What Does Success Mean in Minor Hockey

None of us think we’re that parent.

Let’s be honest, most of us roll our eyes when we have to do online Respect in Sport-style courses, and laugh or cringe when we hear stories about crazy hockey parents freaking out on coaches or — worse yet — putting ridiculous pressure and unrealistic expectations on their kids.

But if none of us are that parent, then who is?

The sad reality is far too many parents still display ludicrous behavior every season, both at the arena and behind the scenes at home, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are, indeed, that parent.

What are you pushing your kids towards? What is about minor sports that causes rational people to become, well, irrational – to put in nicely?

There’s nothing wrong with advocating for your child and encouraging them to be the best they can, but a big reason we put our kids in sports — aside from the athletic aspect — is to learn how to function within a team, take direction, and through time, develop some independence from us, something that pays off for them in school and life. 

And, perhaps most importantly, to have fun (more on that below).


Unfortunately what happens far too often is that many kids lose their love of the game because of what their parents may do and say.

So why do we act like this? What is the ultimate goal?

I won’t bore you with the statistics, but one worth noting is that the average kid playing minor hockey in Canada has a 0.11% of making the NHL. Forget the pros, no matter how good your kid is (or you think they are), they still have a very small chance of playing high-end junior or collegiate.

I spent nearly 20 years as journalist, most of it in sports, including serving as the Sports Editor of the Calgary Sun. I left four years ago to become the Director of Digital Content and Social Media for the Calgary Flames, so I’ve seen it all professionally.

Though I’ve always been keenly aware of just how unlikely it is to find success at the highest levels of hockey, I had a moment that stood out to me not long after I started with the Flames and attended the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C.

The Flames, Oilers, Canucks and Jets all sent their top prospects to play in the week-long tournament in September. The person many consider the best player in the world, Connor McDavid, once skated in it.

As I stood and watched warmups before one game, it really hit me that every player out there had likely been the McDavid of their association growing up, an absolute phenom in minor hockey and likely a standout in junior. Yet, here they were, many of them unlikely to become full-time NHLers, perhaps able to make a career in the minors if they were lucky. And they were once the cream of the crop.

It wasn’t an ‘aha moment,’ but something that galvanized what I already knew — and far too few people still won’t admit: The majority of your child’s hockey experience will likely come when they are an adult, playing in some type of rec league. And that is if they don’t quit all together first.

Let that sink in and really think about it for a moment.

Hockey should be fun: Scoring goals, making plays, skating, spending time with your friends. When it’s not fun, you’ll have issues. As someone who is around NHLers every day, I can tell that even when pros don’t have fun, things are tough for them. If that’s what happens to adults at the pinnacle of the game, what do you think happens to kids?

There’s a good chance you got your child into hockey because you love it, you’re a lifelong fan and you want them to be the same. You certainly don’t want them to quit playing and, worse yet, develop a hate for it.

It led me to think up what I call the 24-year-old old rule. We all know the 24-hour rule – don’t reach out to your team’s coach or manager until you’ve spent that long thinking and composing yourself. So what’s the 24-year-old rule? Simple – where do you want your kid to be when they are 24? Do you want them still playing the game in some capacity, or have given it up – maybe for good.

At the end of the day, there are many roads your kid may take during their minor hockey days, and most lead to the same place.  When we forget that, we can make some really bad decisions.

So always think of the 24-year-old rule and ask yourself, am I taking the fun out of the game for them? It’s one of the most important questions you can ask yourself as a parent.

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USA Hockey National Championships Preview

Every week, Elite Level Hockey will be previewing some of the best minor hockey tournaments in North America during the spring hockey and winter seasons. Tournaments are not ranked in any way and are selected to help promote boy’s and girl’s minor hockey at all levels and age groups.

The USA Hockey National Championship for youths, girls, and high school division players begins on April 15, 2021.

Over 7,000 players will compete for one of American hockey’s highest honours as teams from Arizona, Utah, Nebraska and all across America will be competing in the tournament.

The players will be heading to one of seven different host cities which include: Omaha, Dallas, Maryland Heights, Grand Rapids, Green Bay, West Chester and Denver. 

The USA Hockey National Championship will showcase some of the best hockey talent America has to offer. Past alumni of the tournament include NHLers Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, and Joe Pavelski.

The High School division will kick off the tournament in Omaha, Nebraska on Apr. 15.

Boys Tier 1 and Tier 2 each have a total of 16 teams. Teams will begin the tournament using a pool play format. There are four separate pools with predetermined titles; USA, OLYMPIC, NHL, and LIBERTY.

The top two teams in each pool will secure a spot in the playoffs.

 The Girls division has a total of 8 teams in two pools, AMERICAN and NATIONAL. Similarly, the top two teams in each pool will advance to the finals.

The Division 1 tournament will begin with the Notre Dame Saints taking on the East Lake Eagles at Ralston Arena, while at the same time Glenelg HS will face Edina at Moylan Iceplex.

Division 2 will see Evansville Thunder Purple Team take on Flower Mound/Marcus high school, also at Ralston Arena, and the Seminole Sharks will play the Gillette Grizzlies at Moylan Iceplex.

For the Girls, the Premier Prep Forest will take on HPHL Polar Bears while WI Blackcats play Wyoming Girls HS, also at Ralston Arena and Moylan Iceplex.

