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Tips on Getting Started in Rep Hockey

At the start of my daughter’s second year of hockey, she noticed the older rep team girls playing a style of hockey that was much faster than her houseleague counterpart. Within a month she had her heart set on being a part of that world. Tryouts for next season came and to our surprise she made a rep team. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

If your little player has graduated from the house leagues to rep and you’re finding yourself leaving work early, sitting in rush hour heading to a game across town wondering what you’ve signed yourself up for, here are some tips to help survive your first season of rep hockey:

Rep hockey is pricey

You’ve probably already heard that hockey is super expensive. It’s definitely not cheap. For rep hockey, you can expect to pay around four times your house league fees.  Hockey will also cost more as kids get older, and depending on how competitive your team is, and if they travel to many tournaments, fees can be much higher. Expect to be doing some fundraising to help supplement the costs.

Your schedule is dictated by hockey

From September onwards, my response to any invitation is “I’ll check the hockey schedule and get back to you.” There will be a commitment expectation for your team that hockey comes first over almost everything. Which means short of a family wedding or a death, you are expected to be there. Playoffs conflict with March Break vacations. Long weekends are for tournaments and your child may have to miss birthday parties for hockey practice. You need to realize that you are not anywhere. Family events will be scheduled around hockey.  Some leagues/teams publish their scheduled games and tournaments months in advance, making it somewhat easier to plan your life. Last year, my child’s team used the Team Snap app.  I should totally buy stock in it as it really is a God-send for keeping track of the hockey schedule.

Other sports may have to drop

My daughter plays rep hockey and also is a competitive figure skater. It is a crazy balance. Skating has to “skate” around hockey. Hockey comes first so we sometimes miss skate practices and have to forgo competitions for tournaments (which sometimes fall on the same weekends).

There are days when we have gone from skate competition straight to a hockey game back to back. So you will likely have to sacrifice one. We had an upfront conversation with her coach and committed that hockey would always take the upper hand. In most cases, coaches won’t want you doing two competitive sports in the same season. Ours only did as skating skills complimented hockey. 

Your hockey family will help

I work full-time and so does my husband. We are fortunate to have some flexibility in our jobs. But most workplaces don’t consider hockey a good excuse for cutting out of work early. In order for me to make my daughter’s mid-week 4:30pm practices, I sometimes rely on other hockey parents to get her there after school. After work, I meet them at the rink. Don’t worry, everyone is in the same boat. You will spend more time with hockey parents than your other friends and family during hockey season. They won’t be strangers for long.

Feeding your athlete

My daughter’s hockey is almost always right at meal time. Considering that we need to be at the rink 1 hour before the puck drops, and it can take up to an hour to drive there, it’s a constant struggle for me to figure out what she can eat. My player is very picky so finding ‘on-the-go’ food is a challenge. But here’s the good thing, hockey has helped her understand the importance of healthy food as fuel for up for hockey. I now stock up on the healthy snacks and granola bars and a protein shake can sometimes fill in when there isn’t time to eat or hydrate. Some nights they are my dinner, too. I’ve learned that I need to stay away from the poutine or as Christina Aguilera would say, “my hips don’t lie”. Look for snacks that travel well, make-ahead meals and make at home meal kits to make sure the whole family is eating well.

You need a reliable car

You need access to a reliable car and you’ll be spending a lot of time in it. Expect to rack up some miles on your car and sometimes feeling you are completely lost. Driving in bad weather to remote parts of the city require a GPS.  Snow tires are a must if you live within a snowbelt where a storm can sometimes provide you with whiteout conditions and a white knuckles grip. Word of advice … make sure you’re topped up on gas and wiper fluid and have clear directions the night before you leave for the rink and leave early. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Make sure you have cash and coins

After scrambling for change at the bottom of my purse a few too many times, I learned to keep a change and small bills in the car. Most arena snack bars are cash-only. So it’s important to make sure you have cash on hand before promising that post-game slushie. Plus … some places charge for spectators. Yes, you may have to fork over $5 or more to watch your own child play.

Being a rep hockey mom is a lot of work. There are days when as I sit in my sixth rink of the week and I’m fretting over the pile of laundry at home or assignment work I will have to finish later. But it’s worth it. My daughter pours her heart into something she loves. She works hard and if she’s willing to put in this work then I’m willing to support it.

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Should my daughter play boys or girls hockey?

Every parent wants their child to have the best opportunities to be successful AND happy. 

When it comes to hockey, does that mean their young daughter should play on a boys team in her development years? In areas where there are viable girls hockey programs available, it is clear that there is two questions you must consider:

Is my daughter’s on-ice development improved by playing with boys?

Is that development worth missing out on some of the positive social aspects of playing on an all-girls team?

