Tag Archives: athletes

Bitten By The Goalie Bug

20161105_144230Boy, do we love hidden sports talent stories! You know the ones, where a kid is put into a position he or she has never tried before, and pulls an amazing game from seemingly nowhere.

Meet Logan V. Last year he was brand new to hockey. As in, while many of his teammates had several years  under their belts and were as steady on their skates as they are in sneakers on dry pavement, Logan was quite literally making his brave debut with blades strapped to his feet in a competitive game.

Knowing how quickly kids pick up the sport, his coach and staff were pleased to help Logan work on his skills. Week after week, the parents of Team 1 watched as this young man worked hard to improve, and they cheered every game when he was able to break up a play, move the puck forward, or back up his teammates.

It’s always a great thing to see a player develop. But there is nothing more astonishing than to discover that a player has a hidden talent.

Logan’s hidden talent … is for goalie.

Here’s how it went. One day, Logan told his coach that he wanted to give the old net a try. So of course, his coach strapped him into the pads and sent him out for a practice to see how he liked it. Turns out he liked it well enough. His coach, together with Logan’s parents, watched anxiously as Logan went out there into net the very next game.

What happened next defies expectation. Shot after shot, Logan made the save. He was down, he was up … he was the Great Wall of Clarington! The parents of Team 1 gasped in amazement. Could this really be their Logan out there?!

The game ended in a win for Team 1, and no one could deny that Logan was player of the game!

Since that time, Logan has decided that he wants to be a full-time goalie, and is improving even further with his new coach on Team 3.

It just goes to show, friends, that even though kids progress at different rates, they each have different talents. And sometimes they have hidden talents, talents we didn’t even think to consider might be there.

We think everyone can agree – it is nothing short of amazing when they pull those talents out and surprise the “puck” out of us!

An On-Ice Slip: Not Always a Bad Thing

No matter how good a skater you are, no matter how many years you’ve been doing it, it’s inevitable – you’re going to fall at one time or another. And believe it or not, referees are not immune to this slightly embarrassing gaffe.

It’s a good thing our Clarington referees have a great sense of humour. Did you know that each time one of them has a wee slip on the ice, they contribute to a fund? A Fall Jar, if you will. They have a good laugh about it amongst themselves afterwards (so long as they’re not seriously hurt, of course), and they get back out there on the ice next game to do what they do best.

Now that’s dedication.

Normally, the Fall Jar fund goes towards an end-of-season celebration amongst our officials. A well-deserved one, may we say, considering the time and effort and, yes, bumps and bruises, that go hand-in-hand with a typical season.

But this year, the referees have decided to forgo their night out, and instead have donated the entire proceeds from their slips and trips.

This year, those proceeds sponsored a child in need.

That’s right! A kid who might otherwise not have been able to play hockey this year, got the chance to step out on the ice. They got the chance to be a part of a team, to make new friends, and to play the game that we all love.

Of course, our referees are modest. You would not have heard this story from them. But we’re not modest, and we’re perfectly happy to share this with our friends, players and parents. Our referees do far more for our kids than what we see on the ice every game. And they do it quietly, without expecting any kind of recognition in return.

So we hope you will all help us recognize our referees, and everything they do for us. Thank a ref next time you see one!

Photo Credit: Chris Waits

And The Most Dedicated Official Goes To …

We’re just going to say it: We’ve got the best people here in Clarington! Our parents, our players, our volunteers and especially our referees.

We are so proud to announce that, this summer, our very own senior official Dave Sankey has been awarded the prestigious Jack Clancy award for the most dedicated official in the 2015-2016 season.

… But of course, we always knew that about this outstanding gentleman!

daveDavid began his lifelong love for hockey when he started playing for Oshawa Minor Hockey at the age of 4. His dedication towards the sport only intensified from there; moving from Tyke all the way through to Midget, Dave developed his skills as a defenceman, eventually being playing for the Oshawa Legionaires Jr. B team when he was 16. It was at this time that Dave met his girlfriend – now wife of 28 years – Denise. Dave continued his hockey career, where at 17 he moved up from the Oshawa Legionaires to the Oshawa Generals

Dave became a referee for the Ontario Minor Hockey Association in 1993. He was hired by the Ontario Hockey Association three years later, in 1996 – doing his first Ontario University Athletics games in 1999. In 2006, after watching his daughters integrate into the hockey world, Dave made the decision to change things up and give women’s hockey a try; it was shortly after making this decision that he added refereeing for the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association to his already busy life.