Follow the action at

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What Kind of Hockey Mom Are You?

What kind of hockey mom are you?

I’m a hockey mom. I really don’t like the label because of some of the ways hockey moms are portrayed in the media as comical characters. Some of those portrayals come from those “over the top” moms of real life, but most of us aren’t like that. 

When my child started hockey I didn’t know what to expect. My early experience was one of 6 a.m. practices and nursing my Tim’s coffee while shivering in the stands. I didn’t really see the different mom types until the second season. I started out as the Momma Bear kind of mom. My daughter, at age 5, needed help with gear, encouragement to participate and to wipe her frustrated tears. I helped in the change room and stood by the boards when she sat on the ice and wouldn’t get up. Already involved in figure skating lessons she was a relatively good skater but she was so frustrated at not being able the use her stick properly I thought she would quit after one season. 

Season Two was SO different. She was confident and determined. No longer did I have to help with her gear, as she needed only her skates to be tied. So once laces were done, I joined some other parents in the stands and learned the hierarchy of hockey moms. 

Some hockey moms are amazing, some are scary, but they all love their kids exactly the same amount. For fun, let’s take a look at some of the different breeds of hockey moms you may encounter. 

The Mama Bear

Somewhat overprotective, this mom fiercely protects their player. Often their kid starts off by needing a little extra help. Maybe they started the sport before they were ready and as such their kid needs more attention. Sometimes their kid is a bit smaller than the rest and gets hurt a lot. Sometimes they have special needs or medical conditions. This mom hovers too much. She carries the hockey bag, wipes their tears and basically babies them. Most Mama Bear moms outgrow this behaviour as their kid becomes more competent. If they are still like this by the time their kid is a tween,  then their player is probably mortified.

The Supermodel 

I was so envious of this mom in my early hockey mom days. She shows up in those killer high heeled boots and gorgeous coat. Her hair and makeup are perfect. Her nails are freshly done and it is obvious that she doesn’t tie skates. She jauntily wears a scarf in team colours tied expertly around her neck. She has a thermal Yeti mug with contents purchased from an upscale coffee shop on the way to the rink. Even her rink blanket looks designer. She gets sideway glances of appreciation from the hockey dads and some worried stares from moms. She is sometimes the subject of gossip as to who she might be trying to influence. But in reality she sacrificed an extra hour of sleep to look this good. This is a lot of work to attend hockey practices. She is likely a somewhat new hockey mom feeling insecure. Either that or she just raced to the rink from work.

The Gossip Columnist

This mom knows the 411 on everyone and everything to do with your hockey association. She is the first to welcome new moms. The Gossip Columnist can find out the scoop on the new player and their parents, siblings, grandparents in minutes. Anything juicy that you share with her will be whispered to the nearest person before your butt hits the bleacher seats. She will spread gossip to anyone who will listen. This is usually done whispered and with over-the-shoulder checks. These words sometimes include backhanded compliments. Who is she talking about? It will be a player, parent, coach or anybody who is deemed a threat to their child’s success on the team. They love to comment on the coaching strategy, including which players are being favoured and which players don’t deserve to be there. They are usually the parent of a player who is middle-of-the-pack in terms of skill. They are genuinely worried that their player will be cut and will do what they can to prevent it.

Hint: When they try to gossip with you it is best to smile, nod, then excuse yourself to go to get something from the car. 

The Athlete Supporter

This mom shows up to the rink with her game face on. She thinks her kid is the best no matter what their skill level. She wearing team colors and carries a supersized coffee. She has visions of her child in the big leagues, but knows that this is as good as it might get so she’s living it to the fullest. She has sat in freezing cold ice rinks so much that she knows where all the Tim’s are in a 15km radius of every arena. She eats rink food and her waistline may show a slight expansion from poutine and gravy. She wears a toque to cover the hair she hasn’t had time to wash. She proudly wears a shirt that says “hockey mom, don’t puck with me” but is too much of a sweetheart to live up to the saying.

She is at every game, tournament and practice. She can be a bit much sometimes but you know her heart is in the right place. She has a compliment for every kid as they come off the ice. 

The Agent

She actually has no doubt that her kid is going to play in the NHL. Don’t dare question it. She was already scouting out scholarships in the U7 years. She treats her child like a project and she is going to succeed at all costs. Her child does extra training outside of the regular team practises. They have shot coaches, fitness coaches and a strict diet that include questionable pre-game protein shakes. Hockey is a year round, 24/7 activity. She seeks out the best teams, coaches and training she can find. The kid has the best equipment, a rink in their backyard and plastic ice in their driveway. This mom acts like she cares about the team’s success but really only sees the team as a vehicle to aid her superstar. If the team is winning, then her kid is doing well, and the coach is amazing. If the team is losing and her kid is doing well, then the teammates aren’t pulling their weight. If the team is struggling and her player is losing ice time, then the coach is an idiot. They will offer advice as to what the team needs in the form of concerns. Most coaches learn to deal with the Agent early. The Agent’s child is often under a lot of pressure and smart coaches are quick to act as a buffer between the child and parental expectations.

