When USA Hockey’s Atlantic District hosted 8U and 10U season-opening jamborees on Sept. 23 and 24, a case could be made that the youngsters had as much fun off the ice as they did on it.
“I think the players and their parents always are excited when the alumni from both teams [the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers] are on site to sign autographs and take photos and generally support the next generation of hockey players and hockey fans,” said Maureen Thompson-Siegel, secretary and American Development Model and Grow the Game coordinator for the Atlantic District. “Both NHL franchises had street hockey set up plus autograph signings, giveaways and general outreach to the population. Both had blow-up shooting tunnels where kids could shoot and try to score goals.
“The Pennsylvania event [at the IceWorks SportsPlex in Aston] had a lot of tailgating in the parking lot. At the New Jersey event [at the IceVault in Wayne] there was a barbecue with a DJ and cameras with closed-circuit showings on the screens outside.”
Mike Chanfrau, who coached a New Jersey Bandits 10U team and also is the assistant director for the seven Bandits 8U teams, was ecstatic that not only his team but all the others were able to mingle with different players as well as current and former NHL players.
“The kids had a great time,” said Chanfrau. “[Former New Jersey Devils defenseman] Ken Daneyko was on site. The Devils’ grassroots group had hockey nets set up and a bunch of other stuff. There were dozens of kids having a lot of fun outside. I think the main purpose is for the kids to have fun.
“They definitely are popular but everything kind of works together. They do a good job in that the players and parents have a great time. There’s a full-service restaurant in the back so you could make a day of it at the IceVault. Absolutely they are a success.”
Besides providing youngsters venues to have fun and experience activities they might not during the regular season, the jamborees also serve a practical purpose.
“The jamborees are successful because they allow coaches to evaluate skill sets of the teams and place them in groupings so competitive, meaningful games can be played during the course of a season,” said Thompson-Siegel.
Chanfrau was quick to agree with that goal.
“It creates parity within the different divisions,” said Chanfrau. “There are varying skill levels between youngsters at the 6U and 8U levels.
“It enhances player development because like-skilled teams match up against each other.”
Just as important is the fact the jamborees, which are open to boys and girls, are attracting more participants every year.
“The Pennsylvania event had 91 teams and the New Jersey event had 112 teams,” said Thompson-Siegel. “Each year we seem to add 10 to 12 teams.
“The reason I think this happens is because the sport is growing so there is more participation from the clubs involved.”
Teams played 30-minute games at the IceVault while teams at the IceWorks SportsPlex played four full-length games, two on Sept. 23 and two on Sept. 24.
All games were played with half-board dividers.
“The event is an ADM marquee event,” said Thompson-Siegel. “They play with smaller nets on a smaller surface so that there are more puck touches and interactions in the game.”
Chanfrau was adamant when discussing the benefits of the ADM at the respective jamborees.
“We’re getting to the point now where the ADM is the standard,” he said. “It’s what everybody should expect and what USA Hockey and I believe is the right path of development for our players.
“I think USA Hockey has done a great job of promoting the ADM. It’s the way things are and the way they should be. Deviation from the ADM doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.