Kristen Richards, a Canadian professional ice hockey player, played AA in the GTHL for the Etobicoke Canucks until she was 13. 

“I absolutely loved playing boys hockey,” said Richards, who played four seasons in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with the Brampton/Markham Thunder. “It was difficult for my parents to get me to switch to the girls game. 

“I loved the physicality, compete level, and development opportunities that existed from being in that circle. The physicality of the boys side helped me to develop balance, puck protection, and vision to make quicker plays.”

Tori Charron, who played AA for the boys’ Tecumseh Eagles, had a great experience as well. 

“Looking back I don’t think I would have changed that experience,” said Charron, who played NCAA hockey with Norwich University. “I feel like there was a lot more emphasis of keeping your head up from an early age, preparing us for when hitting would be implemented and I think that makes a huge difference in the early years. 

“I played with a lot of girls who, even in college, had a hard time getting their heads up. This changes the game completely.”

All the women we spoke to who played on boys teams growing up had positive experiences but also faced some challenges. 

Charron recalls her memories of changing in janitors’ closets or the arena’s public bathroom, sometimes feeling left out. 

“This can be difficult and I didn’t realize that until I started playing girls hockey and saw what I was missing,” she said.

Brittany Friesen, who played boys Novice to Bantom with Oro Minor Hockey, also struggled at times with trying to fit in on a boys’ team.

 There were a couple instances of bullying or certain teammates making it clear that they did not like my presence there,” Friesen said. “But I was lucky to have supportive coaches who recognized those things and ensured that playing was a safe space for me.”

When making the decision, USA Hockey encourages parents to consider which program offers a better coaching and player development strategy. Which program will continue to challenge and allow your daughter to improve? Add this to your research homework.

Kayla Magarelli, who played A and AA boys with the Duffield Devils shared her experience.

“I loved playing hockey with the boys. It was really fun,” said Magarelli. “Sometimes I felt left out of “inside jokes.” Once I moved to girls hockey, I appreciated the social aspect more.”

Hockey Canada (Female Hockey Development) says, “It is important for girls to have the opportunity to interact with teammates and be leaders on their teams. The skill level of female hockey has increased dramatically and girls today have the opportunity to compete at a high level and still benefit from the social and leadership side of the game as well.”

Hockey goes beyond the sport. Many girls will grow up together and develop lifelong friendships. Several women we spoke with indicated that with the advancements in girls hockey they would play in a girls’ hockey program today if they had the option. 

Consider the pros and cons of each option, including the athlete’s decision. She needs to be comfortable and have fun wherever she plays.

“It is important to remember that at some point the athlete will have to join the women’s game if they wish to continue to play at a high performance (provincial or national) and/or a post – secondary level,” said Melody Davidson, former coach of the Canadian National Women’s hockey team who is now with Hockey Canada.

The good news is  no matter where girls start, their path for a future career in women’s hockey has never been brighter.

More On Girls Hockey

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Autism Won’t Stop Irish Goaltender

The NHL’s greatest folk heroes are born from a desire to overcome adversity.

Whether it’s Mark Giordano’s rise from an undrafted defenseman to a Norris Trophy winner, goaltender Josh Harding’s unbelievable run with the Minnesota Wild while battling MS, or Jaromir Jagr’s interminable quest to be an immortal icon of hockey, a willingness to beat the odds is what defines generations of potential tentpoles of the sport.

Add 15-year-old Belfast native Blaze Shields-Pettitt to the list.

Pit against a litany of physical and mental illnesses, which include a weakened back due to Schorml’s Nodes, kidney conditions diagnosed in utero, bilateral hydronephrosis that challenges his hydration during games, as well as autism and ADHD, a glance at Blaze’s medical history doesn’t suggest the pedigree of an A-list goalie prospect.

Despite this, the young netminder has quickly propelled himself through the ranks of the native Irish hockey scene, serving as the backbone for the U16 Junior Belfast Giants and being recruited to backstop Team Ireland’s Inline hockey squad in 2020 (a tournament that was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

“On the ice he can be Blaze, just Blaze,” explain Shield-Pettitt’s parents on his Facebook page. “Not the sick child, not the medical appointments and pain, just Blaze the goalie, and that means the world.”

The sense of normalcy has been a welcome addition to Blaze’s life. He maintains consistent physical therapy and takes special care to ensure he can stay hydrated during games, but in a community where he’s been accepted as just another member of the team, Blaze has found a sense of belonging and a chance to excel.

Even his mind can be at peace on the ice; while ADHD and autism present issues with attentiveness and processing, they can also be a boon to one’s concentration, allowing those with it to hyperfocus on things that make them feel happy or mentally invested, and Blaze has found that investment in hockey.