The Social Director 

You need one of these moms on every team. They are often the manager or team trainer. They help out in the dressing rooms. They fundraise for team, plan social events, team dinners, order uniforms, plan hotels and outings at tournaments. Coaches love them as they help the team function smoothly. They are always recruiting for volunteers to help out their latest event. They are friendly to all but always busy flitting from one group of people to the next. Their enthusiasm is infectious. At tournaments, they will be wherever the party is … heck they probably organized it. They will make sure all are invited. However, they can be overly involved and always seem to be hitting you up for funds or volunteer time. 

The Critic

This mom is never happy. They complain about the weather, traffic, parking, rink food, how long it took to get there and the temperature of the arena. Ask them about their day and you’ll hear how busy they are, how works sucks, how the time of the game is ridiculous, how hungry they are, how cold they are. No matter the positive spin you offer, they find some flaw. They have opinions on the coaching strategy, lineups, how much ice the coaches’ kid is getting and the how bad the refs are. She will be found in the stands with the gossip Columnist and the Agent who enjoy bellyaching as well.

The Phantom

On every team there is a kid whose parents never seem to be there. The player is dropped at the door of the arena as mom drives off in her SUV. Where is Mom going? There are many reasons this mom may disappear. The top reason is time management. Often she is off to another rink to drop off or pick another kid before racing back to get their player. They may be off to get groceries while their child practices. They may be in the car, at a nearby coffee shop or in a quiet corner of the arena working. Some sneak off to the gym or run an errand. But if you watch, you’ll see them reappear at game time. They may only see one period, but they make sure to see enough so their child knows they are there.

The Guard

This mom stands sentry by the boards away from the mom pack. She says little more than a passing greeting to the other moms. Her expression is unreadable. She keeps to herself and avoids the group whenever she can. Why? Is she shy? Doesn’t like people? Nope …more likely is she is being cautious. She is typically a veteran hockey mom who has been around enough in her time and has seen all the rink politics. Her child may have been cut from a team, perhaps unfairly and she isn’t going to risk being a parent cut. She will listen while you talk but prefers not to socialize much. 

The Loud Mouth

You hear them before you see them. They are loud in the hall. They are loud in the stands. They yell at everything. If their kid is on a breakaway, block your ears or risk going deaf. They carry a cowbell or a horn but their voice doesn’t need accompaniment. Their battle cry is “Go, go, go”, “Shoooooot”, or “Ref, what was that call?”. They love hockey and love watching their kids play. They cheer on every kid on the ice but really go nuts when their player has the puck. Every game is like a championship game. They yell at refs, opposing parents, and coaches from the stands. They are not above a brawl in the stands if provoked. They usually sit with the Athlete Supporters.

The Mother Goose

This mom arrives at the rink with an entourage of kids. All are younger than their player. One is usually in a stroller. She carries a bag full of snacks and toys to entertain her crew but is not above buying a tub of popcorn or cotton candy to get her goslings to sit still. Her kids run around the rink with little supervision while Mom tries to socialize and watch the game. This is her big outing for the week. She is quick to sneak some “me time” when an older sibling of another player watches her young charges while she watches the game. Often once the game is done she rounds up her crew and they head off to another venue where one of the younger goslings has an activity. 

The Squad 

This group of moms travel in a pack. Usually a group of 3 or 4, they are friends beyond the rink. They hockey together, vacation together, drink together and school committee together. Their kids have been friends since early hockey and their kids have been on the same team every year since. They take care of each other’s kids. At least one of their husbands are part of the coaching team to help ensure this dynamic continues as long as their kids are playing hockey. They are friendly, welcoming but also keep a close eye on who they let into their little squad. They feel entitled to their kids’ positions on the team and protect it fiercely.

The Goalie Mom

This is a mom with nerves of steel. Their baby is standing in the net while pucks fly at their head. The game’s outcome often relies on how well their player does. She arrives at the rink a little early as her player has extra gear and wants to make sure her child has dressing room space. She is adept at pulling straps on goalie pads tight. She wear pants in which she can kneel on the floor. During the game, if the teams has two goalies, the  goalie moms sit together. They understand each other. They worry about their goalie getting hurt as players rush the net. They worry about their kids mental health when the team is down by five goals. They hold their breath during sudden death and shootouts. And during it all they have the calm demeanour of a yoga teacher. 

The Quiet Superhero

This is the hockey mom all of us moms should aspire too. Smart and genuine, you know exactly what you are getting with this mom. They may not love hockey but they have a kid who does, so they support their child’s passion. If their child chose to be a figure skater tomorrow, they would support them in that too. They learn about the sport in order to support their player. They reinforce what the coaches are teaching. They never undermine the coaches authority. They fundraise when asked, make potluck contributions and pay fees on time. They never put any pressure on their child. They cheer enthusiastically for every play and every player. They even clap for the other team when they make a great play. They are always positive and nice to every other mom type…even the ones they don’t like.

What kind mom am I now? I’m a crossbreed. I aspire to Quiet Superhero, have moments of Athlete Supporter. I find myself often sitting in the stands with The Squad but I’m not one of them. In reality, I feel most hockey mom are a mix of several types rather than the stereotype extremes portrayed above.

Now excuse me, I have to run to the car … the Gossip is heading my way.

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Marlies Sale A Sign Of The Future For Minor Hockey?

When NHLers John Tavares (pictured) of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sam Gagner of the Detroit Red Wings announced they were acquiring the Toronto Marlboros organization of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, it was big news.