Over the years, Dave has not only dedicated his free time to refereeing; he has also volunteered his time, coaching various hockey teams since 1987. In 1989 he was awarded Coach of the Year for his work with a midget A Little National Hockey League team. Dave has also coached various teams for all three of his daughters, both in house league and rep hockey for Clarington Girls Hockey Association. Dave’s enigmatic coaching style and knowledge of the game has gained his daughters midget BB team a provincial silver medal medal in 2009. Even after his daughters moved away from home, Dave continued to volunteer his coaching experience to a new generation of Clarington Girls, coaching atom and bantam aged teams, whom he had no familial connection to.

dave-2Dave continues to referee with gusto, and has no thoughts of slowing down any time soon, which is why he has been presented with the Ontario Hockey Association’s Jack Clancy Award, which is an award attained only by the most dedicated members of the hockey community.

Congratulations, Dave Sankey!

Forty percent concussion rate from illegal hits: What can we do to stop it?

On Wednesday, London Knights winger Max Jones was ejected from a game against the Owen Sound Attack when he threw a blindside hit to the head of forward Justin Brack. Media outlets reported on it, calling it a “vicious hit,” and there was no shortage of comments from the public. They were, unfortunately, polarising.

At the suggestion that Jones may have diminished his chances of becoming a first-round selection at the upcoming draft, Rico07 said, “How does he hurt his stock? If anything he moves up the rankings. The kid is 6’3” imagine what a few summers in the gym will do.” To which another respondent commented, “Hmm… it’s difficult to imagine from where this Jones kid learned to deliver such cheap shots.”

We know that contact is a part of the sport of hockey. It’s why players lug so much protective padding to and from the rink from the time they first step onto the ice at the Mini Watt age (and why there’s a boom in the minivan industry thanks to hockey families). But there’s a difference between clean hits that are permissible, and ones that can leave permanent, lasting damage to a player. We don’t need to bring up the career ending hit on Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore by Vancouver Canucks’ Todd Bertuzzi to illustrate that point.

A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program recently concluded that more than 40 percent of concussions in youth hockey are the direct result of illegal hits.

Forty percent! That’s a staggering figure. More worryingly, younger players are at a higher risk.

Anthony Kontos, lead author for the Pittsburgh study, suggested that training kids to obey the rules and enforcing penalties may reduce the number of concussions. He says, “Better enforcement of existing penalties for illegal hits – especially those from behind when players are less able to protect themselves – may help to limit concussions in youth ice hockey.”

It may. But a major contributing factor, we’d argue, is the fact that our youth players are watching illegal hits like the Max Jones one this past week on television. Just about every kid who plays youth hockey dreams of playing for the NHL one day. The players they see on TV are their role models, and their actions are, for better or worse, emulated on the ice at all age groups.

In the OHL, body contact isn’t introduced as an acceptable play until Peewee, and with the 2013-2014 season, body checking was moved back an age-group to Bantam. According to the OHL website, “Education will remain a priority focusing on the 4-Step Checking Progression, which begins the first time a young player steps on the ice. This progression emphasizes the practice of positioning, angling and stick checks followed by contact Confidence and Body Contact which is taught at the later stages of athlete development.”

So while penalties may reduce the number and severity of illegal hits, it’s really up to coaches, parents and the general youth hockey community to explain to these young players the consequences of illegal hits and discourage them from being thrown on the ice at the local house league game. Just like we’re teaching our children to be media savvy with the prevalence of age-inappropriate imagery and messaging, we hockey-loving adults need our young players to be able to comprehend what goes on during those televised professional and semi-professional games (legal, appropriate or otherwise), and how it’s not appropriate for youth play.

Forty percent is a frightening number. With all the benefits we know youth hockey offers, let’s do our part to make sure that they are not outweighed by the risks.

Featured image photo credit: jhderojas

Creativity and Shinny: What Minor Hockey Might Be Missing

CaptureIs minor hockey worth it?

This was a question asked by the Toronto Star in a 2013 article which addressed the cost of minor hockey in Canada, and the statistical outlook for kids who hope to make it to the NHL.

Being a recreational hockey organization, our initial response was a resounding YES! For most of us who enjoyed a hockey childhood, we remember cold winter days spent on the pond until it got so dark we couldn’t see the puck anymore. We remember the smell of the ice first thing in the morning for those early games, and that twenty-kid pileup on the goalie after a well-deserved win.

Is minor hockey worth it … seriously?? [Insert snort of derision here]

However, with such a provocative question put forth by the Star, we naturally wanted to find out what their opinion was. So we read the full article …

Ahhh, okay. They’re looking specifically at minor hockey, as opposed to our recreational type of program here at the CRHL. And the writer does make some fair points with regards to expense, demographics, and margins of success — all points which don’t apply to us in quite the same way.