The 15-year-old first came across the sport after being brought to a Belfast Giants game by the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and was instantly enthralled by the game, especially goaltending position, filled then by long-time Giant Stephen Murphy (Murphy retired in July 2021 after 11 years with Belfast and a single season with the Manchester Storm).

Blaze was mesmerized by the athleticism and artistry of Murphy

“After the game, I told my parents that I wanted to learn to play as a goalie,” he said.

It wasn’t until January 2017 that Blaze would first try on skates. A late start to be sure, but in four short years he’s already bloomed into a bright prospect in a place that doesn’t see many.

“Some of the coaches Blaze has worked with … say Blaze does have the potential to become a professional,” his parents said. “He has the right mindset, the dedication to the position, but is also willing to listen to constructive criticism.”

If Blaze were to make it to the NHL, he would become just the sixth Irish-born player to do so, and the first goaltender. But the road to the show isn’t a simple one for someone in the growing goaltender’s situation.

While it’s normal for international prospects to make their way to the Canadian Hockey League for both development and scout attention — and Blaze certainly dreams of doing so — his individual circumstances mean his development is more likely to continue in his native Ireland. 

“If he moved to Canada his medical insurance payments would be substantial,” caution his parents. “He has already been refused from private healthcare in the UK due to his kidneys being deemed a pre-existing condition.”

If Blaze remains in Europe, though, it would hardly deter his development. Between Inline and ice hockey the 15-year-old netminder has found his fair share of competition and consistently stood to face it.

He recently backstopped the U16 Giants to third-place in tournament play in Scotland, and aims to be named to Team Ireland’s Inline Hockey team once again. 

“To get an Ireland jersey with my name and number on it would mean so much to me,” he said, adding that he aims to compete for a spot on Great Britain’s U18 Ice Hockey team as well.

Blaze undeniably has the skill and support to continue his `ascent through the hockey world, competing internationally and continually finding greater responsibility before he’s even learned to drive a car, but that’s not always enough.

Instead, what seems to help set Blaze apart from the crowd are his positive character, hard-nosed determination, and ability to persevere in the face of his own adversity.

It’s those skills, and the heart of a player, that will ultimately power him through the uphill climb of his career, and before long, maybe even into the annals of NHL history.

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Crow’s Sports

For over 35 years, hockey enthusiasts in Oshawa, Ont. have seen many local hockey shops open and close its doors. Only one store has remained throughout the many years.

Crow’s Sports is owned by Oshawa resident, Dave Konarowski. He started the business with a single skate sharpening machine in his own home. 

Dave brought up his kids to love the sport of hockey. His son, Jared Konarowski, runs the store now. Dave has passed down his skills for his son to carry the legacy. 

Dave had a backyard homemade ice sheet his family used to play hockey and skate on. But skates used on that type of ice needs to be sharpened before going on a local rink. 

Issues with Dave’s regular skate sharpening technician forced him to buy his own machine. This initiated the 35-plus years of fine experience and detail that has gone into making customers satisfied and returning for more. 

“Your feet are the beginning of balance and posture. So, when your feet are positioned properly, your whole body performs better,” said Dave. 

He emphasized the radius of the blade is unmatched in the skate industry. Big box stores tend to send skates that need attention to Crow’s Sports, creating good business for the shop.

“Its the greyest area in hockey, the shape of your blade,” added Dave. 

Dave spent a lot of man hours perfecting his technique in skate sharpening. It is fair to call him an expert in this field. 

Spending time with various skaters both professional and amateur, worked in tandem with the woodworking skills gathered throughout Dave’s previous years. 

Dave does not just believe, but truly knows his skate sharpening technique is one of the best in North America, and possibly beyond the borders.  

“The only continent I am not on is Antarctica, and I probably might even be on that one,” said Dave, who has sharpened skates with his technique all over the world. 

Customers will travel 100 plus kilometers every two weeks just to come to Crow’s Sports for the services provided. Dave said customer satisfaction is an asset for customers to return. 

The skate machine was just the beginning of Crow’s Sports. 

Although skate sharpening provided by the shop is one, if not, the biggest reason for business, there is many options for goalie and player equipment for hockey. Customization is available to those willing to pay the extra dollars for anything hockey related.

There are countless amounts of goalie pads, chest protectors, skates, sticks, helmets, and accessories.

“Most of our business is done by word of mouth,” said Dave. Advertising is rare for Crow’s Sports.

A website was made for hockey enthusiasts to browse and see if there is anything that catches the eye.

Alongside new equipment and service, Crow’s Sports also has a museum-like feel throughout the store. 

Ranging from very old and unique goalie masks, sticks, heritage blocker, pads, and gloves, Crow’s Sports has it all hockey.