After all, the Marlboros are considered the most successful and productive franchise in the GTHL, the world’s largest and most powerful youth hockey outfit. But there was an even larger than life quotient to this particular move, since it was not only two former alumni who were making the acquisition, but also two prominent NHL players.

Tavares is captain of the Leafs, the most prevalent NHL team in Canada. He was the first player chosen in the 2009 NHL entry draft by the New York Islanders. Prior to that, Tavares was the first player to be granted exceptional status by the Canadian Hockey League, meaning he was permitted to play in the Ontario Hockey League at age 15. The exceptional status clause in the CHL rulebook is often referred to as the John Tavares rule because of this fact.

Gagner was the sixth player chosen in the 2007 NHL entry draft by the Edmonton Oilers. On Feb. 3, 2012, he garnered points on every goal the Oilers scored during an 8-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, making him the first player in 23 years and only the 11th in NHL history to collect at least eight points in a single game.

Long before either were NHL stars, both Tavares and Gagner were Marlboros, part of what is often considered to be the greatest youth hockey team ever assembled, the ‘89 Marlboros. Five players off that team — forwards Tavares, Gagner and Akim Aliu and defensemen Brendan Smith and Cody Goloubef — played in the NHL. Three of them — Tavares, Gagner and Smith — were first-round NHL draft choices.

That the two most gifted players off this legendary club have determined purchasing the same club is a wise financial decision opens up a world of future possibilities. Will other NHLers come to the conclusion that buying into youth hockey organizations is something they like to add to their investment portfolios? Are Gagner and Tavares setting a new trend?

Gagner admitted that since the news became public knowledge, several other NHLers have approached him, curious about how it all came about and how they might pursue a similar transaction.

Started In Junior

In 2000, former NHLers Dale and Mark Hunter opted to purchase the OHL’s London Knights. Little did they know at the time that they were creating a new revenue lifeline for major junior franchises and establishing a trend for others of their brethren to follow.

Seeing the success the Hunters enjoyed — and continue to enjoy — with the Knights, other NHLers began buying up junior clubs. Former NHL players Bob Boughner and Warren Rychel acquired their hometown Windsor Spitfires, eventually selling the club for significant profit.. Darryl Sydor and Mark Recchi purchased the Kamloops Blazers. Derian Hatcher and David Legwand own the Sarnia Sting. Scott Walker is co-owner of the Guelph Storm. Patrick Roy owns the Quebec Remparts.

That landscape looks to be changing. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, who first broke the news of Tavares and Gagner taking over the Marlies on Hockey Night In Canada, has since reported that he’s heard from other NHL players seeking to garner info on how they could acquire a youth hockey organization.

“I think they’re going to look at it now as, ‘How can we be involved with minor hockey teams?’” Friedman said on the 31 Thoughts podcast. “I think this is going to open the door to more and more current and former NHLers saying, ‘Hey, if the junior hockey space isn’t right for me, maybe this is the one instead.’”

Big Plans

The Marlboros are already a major player on the Toronto youth hockey landscape. Gagner and Tavares envision growing that footprint even deeper into the youth hockey culture.

They are discussing whether they can set up the Marlboros in a similar style to a hockey academy. “I look at the way the model has been changing out west,” Gagner explained to the 31 Thoughts podcast. “The academy model. So we want to look into that.

“My family has always been big on education. Are there ways that we can facilitate that for the next generation of players? It’s something that has been happening in Toronto.”

They entertain operating a universal coaching program where all coaches teach the same philosophy of the game with all age groups.

“It’s going to be all about skill development,” Gagner said. “It was all about the development of us as players and as people (when he was with the Marlboros). The winning took care of itself because we were developing so much.

“I’m always looking for ways to improve and I think I can take that information and help the next generation of player. We’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do with it.”

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Prep School Hockey Super Powers To Form Own League

National Hockey League fans of a certain generation still love to wax poetic about the days of the original six. From 1942-67, the NHL was consistently composed of six teams – the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Perhaps someday, as the Prep Hockey Conference grows in stature and possibly even in size, fans of the new league will feel a similar romance about the original six who got it all started.

Six of the top hockey academies in North America – St. Andrew’s College of Aurora, Ont. and American schools Culver Academies (Culver, Indiana), Mount Saint Charles Academy (Woonsocket, Rhode Island), Northwood School (Lake Placid, New York), Shattuck-St. Mary’s School (Faribault, Minnesota), and South Kent School (Kent, Connecticut) are forming this new conference.

“This is a great first step toward something even bigger,” St. Andrew’s coach David Manning told

The league is projected to begin play for the 2021-22 hockey season. The six teams will be grouped into two divisions. St. Andrew’s, Culver and Shattuck-St. Mary’s will be housed in one division, with South Kent, Northwood and Mount St. Charles in the other.

The two divisions will play an interlocking schedule of games that will work around existing schedules of all of the schools to ensure that they don’t miss out on participating in traditional tournament competitions and other showcase events.

League weekends will be held in each of the six locales to enable players to be showcased in front of pro scouts and college recruiters. A championship weekend is slated to be held in February of 2022 in Minnesota.

Though these six teams face each other virtually every season already, by locking into a league format, it guarantees the highest level of competition available to each school will be engaged in on a regular basis.

“The formation of the PHC has been something we’ve envisioned being a part of and are thrilled to be a founding member with these other outstanding programs,” Manning said. “We can’t wait for that first game next fall and the opportunity to compete and showcase our players in the best prep hockey league in North America.”

