best way you can make a practice work with that many players,” Christopherson said. “Obviously, we want kids moving and not standing around, and we want them touching the puck as much as possible. We divided into six stations and we handled most of the major development categories. We had skating and passing and shooting and agility and we had some competitive battle, small-area games going on in some of the stations. It was really good for them to experience a variety of things, and like I said, they were moving the entire hour. Lots of sweaty faces when they came off the ice, but lots of smiles, too.”

One of the big draws for the players was being able to play at the Xcel Energy Center, which is the home arena for the Wild.

“That’s a serious highlight for any player, including our coaches and everybody else — it’s an amazing venue,” Christopherson said. “Playing with all these other girls in their own age groups, playing with girls from different communities and then being coached by female leaders in their sport and people that have played at a high level is huge.”

Running Girls Hockey Weekend is something Christopherson would love to continue to help the growth of girls’ hockey.

“The goal going forward is obviously to expand and try to offer more opportunities,” Christopherson said. “You’re going to start seeing more and more girls’ events or clinics or camps or education. You’re going to start seeing a lot more of that stuff in Minnesota.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Mythbusters (Part 2)

By USA Hockey 03/20/2018, 5:00pm MDT

Breaking down 5 common officiating misconceptions

Let’s be honest: Officiating is far from easy. The fact that special skills (skating) are required to simply do our job, especially as the speed of hockey changes, it can make it downright hard.


Toss in the criticisms and “myths” that influence the world of hockey officiating and one can see how the environment can be difficult for the next wave of officials.


We tackled a few different officiating myths a few years back. In this second installment, we’ll take a look at some of the other more common misconceptions about officiating and the game.


Myth 1: “The best officials ‘manage’ the game and recognize some rules don’t need to be enforced.”

This is actually a repeat from the first edition, but it bears repeating. Considering an official’s primary role is to enforce the rules of the game to the best of their ability, this is one myth that becomes fairly easy to bust.


Nowhere in the rulebook, or any other education materials, does it suggest that a particular rule should not be enforced – ever. Yet, some officials feel it is their job to pick and choose what infractions they want to call or they simply ignore certain rules all together.


The problem is it’s impossible to pick and choose which rules to enforce on a consistent basis. Player safety is a MUST and is a critical part of the official’s job. Every official needs to set a tight standard as it relates to dangerous actions.  However, in some cases we have officials who do a good job enforcing dangerous fouls but are lax when it comes to other infractions where injury potential is not as great.


In addition, what these officials are missing is the missed hook, hold or interference may have an even greater impact on the outcome of the game, as it often involves a scoring opportunity.  After all, the object of the game is to score more goals then your opponent. The reality is an illegal act that takes away a scoring opportunity is no less important to the outcome of the game than an aggressive foul.


Myth 2: “Faceoffs don’t really matter as long as they are fair and even.”

Obviously, having a “fair” faceoff is important, and most people would agree that a faceoff is fair if both players cheating are even (i.e., as long as both forwards are encroaching the same distance, it is even and not a big deal, or both centers are turned slightly and don’t have their sticks in contact with the white portion of the faceoff spot – but they are even, so get the puck down).


However, the rules are there for a reason and, quite simply, are designed to improve the possibility that every faceoff is a fair faceoff.


Hockey takes a tremendous amount of skill, but there is one skill that every single player can do equally well and that is to stand behind a line; that is all that we are asking them to do during a faceoff. So why would we not expect them to do it for every single faceoff and instead settle for less? 


If you really want fair faceoffs, establish the expectation from the opening faceoff of every game. Clearly communicate expectations and then hold the players accountable for meeting them. It won’t take players long to adjust, and if you do this at the start of the season and stick with it, no bad habits are formed and after the first few games faceoffs are not a problem.


Myth 3: “As long as the faceoff is fair, the location does not matter.”

Sticking with the faceoff theme, establishing the proper faceoff location is important in every instance, especially now that USA Hockey has gone with the nine-spot faceoff locations. The territorial difference between an end-zone faceoff and a neutral-zone faceoff is significant and can result in an immediate scoring opportunity. The official’s job when play stops is to have an awareness of where play stopped and then understand the rules to determine the proper location. Getting it right does matter to the integrity of the game and the best officials take pride in this area and earn respect as a result.


Myth 4: “The use of electronic scoresheets means officials are not responsible for making sure they are accurate.”

More and more leagues and rinks are using electronic scoring instead of the old hard-copy four-part scoresheet. In addition, more and more instances are occurring where penalties (mainly those involving potential suspensions) are recorded improperly and it creates confusion as to what was actually assessed and what, if any, discipline is required. This creates considerably more work for volunteer team managers and affiliate disciplinary personnel who now have to track the correct information down. To make matters worse, in many cases, the officials are not entered into the electronic scoring either.


The fact is, the use of electronic scoring is still an official document, and the referee has an obligation to ensure its accuracy at the end of every game. Part of that responsibility is to make sure the officials’ names are entered properly. Sure, it may take an extra minute or two to check versus the old hard-copy, but laziness is not a valid excuse for not completing your work. 


Myth 5: “There is no avenue to hold officials accountable for misbehavior, so they are allowed to do anything they want.”

We all know that this is not true, but based on some of the stories submitted from the field, sometimes one has to wonder. There are situations where officials do act unprofessionally or inappropriately and there has to be accountability in those instances. Local officials groups or affiliates do have the authority and the responsibility to sanction officials who fall into these categories. We are not talking about missing a call or simply making a mistake. We are talking about situations where the integrity of the game is clearly compromised, such as the use of inappropriate language or using excessive force on a player. 


Officials have to be above reproach to effectively do their jobs, and when one fails in this area, action needs to be taken by the proper authority. Turning a blind eye and not addressing it only feeds the misconception and makes all of our jobs more difficult.


So, there you have it. The takeaways from this go-around are pretty clear.

  1. Enforce all of the rules of the game at all times with confidence and you will earn instant respect.
  2. Communicate established expectations and then hold players accountable and you will have fair faceoffs.
  3. Determining the proper faceoff location does matter.
  4. Electronic scoresheets do not absolve the officials from their responsibility to ensure accuracy.
  5. Officials who behave improperly must be held accountable for their actions by the proper authority for the betterment of the game.