Jared is redecorating the store with other old hockey items Crow’s feels customers would enjoy, including some very rare items.

This old equipment adds a sentimental value not many box stores carry.

Many professionals know Crow’s Sports for the reliability and attention to detail, especially when it comes to skate fitting and the radius on the blade. 

Like any business it will come with obstacles that need to be overcome. For Crow’s Sports case, the big obstacle is the off season from spring to end of summer. As hockey is out of season, the business will see less work. But that never stopped the shop for the 35 years it has been around.

“Be prepared to work hard.” Dave said, adding that he would put in hours of work once the store closed each night. “You get what you put into it. If you think it is going to come to you easy, forget it.” 

From fairly priced equipment to services with immense attention to detail and customer satisfaction, it is easy to see why Crow’s Sports has been around for almost four decades and will remain a go-to spot for hockey services and products for many years to come.

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PWHPA Trying to Grow Girls Hockey on Many Fronts

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” 

For Liz Knox, now retired professional hockey goaltender, her answer growing up was, “I want to play on the Toronto Maple Leafs.” 

“The crazy part is, that’s probably the same answer a young girl would give today,” Knox said. “They might say the Olympics, which is good, but it’s once every four years.”

Girls hockey is one of the fastest growing amateur sports in North America and it is clear that the creation of a sustainable professional league is needed to provide current and future players an opportunity to play the game they love and earn a decent living while doing it.

The sad reality, for the most part, is that the NHL remains the only hockey league many girls know and follow.

Enter the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), which is comprised of pro players, Olympic athletes, and World Champions like Marie-Philip Poulin, Hilary Knight, and Natalie Spooner, to name a few. 

Their goal is to help create a sustainable professional women’s hockey league so that young girls have their own hockey path to follow.

Knox, who captained Team Gold at the 2019 CWHL All-Star game, explained her experience playing at Scotiabank Arena — home to the Toronto Maple Leafs — and why some women are fighting so hard . 

“You get a taste of what it’s like to be a truly professional hockey player,” said Knox, who explained that the women at the All-Star game showed up at the rink and their equipment was unpacked, snacks and hydration were provided. 

“All of the little things were taken care of so the players could focus on their game,” she said. “The players received the full NHL experience that weekend and it served to illustrate how far the gap is between men’s and women’s professional hockey.”

A few women also got a taste of NHL fandom. Kendall Coyne Schofield had the crowd buzzing with her amazing performance in the fastest skater competition, finishing less than a second slower than Connor McDavid. Truly an eye-opener for people to see these women belong on hockey’s biggest stage. It put a much-needed spotlight on women’s hockey. 

“We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had,” said Coyne Schofield. “It’s time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work.”

PWPHA Girls Hockey
PWPHA Girls Hockey

Many NHL clubs, such as the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Calgary Flames to name a few, have partnered up with the PWHPA to enhance support and sponsorship. They helped make the 2021 Secret Dream Gap Tour — a series of women’s hockey showcase events — a huge success.

The PWHPA also understands the importance of giving back to minor hockey and has made efforts to engage local girls hockey organizations in an effort to grow the women’s game even more.

“The PWHPA helps grow the grassroots programs by touring in various girls hockey cities and hosting either exhibition games or the Dream Gap Tour stops to give visibility to the women’s game and allow young girls to skate with the pros,” Knox said. “On top of that, our players are extremely active as development and skills coaches in their regions.

“We have at least three PWHPA members working as girls hockey development coaches for the NHL. In the Greater Toronto Area alone, we have a number of girls coaching regional teams.”

With the 2022 Winter Olympics on the horizon, women’s hockey will have another opportunity to showcase their talent, create new fans and continue to build the women’s game.

This time, the PWPHA is determined to keep that spark alive once those Games are over.

More On Girls Hockey

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Why Did So Many Pro Hockey Players Play Lacrosse?

It was the perfect time to ask Walter Gretzky a question I’d always wondered about. 

How important was lacrosse when it came to his son’s journey to become the NHL’s all-time leading scorer and the player most consider the greatest to ever lace up a pair of skates?

It was back in the early 2000s and the country’s most cherished hockey parent, the man who made the backyard rink mainstream, was in Calgary at the Saddledome to perform the ceremonial ball drop prior to a National Lacrosse League tilt for the hometown Roughnecks.

I was there to cover the game for the Calgary Sun and jumped at the chance to have a pre-game chat with the Great One’s dad.   

Down in the bowels of the ’Dome, we sat down on a pair of metal folding chairs and I posed the question.

“It sure helped Wayne,” he answered. “Because in lacrosse, you learn how to fake and he used those same fakes, or moves, in hockey. It sure helped him, no doubt about that.