Certainly, these are among the true powerhouses when it comes to North American prep school hockey. Shattuck-St. Mary’s list among its alumni Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise. Gary Suter, Ryan Suter and John-Michael Liles came through Culver’s program. Brian Lawton, Bryan Berard, Brian Boucher and Mathieu Schneider are Mount Saint Charles grads.

Mike Richter and Tony Granato played at Northwood. South Kent School alumni include Shayne Gostishehere. South Kent grads Alex Limoges, Keith Petruzzelli, Shane Pinto and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup are all 2021 Hobey Baker Award nominees as the most outstanding player in NCAA hockey.

As for St. Andrews, among the prominent hockey-playing Saints are Alex Newhook, Greg Hotham, Michael Del Zotto and Warren Foegele. Seven members of the 2019-20 Saints team that went 40-6-2 earned NCAA Division I scholarships – Jack Bar (Harvard), Mark Hillier (Merrimack), Devlin O’Brien (Merrimack), Kienan Draper (Miami), Cole Galata (Bentley), Liam Cavan (Merrimack) and Frankie Carogioiello (Miami).

For years, these prep hockey super powers have played each other in exhibition games. Opting to compete in the same league, it’s great exposure for all the players, since such games are guaranteed to generate attendance from both NCAA recruiters and NHL scouts.

“We love playing these games,” Manning said. “These are the games our guys yearn to play. Attaching points and standings to it is nice.

“It will be great for our kids to be in those buildings.”

In the 13 years that Manning has coached the Saints, 46 players have moved on to NCAA programs, while another 11 were NHL draft choices.

St. Andrew’s is the oldest school among this sextet, with a history dating back into the late 1800s. Mount Saint Charles was inaugurated in the 1930s, with Culver and Northwood both launching their programs in the 1970s. South Kent got underway in the 1980s and Shattuck-St. Mary’s is the youngest of the bunch, launching their hockey program in the 1990s.

The goal of this ground breaking conference is to establish relationships within and beyond the hockey world that create a high degree of visibility and positive media exposure for the PHC, its programs and its players.

“It brings together like-minded institutions that are rich in history and tradition and share the pursuit of excellence on and off the ice,” Culver Academies head coach Kevin Patrick said of the PHC. “The opportunity to compete against these six programs will enhance player development and the overall student athlete experience.

“This league will be a great avenue for our current players to showcase their talents.”

More information regarding the PHC can be found on its website at

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Goalie Guild: Tips From Martin Biron

Before he logged a 13-year career tending goal in the NHL that saw him play 508 regular season games with the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and New York Rangers, Martin Biron represented his home province of Quebec in both the Provincial Championships – which he won in 1992-93 – and at prestigious amateur tournaments like the Quebec Peewee International Tournament. Playing alongside his younger brother, Mathieu – who played 250 NHL games in his pro career – Martin Biron honed his craft as a pro, first with the Rochester Americans (whom he led to a Calder Cup Final appearance in 1999), then with all three New York-based NHL clubs, as well as the Flyers, whom he starred for in a run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2007-08.

The 43-year-old Biron now works as a successful NHL broadcaster from his home in Buffalo, but he relishes the chance to pass along valuable advice to young up-and-coming goalies. Biron took time to speak with Elite Level Hockey about tips for young netminders and the changes he’d like to see applied to the sport’s amateur side. (Read Part 1 of our interview with Biron, where we discuss his minor hockey career and the path that took him to the NHL.)

What is the best advice you can give to young goalies?

Martin Biron: It changes for me every year. First, I always thought it was to work on your technique. But you always have to be a good skater. People underestimate how important skating is for goalies. When I started playing, they’d put players who can’t skate in net. But my father told me, he said “it would be beneficial to you being a good skater”. 

A friend of the family played goalie in senior hockey, and we’d do ups and down (butterfly exercises) and do a lot of skating, and all my coaches throughout my career emphasized skating. I’m so glad my dad stressed that. And if you don’t have fun, don’t do it. That’s a gimme when it comes to advice.

How does goalie training differ now from when you were in minor hockey?

MB: I think 12-year-olds are so much better than I was when I was their age. So many technical elements of the game I never knew until much later are taught at a very early age now. My style at 18 or 19 was different than it was much later. I also always say I don’t want kids to play just one sport. Play other sports, but if you’re going to spend a week going into a school, take the time to learn the position. 

Is there anything you are seeing in minor hockey these days that you would change?

MB: Well, I don’t like kids changing organizations. Recruiting, I don’t like that part of it. When we played in our area, we just tried to make the team in our area. Now kids change teams at 12 and 13. Now, here in Buffalo, kids (who hail) from South Carolina, are on teams here. They have an uncle in Buffalo or something like that, so they come up here. 

It’s almost more like the (big-league) market. The season isn’t over, and parents are already calling coaches and saying, “I want my kid to play for you”. So that’s much different than it was when I was at a young age. I left home when I was 16, but I was far from my parents. I saw them once every other week, and talked just for a half-hour at the rink. But I was lucky, I had people as billets who I felt like were my second family. But not everyone is that fortunate.

Any tips on breaking a goalie slump for a young player?

MB: A lot of it is mental, because you feel like everyone is watching you. I always say, “Go back to the basics.” A lot of times, goalies who struggle will try to change their games. I’d advise against that. Just be yourself, believe in what got you success. And always go back to your skating.

