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Boulder Bison Growing Bigger and Better

By Stephen Kerr, 12/27/17, 1:15PM MST


Amidon has helped association reach new heights

When Michele Amidon took over as director of operations for the Boulder (Colo.) Hockey Club less than two years ago, her mission was simple: continue the example of success and development the program has been known for since it began 47 years ago.

In 2015, BHC had so many kids enrolled, they were running out of room to accommodate their burgeoning growth. That all changed six months before Amidon’s arrival, when the program moved into the Sport Stable complex, which now houses two full-sized ice sheets and a skill pad. This gives them three different surfaces for practice instead of the one sheet at their previous arena.

“It’s afforded us a lot more opportunity to grow and implement different programs,” said Amidon, a former player with the U.S. Women’s National Team who also spent nine seasons as an assistant and head coach for the Bowdoin College women’s hockey team.

The association’s growth took another step forward this past summer, when the BHC formed a partnership with the YMCA of Boulder Valley’s Junior Buffs. Now known as the Bison, the two clubs provide even more competitive and recreational options for players ages 4 to 19 and their families. The Sport Stable currently has 75 8U players and 21 teams, while 45 8U players and eight teams skate at the YMCA facility.

This fall, 168 players attended BHC’s various growth initiatives, including Try Hockey for Free Day and Girls Hockey Day. Amidon is especially pleased that 75 of those players were girls.

“We’re really working hard to grow the girls’ side of the game as well, which obviously I’m very passionate about,” she said. “The USA Hockey 8U ratio for girls to boys across the country is about 18 percent, I believe. We have 26 percent females in our 8U program, so we’re just trying to stay ahead of that national curve.”

Amidon credits a relationship with the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders Association as a major factor to that success. The Lady RoughRiders have four teams in 14U, 16U and 19U.

“The thought is that we will be their feeder,” Amidon explained. “We will feed our (older) girls into their program, in a partnership working together, and we’ll grow 8U, 10U, and 12U. Then, when they get to the checking age, they’ll have options. They can either stay with BHC, or they’ll have viable programs and teams without having to leave [their] building.”

In 2006, Amidon became USA Hockey’s first-ever director of women’s hockey. The Women’s National Team and Olympic teams won two IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship gold medals, two Women’s World Championship gold medals, and a silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games under her guidance as general manager. After serving six years as a female hockey manager of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, she shifted into her current role as BHC’s executive director.

“It was an opportunity for me personally, a new adventure professionally,” she said, adding with a chuckle, “it afforded me less time on an airplane and more time locally.”

Her accomplishments with the program have not gone unnoticed.

“She is changing the culture of BHC with her passion and knowledge of youth hockey and age-appropriate programming,” said Joe Bonnett, USA Hockey ADM regional manager. “The most impressive thing Michele has done is to recruit and educate a new cadre of young, energetic coaches. She also has instituted a strong athletic component to the club, and BHC teams have the tendency to improve over the course of the season.”

Not surprisingly, Amidon’s passion for the ADM has filtered down to the rest of the program. She estimates about 90 percent of the coaches are enthusiastic proponents of the model. The increase of non-parent coaches is particularly noteworthy, with 40 on board this season.

“A lot of them are young,” Amidon said. “Some of them are students, or just out of college. They don’t really have much in their toolbox when they’re young. So for them to see the science and a plan, it resonates with them. It gives them coaching skills and resources to tap into. They see that it works when they’re implementing it.”

As a new year approaches, Amidon hopes to not only continue growing the program, but also carrying on its rich tradition of skill development and competitiveness. She takes particular pride in BHC’s commitment to teaching superior skating.

“I think that’s been a very valuable piece of these players’ development and success they’ve had in the past,” she said. “I hope to continue making sure skating is still a major piece of their fundamental development. (I’d also like) to implement more hockey awareness and hockey sense into the program. I think to be successful, we need to work on our compete level, being able to battle, and think the game at high speed a little bit more.”

With its ongoing dedication to recruiting, skill development and on-ice performance, the Boulder Hockey Club is in position to accomplish even bigger things in 2018.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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