“Knowing the different moves, dropping his shoulder and such like you have to do in lacrosse …, really helped him.”

Walter coached his son in lacrosse, as he famously did in hockey.

He fell in love with the sport, he said, just like Wayne. 

“It’s one of the oldest sports in the Canada but it’s not one of the biggest sports (in popularity),” said Walter, who passed away in March of 2021. “But it sure is a great sport, a lot of fun to watch.”

There’s no doubt the sport left an indelible impression on the Great One, who recently joined an ownership group consisting of his future son-in-law and pro golfer Dustin Johnson, Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash, and billionaire Joe Tsai to bring a National Lacrosse League franchise to Las Vegas.

Over the years, lacrosse and hockey have gone together like doughnuts and a double-double in certain regions of Canada.

Plenty of notable national sports stars took part in both games.

Way back in the day, it was fellas such as Newsy Lalonde, Jack Bionda and Lionel Conacher (Google these gents if you’re too young).

Then came Gretzky, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates and Mike Gartner.

These days, it’s Steve Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Sean Monahan and John Tavares (whose namesake uncle is the all-time leader scorer in NLL history ), to name but a few.

“For me, it was always hockey in the winter, lacrosse in the summer,” said Monahan, who grew up playing lacrosse in Brampton. “The two really work together really well.

“In lacrosse you learn to protect yourself from getting hit, rolling off checks, making moves and stuff like that. Obviously you’re catching the ball and passing, so hand-eye co-ordination goes a long way.

“I think hockey and lacrosse are two sports that complement each other well.”

The similarities between the sports are front and centre: Both are played five-on-five with two goalies in nets at each end, the game taking part on a hockey arena floor or outdoor box, with all the players carrying sticks and wearing helmets.

However, some will say that box lacrosse actually has more in common with basketball than hockey. 

To a certain extent, that’s true. First off, you’re running in shoes and not skating, and offensive sets consist of picks and screens in a structure with set plays, all designed to try and produce odd-man situations on offence.  The two-man game, as it’s called, is all about picks to create 2-on-1s. On the other side of the ball, switches and slides by defensive players are an orchestrated dance meant to try and stymy the offensive attack.

At the end of the day, it’s both the similarities and differences that make it a perfect summer sport for hockey players.

There is a great focus these days on kids playing multiple sports for myriad reasons, including but not limited to: Staving off the boredom that can come with early specialization, avoiding repetitive-stress injuries by having the body do different activities, having kids face a new challenge and broaden their horizons, and becoming a better overall athlete to help them excel in their primary sport, which is often hockey here in this country.

Lacrosse checks off all the boxes.

“It’s such a great sport,” said Monahan, who currently plays for the Calgary Flames. “I played it growing up and loved it. It’s my favourite sport to watch.

“You don’t realize how much goes into the game to play it. It’s aggressive and skilled – it’s a real treat to watch.”  

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Knox Keeps Pushing To Improve Girls Hockey

Who is Liz Knox? If we were playing Jeopardy that would be the answer to the question: A role model and a source of inspiration. A person who is celebrated for their skills and actions. A person who has a profound influence on others.

Knox owns this category. A true inspiration to the game of hockey, on and off the ice. Since hanging up the pads following a successful career as a pro goaltender, she continues to leave her fingerprints all over the hockey scene. To say she has done it all is an understatement.

Knox started her journey playing with the Markham-Stouffville Hockey Association. She played house league all the way through junior with a core group of 6 to 8 girls and a handful of coaches. 

She played two years of Pee Wee with the boys, attributing much of her success with the mental side of the game. Playing on a boy’s team, chirps from the other team or parents were the norm. “Shoot from anywhere, they have a girl in net” is one of the many examples. 

But despite the adversity, Know was grateful to spend her development years playing with the boys.

“It was a good opportunity to face harder shots and play the game faster,” she said.

With the growing popularity of girls hockey in North America there are now numerous quality programs available today that Knox didn’t have when she was growing up. 

“Girls hockey has come a long way. Girls train so much harder, they’re stronger, they put more emphasis on skills, shooting, and skating,” Knox said. “There are more coaching and skill development opportunities.”

Knox continued to play hockey throughout high school. She would go on to dominate the University scene winning four OUA Championships and voted U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Player of the year in 2010. 

She is undoubtedly one of the most decorated players in Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s ice hockey history, which was recognized when she was inducted into WLU’s Golden Hawk Hall of Fame in 2016.

In 2011, Knox won gold for Team Canada at the Winter Universiade and at the IIHF 12 Nations Tournament. 