What is the best way to warm up as a goalie in minor hockey?

MB: A lot of it is hand-eye coordination stuff. Braden Holtby would do visualization stuff. I’m a Formula 1 (auto racing) fan, and they do a lot of things that heighten their vision before a race. In New York, I used to watch (star Rangers goalie Henrik) Lundqvist juggle three balls, and then he’d do it the other way. But just zone in. That’s my best advice.

What was your favourite practise drill as a kid?

MB: Well, I actually hated to do these, but they were beneficial: as a kid, we’d do these up and down ( butterfly exercises) all the time. When I was a kid, butterfly was just beginning. I hated to do it as a kid, but I would just do those constantly. It’s something that improves your game over time, and it improves leg strength and flexibility.

Did you have a goalie coach as a kid, or attend goalie camps? What are the benefits of doing so?

MB: A friend of the family was a goalie coach. I got him in junior one year. I did the (Francois and Benoit) Allaire goalie school, then I worked there for them. That was a way to really prepare for the season. I went to Switzerland with them one year. One coach who had a big impact on me was a man named Gilles Lachance – he was the one that installed a work ethic in me at 14 and 15 that I didn’t know I needed. He was instrumental in how my game improved and evolved.

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Don’t Ever Underestimate the Power of Hockey


Is it the moments as a hockey mom when you see your son score his first goal knowing he has been shooting pucks at your garage door for hours?  The look on his face when the team surrounds him to celebrate and you realize he’s created a bond to last a lifetime.

You smile to yourself knowing that all the moments that you let him stay outside for that extra hour, under the flood light, has finally paid off. A moment that only you and your young player fully understands.

As he cheers and smiles the purest smile because he’s accomplished something with the help of his teammates that nobody can ever take away. That moment that you realize that letting him stay up a little later, in the dark, gave him so much more than the extra hour of sleep ever could.

Is it the moments when dad gets up extra early to take his teenage daughter to practice? This young lady who is now unrecognizable to him when she’s anywhere but on the ice. The moments in the car when she’s all yours, no other chatter from her friends, no boyfriend on her phone, just you and her; just you and her talking about the one love that puberty, boyfriends or years can never take away.

It’s the simple experience, the simple love of the sport that you have in common no matter how much she’s growing up. Even though she no longer looks to you for advice or no longer needs you to tuck her in at night. You drive her, safe in the knowledge that yours will be the face she looks to when she scores that goal; yours will be the eyes she needs when she coughs up the puck, and you will be the one she hugs when her team makes it to the playoffs.

Yes the power of hockey, the years it gives a father and daughter when everything else about their relationship feels foreign … if that’s not power I don’t know what is.

Perhaps it’s the spectator who comes to the games faithfully every week, horn in one hand, cowbell in the other to cheer on the team they love so much. They come to watch because they know on that night their biggest worry is if their team wins or loses.

For those 60 minutes there is no thought of their bad day at work, or the job they’ve lost, the spouse they’re fighting or worse, the illness they are fighting.

For this night it’s all about the escape of hockey, that wonderful sport that carries any passionate spectator to a place that leaves no room for anything else but the outcome of the game.

Maybe it’s the glow of the tv across our beloved country on Saturday nights. The moments spent in the warmth of your home curled up with a bag of chips and blanket watching Hockey Night in Canada.

Is it the volunteer that wakes up at ungodly hours, when the snow is flying, to get to the early morning practices to teach our young superstars how to skate?

The Zamboni driver who always takes the time to wave at the little ones who are as excited to see the ice get cleaned as they are to see the game. Is it the coach that has worked all day and raced to get to the rink so his team can see how important it is to be on time?

Or is it the country that takes such pride in this sport that we call it our own, our number one (1) sport and our nation’s game?

A country that celebrates the coldest days of the year because we know that it means our ponds will freeze and give us hours of endless shinny with our friends and family.

Is it the country that looks forward to Christmas because with Christmas comes Boxing Day and with Boxing Day comes the World Juniors? I honestly can’t decide what it is about the sport that makes it so powerful.

I guess when a game can bring a country together, a family together and quite simply bring people together the way that hockey does, do we ever really need to question its power?

So, I guess it’s as simple as this, “Don’t Ever Underestimate the Power of Hockey!”

To learn more about Allyson Tufts or to purchase the book, please visit You can also purchase the book at

This article is the property of Allyson Tufts and is not to be used without her permission.

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Hockey Scouts Discuss CHL vs. NCAA Routes

In this series on amateur hockey scouting, we compiled responses from 20 different hockey scouts and coaches that scout representing NHL, OHL, CJHL and NCAA teams about their unique job. Many wished to remain anonymous, which we allowed in order to get more candid responses to our questions.
These hockey scouts come from varying backgrounds, ranging from former players — from the NHL, junior and college ranks — to former coaches, including some with limited hockey playing experience. Believe it or not, there is even a former referee. Some have been a hockey scout for over 30 years and others only a couple.


Hockey scouts have interesting perspective when it comes to debating he Canadian Hockey League or an NCAA school and possible scholarship as the route to go.

Traditionally the best players in the world are choosing the CHL route, but that is definitely changing.

Over 30% of the NHL is coming from the NCAA now. A majority of those players are American but we are starting to see some elite Canadian prospects make that decision to play NCAA hockey.  