We did, however, find one suggestion particularly intriguing. The Star argues that with such a heavy focus on regimented, intensive training, minor hockey associations throughout Canada are producing players who are less creative than their forbears.

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Photo credit: Robert Taylor

Well that’s quite a glove slap to minor hockey! But one the Star, and many other industry experts, defend with statistics and live examples. More than simply substantiating such an accusation, they go so far as to offer a solution to this alleged tangible problem. And that solution is …

Unstructured, unregimented, unscripted … shinny??

Yes, shinny. Apparently this free skate style of hockey for the sake of the game alone offers something that intense training cannot. According to the Massachusetts Hockey association (Mass), when there is “freedom from clocks and walls and officials and coaches and whistles and lines … unrivaled joy beckons. There is also a by-product from this lack of structure: Player development for young skaters.” Mass points to Roger Grillo, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, whom they quote as arguing that creativity is a major part of developing high-end players.

Triple-A coaches far and wide are beginning to recognize this shift in player development also. The star reports one coach as saying, “Unlike Guy Lafleur or Wayne Gretzky, [players today haven’t] logged thousands of hours playing shinny. Instead they log thousands of hours in minivans; a game that can be a three-hour commitment when factoring in commute times and dressing time, but it only yields 10-17 minutes of ice time for the player.”

Interesting … and not inaccurate, when one stops to think about it. Ken Dryden, in his book The Game, writes that, “It is in free time that the special player develops, not in the competitive expedience of games, in hour-long practices … in mechanical devotion to packaged, processed, coaching-manual, hockey-school skills.”

To further this suggestion, there is an interesting anecdote on the Herb Brooks Foundation website:

A generation ago, Johnson High School in St. Paul was a Minnesota hockey powerhouse … Its success wasn’t due to better coaching, facilities, or innate athletic ability of East Side kids. Instead, it was the countless hours of unstructured practice by the Phalen Park rink rats. Hockey was part of the culture on the St. Paul’s East Side. Kids went to the rink/pond to meet their friends and have fun playing hockey. The game belonged to them.

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Photo credit: jpellgen [modifications: cropped]
As a recreational hockey association, of course the CRHL firmly believes that hockey practice, with regimented drills and a focus on skills, is an essential part of hockey development. But it’s only a part. With Canada being so strong on hockey culture, it’s safe to say that most of us can agree a little shinny wouldn’t go amiss. In between the early morning power skating, the practices, the games and the tournaments, perhaps we do need to remember to carve out some time for our kids to get out there on a pond, or a free rink, and just have at it.

Their game. Their way.

It’s food for thought, anyway.

Featured image credit: Jamie McCaffrey

Visualizing Success for Young Athletes

Hockey, as any player will tell you, is about far more than just getting out onto that ice and attacking the puck like your life depends on it (no matter what it might look like on TV during Hockey Night in Canada). Anyone who plays the sport knows there’s a skill involved – not just motor skills like being able to skate and stick-handle, but the skill to utilize your teammates to complete the play, to monitor their positions, and even to carry out pre-determined strategies for overcoming your opponents’ combined skills.

In short, there’s more strategy to hockey than there might seem from the stands. To our Clarington Thunder players, and to all hockey players, as your youth hockey career progresses and as you mature as a player, strategy will become more important to your game. And strategy is as much a mental skill as a physical one.

This week’s blog post is about visualizing your game, and it is inspired by multi-sports counselor and mental skills trainer Anthony Lanzillo, who advocates for youth athletes to “visualize the play.”

Practicing your drills is more than just getting out there on the ice and doing them over and over again. It’s about seeing them in your head, seeing yourself doing them step by step. When you’re visualizing your drills, you want to imagine the feel of each step, where you’re looking on the ice, and where you are supposed to be in relation to your teammates. It’s as important to commit your drills to your mental memory as it is to commit them to your physical memory (also called muscle memory).

Here are some additional things you want to be doing when you visualize the play:

  • Identify one or two positive feelings you’re experiencing as you see yourself successfully performing your role.
  • Identify key moments of each drill: where’s your stick; where are you looking on the ice; which opposing player are you covering?
  • When you’re done visualizing, identify one or two more of your own personal strengths which you bring to the play. Is it speed? Puck control? Diversion?

What practicing these visualizations and mental rehearsals do is help you to be more composed and confident when it’s game time. As Anthony Lanzillo says, you are creating a mental imprint of how you want to perform. By doing this, you will be better able to deal with any distractions or negative influences at game time.

And with parents and fans of our players as passionate about hockey as we know they can be, there will definitely be distractions at game time.

After all, what’s a local hockey game without a good old cow bell?