Currently a probationary firefighter for the Town of Oakville, Knox played pro in the CWHL with the Brampton/Markham Thunder and became a Clarkson Cup Champion in 2018 and even played a season Down Under with the Melbourne Ice women’s hockey club of the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League (AWIHL). 

Liz Knox Hockey Journey 2

One of Knox’s favourite experiences was serving as Captain for Team Gold in the 2019 CWHL All-Star game at Scotiabank Arena, home to the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

“I got a taste of what it’s like to be a truly professional hockey player,” Knox said. “The teams consisted of professional players, Olympians, and World Champions. There was no shortage of talent.”

The experience of being treated like an NHLer is the atmosphere Knox and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) are working hard to duplicate by focussing on building a sustainable women’s pro hockey league.

One of the league’s goals is to provide the next generation of girl hockey players something to aspire toward.

“We’re in a really good position where we have a ton of talent and a league that’s operating and doing well. The potential is there to create a truly professional future for women’s hockey,” said Knox, who served as a PWHPA founding member prior to announcing her resignation to ensure Sarah Nurse — one of a handful of black players in the PWHPA — could have a seat on the board. 

Knox remains an advisor to the PWHPA and an advocate for the next generation of girls to have a future and career in professional hockey. Her recommendation to young girls and parents is to get educated about the women’s hockey landscape and learn about existing opportunities.

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Fuelling Tips for Hockey Camps

Some of my favorite childhood summer memories took place at camp. Learning new skills, making new friends from around the country, and all day dedicated to the gym and training.  

Today, sports camps often include professional athletes, state of the art equipment, and video feedback. Unfortunately, the one area they typically haven’t advanced is nutrition for youth and teen athletes.

Although there are a few that incorporate nutrition education into their schedules, many are still providing pizza, chips, and ineffective sports drinks as “fuel.” 

Yet, while we know nutrient-poor meals and snacks won’t provide adequate energy for the afternoon sessions- or recovery for tomorrow — knowing what to pack for a long, continual day of training can be challenging.

Since digesting a full meal takes about four hours, an assortment of fueling “mini meals” will help maintain their energy and focus throughout the day … and their bodies recover for the next day.

Investing in a good cooler bag, thermos, and/or portable blender provides even more fuelling opportunities. Consider cutting fruit/sandwiches in halves or quarters for quick grab n’ go between sessions to minimize waste.

Plan for 1-2 snacks for every scheduled break as well as a variety of colors and textures to accommodate various hunger patterns. An “emergency” packaged snack (Himalayan salted popcorn, Kind or Zbar) in their bag is helpful for days when their appetite changes based on various training intensity.

Consider these convenient fuelling options for all-day camp:

  • Mini or half bagel with cream cheese
  • Banana, pineapple, berries
  • Non-dairy, non-refrigerated beverage (ex. Ripple)
  • Small sports drink (6-8 oz) – look for one without artificial colors or synthetic sugars (acesulfame potassium, sucralose… stevia can also cause stomach distress) like Body Armor
  • Chickpea or regular pasta salad with diced veggies
  • Nut butter sandwich with banana, jelly, or a drizzle of honey
  • Carrots, celery, cucumber, and or sliced red/yellow/orange bell peppers
  • Chicken or turkey wrap with lettuce and sliced avocado
  • Tortilla chips with salsa
  • Chicken and rice/farro 
  • Breakfast “cookie”
  • Fruit & spinach smoothie (portable blender or reusable water bottle with a straw) 
  • Air popped popcorn
  • Z-bar or Kate’s bar 
  • Salad with quinoa, diced veggies, and chicken
  • Pancakes or waffle with small Greek yogurt to dip
  • Pretzels and hummus

Since there’s typically only 1-2 hours between training sessions or activities, wait until the end of the day for slower digesting dairy and red meats.  

Wondering about your athlete’s individual nutritional needs? Looking for the breakfast “cookie” recipe? Reach out to me on RockPerformance.net.

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Goalie Guild: 8 Goalie Dad Mistakes

Being a hockey goaltender is probably the second hardest job in sports.

The first? Being a parent of a goalie.

It is not just the stress of watching your child perform as the last line of defense, its everything else that goes along with it.

What equipment do I buy? How much training is enough? How much is too much? How do I talk to them after a bad game? How much should I be involved with the coaching staff?

With so much to learn — especially if your family is new to the position — it is easy to make mistakes. Here are some that we have made in the past and why we realized that we may have been doing more harm than good …

Standing behind your kid when he is playing

Imagine working on a big project at your job. The company’s success rests on your shoulders and you can feel the pressure from your co-workers. Your boss can’t help you but they decide that standing directly behind you while you work is the best recipe for success. Does their presence help you do your job? Probably not. The same goes for goalie dads who stand directly behind their kid during games. Not only does the player feel even more pressure with you standing there, but you also can become a distraction as your goalie looks at you after every goal and every save instead of focussing on the next shot. They play the loneliest position on the ice and you can’t help no matter where you stand. Save the coaching until after the game and give your goalie some space.