Cale Makar and Alex Newhook are the most notable players to play NCAA hockey recently.

“Some NHL scouts have confided to me that they think the NCAA is now the best amateur league in the world,” said one NCAA coach. “Most of that has to do with the number of older players in the league, but also the influx of high end talent deciding to go that route.

“If an 18 year old can thrive in that NCAA environment, there is a very good chance he will translate to pro very well.” 

Most of that discussion surrounds the speed of the NCAA game. The older, more mature players create a very pro style compared to CHL, which is composed of 16-to-20-year-old players.

A former NHL coach said, “Both are wonderful options. Traditionally, the NCAA was for the so-called “late bloomers” while the CHL tended to cater towards the higher end, instant impact players.

“This thinking has changed for the better as both routes cater to all types of players. It is largely based on a players interest, opportunity and finding the ideal situation for the player and the person.” 

Both leagues are heavily scouted. The one major difference is that as a young Canadian player you cannot play in the CHL before choosing the NCAA route. This forces players to play in the CJHL or the USHL before attending school. 

Although the CJHL and  USHL are scouted, players are often undervalued and taken in later in the draft. 

“It is true, we see players either slide down in the draft or get taken in their second year of eligibility because they chose the NCAA path versus the CHL path,” said one scout.

Many scouts confirmed these thoughts as they found it more difficult to compare a player playing in those Tier 2 junior leagues.

There are more intangibles at play and it’s difficult to compare players from one league to another, not to mention that there are fewer views of these players in these leagues. 

“This possibility of being drafted later than expected is one aspect Canadian players must realize when they choose this route,” said one scout. “The upside for these Canadian NCAA players is that they end up getting a little more time to develop and often get second chances through free agency.”

The scout went on to say, “NHL teams like taking NCAA players — especially middle rounds — as they are investments that they do not have to spend money on as soon as compared to a CHL player.

“When you draft a CHL player, decisions on signing that player need to be made much sooner.”

Amateur Hockey Scouting

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Team Fundraising Using FlipGive


Two years ago, I was introduced to a new type of fundraising platform that netted the team over $1,200 with almost no effort. All I had to do was shop as I normally do and the team would get paid.

In this day and age with technology at our fingertips, you no longer have to fund raise the same old ways. Forget about selling candy, raffle tickets, going door-to-door, or walking up to people cold to try to raise funds.

There’s an app for that. With FlipGive, you can raise funds without the hassles of collecting money and the effort to get things started is minimal.

What is FlipGive?

FlipGive is a fundraising platform that helps people raise money for important causes and for teams in a simple app that you can use from your smartphone.

The company believes that traditional fundraising methods are time consuming and often they don’t work because they take too long and require significant effort for little profit. Part of the issue is that the average individual receives so many requests for donations within a given year, that they don’t feel inspired to give.

FlipGive connects teams to major companies that are willing to fund their causes in exchange for you shopping at their company. It encourages individuals as well as members of teams to shop from the app’s partners, which increases their sales.

FlipGive was created by Mark Bachman (CEO) and Nicholas Lee (CTO) in 2015 and is based in Toronto, Canada. They realized that in order to raise funds for their school, school fundraiser programs usually had kids either sell certain products or perform particular activities such as walkathons to raise money.

These old-school fundraisers were annual events which had parents reaching deep into their pockets every single year.

Bachman and Lee understood that it was challenging for people to keep asking their friends and family members to buy products they did not want for the sake of raising money. So they created a shopping platform that would encourage major brands to give money to support groups in an app so easy and convenient that it would attract the interest of coaches, teachers, and anyone else who needed money to fund an activity that would impact the community in a positive way.

How does FlipGive work?

FlipGive is a lot like Rakuten. It is a shopping platform that gives cash back to teams and groups that are trying to raise money. The teams simply shop online. It’s that simple. There are many companies onboarding such as Walmart, Amazon, Gap, Indigo, The Keg, and many more.

With FlipGive, instead of getting team players to ask friends and family for money, or approaching companies for a donation, you can visit their website to make a purchase. FlipGive’s platform provides links that take you to the online stores of all its partner brands. You shop, and FlipGive will track your purchases and then deposit money into your FlipGive account in the form of cash back rewards. You are basically making money by shopping at your favorite online stores, buying movie tickets, booking tables at restaurants, and more.

Getting started

To get started with this platform, simply visit the app store or the to sign up.

Once you complete the registration, you create a team, invite your team members to join and start shopping  using the links on the platform. In a few days FlipGive will deposit your money in your account. Once the money is in your account, you can withdraw it whenever you want after you reach at least $100. It is free to join so there is upfront cash outlay for the team.

Get the app

FlipGive is an app available for both iOS and Android platforms and can be found on the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store through which users can access to over 600 stores online.

A great feature is that you can also use the app to find local places nearby. You can use also the app for planning team events, accepting donations, and accessing various perks throughout the year.

The money teams receive belongs to FlipGive. The brands who they have partnered with pay them commissions on every purchase team. The company gives a percentage to the teams who made the purchase.

Is it worth it?

Teams that shop on this platform can earn up to 25% cashback. The platform’s primary objective is to help local children’s sports teams raise funds. They believe that local sports teams are a vital part of a child’s development but have become too expensive. Many parents cannot afford to finance their child’s sport without some challenge. FlipGive wants to give children’s sports some help.