Comparing your kid to their goalie partner

While inevitable — it will be done by you, the coaches, other parents and players — nothing good ever comes from comparing your child to their goalie partner. It is also inevitable that you will see your goalie through a different lens than everyone else. Almost every parent believes their player is better than they are in reality. It comes with the territory. But don’t let comparing the two goalies be your focus. Don’t use shot counts or goals against as a measuring stick. Those are meaningless stats as every shot, every goal and every game are different. Comparisons can lead to bitterness between goalie parents — the only other set of parents that understand what you are going through — and between the goalies themselves, especially if you vocalize your opinion on the matter. Stay positive with both goalies. Go out of your way to compliment or offer encouragement to other goalie parents on their kid’s performance. Always offer encouragement to BOTH goalies!

Not helping build a pre-game routine

Most goalies are creatures of habit. Routines can provide a calmness before a game and allow your goalie to relax and focus. They can start as early as breakfast and last right until the puck drops. So what can you do to help? First off, you know what makes your goalie tick better than anyone. Talk to your goalie and together start formulating a plan on what the goalie needs to be successful. Some goalies need to hear a specific music playlist on the way to the rink to signal its time to focus, some like to be alone before the game, some have superstitions that can’t be broken, some like to throw a ball against the wall. Most of this is psychological and often these routines build organically — “I did this before the last game and got a shutout so I am going to do it again” — but your job is to be supportive no matter how strange these routines may be. Don’t judge. Don’t be dismissive. Embrace it and you will find it actually strengths your relationship with your goalie as they see you doing everything you can to help them be successful.

Putting pads on backwards

It’s early. You were up late and have taken only a few sips of coffee in the minutes between waking your child up and getting to the rink for an early ice time. You go through the routine of getting your young goalie ready, handing them one piece of equipment at a time as you chat with the parent beside you. Your child plunks down into their pads, waiting for you to do the buckles and straps like you have done dozens of times before. Finally your goalie is ready to go and you head to the stands. Suddenly you get poked as the kids skate their warmup laps. There are no words spoken, just a smile and a finger pointed directly at your kid. Your shoulders slump as you quickly see the problem — the pads are on the wrong legs. You begin the walk of shame back to the dressing room as several other people have made note of the pads. After finally reaching your goalie, you both work feverishly to make the switch. All finished, you send them back out on the ice as you haul your embarassment back to the bleachers.

Overreacting to a bad goal

Just because you don’t stand directly behind you goalie doesn’t mean that they can’t see you. It is guaranteed that every young goalie knows EXACTLY where their parents are in the rink. That means they can see every reaction you have to a goal against and a negative response can mean a loss of confidence for your kid. Most goalie parents can sense if their goalie is going to have a bad game just by watching warmup or seeing the first goal go in. Often this gives you time to prepare for a long day. Other times a bad goal comes out of nowhere or your kid fails to make a save at a crucial situation and you can’t help but to throw your arms up or storm out of the rink. Just remember that everyone is watching you — including your goalie — as you draw attention to the mistake and make yourself look foolish in the process. 

Not asking for goalie training

You are your goalie’s advocate when it comes to practise and training. Goalies need much different instruction obviously and often their needs are ignored. There is only so much improvement that can be made making save after save in repetitive practise drills, especially if no corrections are being offered. Talk to your team’s coaching staff about taking at least 10 minutes of practice to work on goalie-specific drills, with goalie skating as a priority. Hopefully there is someone on the coaching staff or parent group who has experience as a goalie and can supervise these drills. Coaches who understand the importance of the position to the success of the team, also use money from the team budget to send their goalies to special instructors outside of the team ice time. Many minor hockey organizations also offer goalie-specific training sessions. If that isn’t happening, find out why. Work with other goalie parents to put pressure on teams and organizations to prioritize goalie training. While many kids have goalie coaches outside of the team environment, that doesn’t mean you should foot the entire bill for your goalie’s development as well as paying team fees.

Blaming Other Players

Be careful with the words you use after a tough game when talking to other parents as well as your goalie. Blaming other kid’s mistakes for goals scored on your child will only build animosity between parents as news travels fast in hockey circles. Being a goalie parent is tough enough as it is without becoming an outcast in the parent group. It is even more important not to point out mistakes of other players to your goalie. Odds are your words will make it back into the dressing room and eventually the player in question. Pointing fingers can destroy a team and further deflate the confidence of the player who made the error. They know they made a mistake and it has probably been reviewed with a coach. No need to pile on. This approach can also build negative traits in your goalie, who may now look to blame someone else on every single goal. Your goalie needs to take ownership of each goal scored on them. It is their job to stop every shot, regardless if it comes off of a teammate’s gaffe. 

Making it a Job

Look, being a goalie is hard. There is a ton of pressure. It is lonely. Team practises are exhausting and boring. It is no wonder very few goalies want to play net on the pond or on the street. Acting like a drill sergeant who demands success at all costs is not going to make you kid want to be a goalie for very long. Playing the position has to be fun. Find a goalie trainer that you kid enjoys working with even if these means trying several different ones.

Ask if your child want to do extra sessions, don’t just sign them up. Keep the mood light on game days. Stay positive after bad games by focussing on the good saves rather than the bad goals. Create your own off-ice “games” to help your goalie improve or simply play catch to help their glove hand. Making equipment buying a fun process without complaining about the price. The goal shouldn’t be to play in the NHL but rather to play hockey for life. Remember nobody wants to work forever.

Dave Ashton is the Editor in Chief of Elite Level Hockey. He is a former goalie who has watched his oldest son play the position for the past 10 years.

The post Goalie Guild: 8 Goalie Dad Mistakes appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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Golden Knights’ Youth Hockey is for Everyone

Part 3 in our series on minor hockey in Las Vegas

There was instant karma between the Vegas Golden Knights and their fanbase from the moment they launched their inaugural NHL campaign during the 2017-18 season.

The Golden Knights are doing their utmost to create that passion for the game at the grassroots level. When it came to youth hockey, the Vegas franchise also hit the ground running, setting out to be a success story in that environment as well.

It all starts with the Vegas Golden Knights Skating Academy, which is basically an all-comers tutorial on the basics of working the blades on ice. Whether they’re interested in hockey or figure skating, all are welcome to come and learn. There’s also no age restrictions. Adults are invited to join their kids in learning the fundamentals of skating.

The next step for the younger graduates of the skating academy interested in pursuing hockey is the learn to play program. An NHL-sponsored program, learn to play is for kids ages 5-9 to begin to develop the skills required to play hockey — stickhandling, passing and shooting.

“Having the learn to skate going into the NHL learn to play and then into the little mite program is substantial,” said former NHL goalie Darren Eliot, who serves as Vice President of Hockey Programming and Facility Operations for the Golden Knights. All participants in the learn to play program must first earn their learn to skate certificate.

Moving on, the Lil’ Knights cross-ice program introduces these kids to actual hockey competition and helps them to understand basic hockey strategies and concepts. It’s the next step toward preparation for house-league competition. Participation in the programs ranges between 240-300 kids.

“And we have good sponsorship outside of that,” Eliot said. The D Las Vegas Hotel Casino has sponsored the entire Lil’ Knights program from Day 1. Thanks to that generosity, students are only responsible for paying a registration fee. That covers jerseys, training aids, and coaching support.

“The Stevens brothers (D Las Vegas Casino Hotel co-owners Derek and Greg Stevens), they’re from Michigan,” Eliot said. “That’s their program, the little mites program. They sponsor that annually and with that sponsorship, it’s just been fantastic with the Golden Knights’ popularity.”

All of the coaches teaching the program are USA Hockey certified. The Lil’ Knights program follows the USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which is designed to help all individuals realize their athletic potential and utilize sport as a path toward an active and healthy lifestyle.

Vegas Minor hockey

“They’re learning offensive and defensive strategies, gap control, things to do with and away from the puck.”

“Kids get a chance to learn drills, they start practicing things in small-area games,” Matt Flynn, the Golden Knights’ senior manager for youth hockey development, told USA Hockey. “They’re learning offensive and defensive strategies, gap control, things to do with and away from the puck.”

Once acclimatized to the game, kids are directed toward house-league play, with the option of pursuing a higher level of hockey through the Vegas Jr. Golden Knights travel hockey program that fields both boys and girls teams.

“We basically build them into becoming good teammates,” Flynn said. “Then, they go into the house league.”

Looking to take hockey teaching to an even higher level in this non-traditional hockey market, Flynn approached middle schools across the Clark County, Nevada area to include hockey in their physical education programs. They supply the gear and educate the phys ed teachers who are unfamiliar with hockey in the ways of the game.

It isn’t just puckhandling and edgework that the Golden Knights seek to instil in their young proteges.

“We try to intermix life skills as much as possible,” Flynn told NHL.com. “You can have coaches, but as a young boy or girl, you need to be coachable. You need to be able to listen and respect your elders and know that someone is trying to help you.

“We’re teaching things like eye contact, a firm handshake and general life skills about working as a team. We try to mix all of that in.”

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