For any cash donation made to a team, the team gets to keep 100% of that amount. Note that the donor is expected to pay a 6% transaction fee.

While the amounts earned will vary depending on the activities of the team, the average team can earn as little as $500 or as much as $2,500 within six months.

How to succeed with FlipGive.

1) Shop Online

FlipGive has hundreds of brands that you can make purchases on to earn cash back for your team.

2) Shop In-Store

Find places near you where you can earn cash back. Simply link your card for payment or gift cards that you can redeem in stores. All you have to do is download the app to find all the places near you to shop.

3) Plan Team Events

Create earning opportunities by booking events for your team, which will allow you the opportunity to multiply your cash back. Team dinners should be planned at a place that partners with FlipGive.

4) Accept Donations

You can also accept donations from sponsors, friends, and family.

FlipGive is a solid fundraising platform that has helped more than 25,000 teams earn more than $20 million. I recommend you give it a go. Be sure to get it going at the start of the season well before the holiday shopping season.

And send out a reminder to the team once in a while to keep it top of mind. Good luck!

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Shattering The Myth Of Youth Hockey Specialization


One of the few positive developments from the COVID-19 outbreak is that parents may finally see the evidence of what so many experts have been telling them for years — more isn’t better.

Every hockey player — from NHL stars like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews to youth athletes —who is used to participating in spring and summer hockey leagues and camps, are currently off their blades. For the first time in decades, there was no ice available for them to skate.

It’s not a good thing for those who earn a living at the game, but it could prove a wonderful blessing for kids participating in 12-months-a-year hockey.

“I don’t know if it’s good for the pros but it’s good for a lot of kids, having a month off the ice,” suggested USA Hockey’s Seth Appert, coach of the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-18 squad.

Study after study displays the benefits of a multi-sport experience to youngsters but parents, with stars in their eyes, certain that their little boy is the next Sidney Crosby, continue to sign up their children for year-round hockey. Some are convinced that it will provide their child a leg up. Others fear that without a 12-month training regimen, theirs will be the kid who gets left behind.

In reality, what many of these parents are doing is dooming their children to failure — not just on the ice but potentially, in life itself.

Research shows that athletes who specialize in a single sport do not fully develop and therefore do not reach their genetic potential of agility, balance and coordination. Utilizing the same muscle movement time and again doesn’t allow their bodies to develop a full range of motion. These three pillars of athleticism are fully used by participating in a variety of sports in the elementary and secondary school years.

On top of that, overtaxing specific areas in a growing, developing body puts too much stress on bones and muscles and that can lead to serious damage being done. Studies show that athletes who specialize in one specific sport are 70-93 per cent more likely to be injured.

As well, athletes that remain in a single sport are socially accustomed to routine and predictability. These behaviors restrict the creative capabilities typically associated with different body movements, such as read and react times and problem solving. Overuse of the same muscle memory associated with a single sport also tended to lead to fatigue or adversity.

Immersed in a single-objective world, when that world falls apart — suppose, for instance, a player is cut from the team, or suffers an serious injury that jeopardizes their future in the game — it can result in consequences that range far beyond the boards of a hockey rink.

These kids are well aware of how much time and money their parents have invested in hockey. They feel that weight and in turn, are stressed emotionally from the pressure to create a return on that investment. When they fail to do so, the letdown can prove devastating from both a physical and mental standpoint.

Hockey’s been their life for as long as they’ve lived. It’s where their social structure exists. It’s where all of their friends are found.

When that’s gone, often their self-worth disappears with it.

“I see too many kids come in now and they live and die hockey, they have no life away from hockey,” former NHLer Rob Ray said. “They just have no release.”

It’s one of the major reasons that those who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit that sport.

A study conducted by veteran minor-hockey observer Jim Parcels displays exactly how minute the chances are of a youngster journeying from minor hockey all the way to the big time.

Parcels followed the paths of all 32,000 Ontario minor hockey players born in 1968. From that massive case study, 122 reached the OHL and 27 more earned NCAA scholarships.

Thirty-five were fortunate enough to suit up for one NHL game and eight of those managed to play 400 career games in the show, enough to qualify for a full pension.

Factoring in the remainder of registered youth hockey players in Canada, the odds of one of those Ontario kids skating in the NHL was 46,000-1. And that doesn’t take into account players from the USA and Europe.

Submitting your kid to year-round hockey isn’t going to improve those odds but it could certainly hinder your child’s development.

Adam Graves, a two-time 50-goal scorer in the NHL, put his skates away every spring and picked up a baseball mitt.

“The big picture of things? Yes, we were very lucky, but ultimately, everyone was a winner to get the chance to play a sport they loved to play,” Graves said. “I’m sure if you talked to any of those 32,000 kids and asked if they met some friends, if they learned something along the way, I don’t think you’d find one kid who didn’t.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep minor sports about the kids, to keep it positive. Give your kid every opportunity, but try not to push too hard. It just re-emphasizes how important school is and that minor sports is about having fun and enjoying yourself.”

The message to hockey-obsessed parents is simple and straightforward. No matter how much you push your child, regardless of how much you invest in their future on the ice, the odds are better you’ll someday see the Toronto Maple Leafs skate around the ice holding the Stanley Cup aloft than that you’ll see your kid skate in the NHL.

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