Hockey season is back meaning dry-land training is going to be traded for more ice time as preparations for the first games are being finalized. It also means that 6 am practices, spending 5+ days at the rink, and the pressure of academics and hockey are back onto the kids.
Thinking back to my playing days, all I ever wanted to do was play games. As a kid and even as an adult who actually likes going to practice every day? Ok get on the line because you didn't make a tape-to-tape pass on that last breakout drill. Skate faster in a meaningless circle drill! I could never put together the importance of a practice while I was a kid. Now as an adult you realize that skill development does require time on the ice honing our skills but do we really need to overwhelm our kids that much?
Let's look at our adult sports leagues. It's all games and no practices and trust me not everyone has the skills to be playing games without practicing but we realize practice isn't fun. So why do we subject our kids to practicing 5x more than they play?
While I understand that there are going to be kids that want to develop their skills and become the best that they possibly can be, this is where AAA hockey comes in. What we need to consider is reinventing and reintroducing the house league. Travel hockey has become so watered down because everyone wants to be a "travel" player. In reality many of these AA programs are just house leagues that wanted the travel name. Now these kids who wanted to just play games every weekend and practice once a week are subjected to practicing like a AAA team but may lack in the skill development department.
Some of my best memories were made in house hockey and playing pond hockey where yes the wins still matter but there is much less pressure and the focus is on having fun and beating your buddies. It's a friendly place for competition where kids can go to have fun and that is what I believe is missing in today's hockey leagues. You can't possibly tell me that the kids will remember just another game against a travel team more than their time playing outdoor ice hockey at the Tim Hortons Backyard Classic. Case and Point.
"If you take a group of African-Americans who have never skated before and a group of white kids who haven't skated before and put them on the ice approximately the same percentage of them will skate proficiently right off the bat" --Anonymous
If this is the case then why can you count the number of minorities on 10 hands? It all starts at the youth hockey level. It's about exposure at a young age. Dr. Frome takes his students from the King Charter School to the Riverside Ice Rink which is all the way across the City of Buffalo. So why does the City of Buffalo share two ice pads while the suburbs share 20 ice pads? It's all about the affluence as the wealthy people moved out to the suburbs and got hooked on the sport largely based on your financial status. To fully equip a hockey player can cost upwards of $1,000 or more just until the next time he/she grows out of the equipment. That doesn't even include the fee to play, which for travel can be upwards of $1,000-$2,000 for the ice time, referees, hotel, etc. The sport is skewed towards rich, white parents who want their kids to be just like them.
Hockey was invented in Canada and some say perfected by them and it's reflected in recent results from Olympics and other world events. Yet the United States is on the rise! They are doing so, however, with a majority of white athletes. With the minority becoming the majority in our country why are we not tapping into the wealth of athleticism that these minorities possess in order to better the overall skill of USA Hockey? We are limiting the draw of hockey players to mostly suburbs of major cities, who are white, and have money. This means we are drawing from a very slim percent of the country. While hockey doesn't thrive in all regions of the country, especially the warmer climates, cities like Buffalo which are hockey-enthralled are still failing to tap into the African-American market. Programs such as Hasek's Heroes which is a part of the Hockey is for Everyone initiative by the NHL is allowing children from the City of Buffalo to learn how to skate and play hockey at no cost! With similar programs in Philadelphia (Ed Snider) and all around the country we are SLOWLY starting to expand the opportunities for this group of children which can only benefit USA Hockey. The Tim Hortons Backyard Classic has raised over $30,000 in our five-year existence to help in Hasek's Heroes efforts and rewarding the hard work by the children of Hasek's Heroes by bringing one or two teams of their kids out to play in the tournament every year.
This problem isn't just in USA Hockey though, it carries over to the National Hockey League as well. If I asked you to name 10 white guys who currently play in the NHL it would take me five seconds to answer: Vanek, Pominville, Myers, Crosby, Ovechkin, Miller, Thornton, Kaleta, Ennis, Leopold. Yet if I asked you to name me ten Asian players or even five Asian players I guarantee you wouldn't be able to. The same carries over to African-American hockey players as well. The most prominent one currently is probably Wayne Simmonds who at the beginning of the season was victim of racism when a fan threw a banana onto the ice while he was performing a shoot-out attempt. We are years away from slavery, yet how much progress have we actually made? Minorities have just as much athletic talent and ability if they are given the exposure that everyone else is given, so why not better our game at a national and local level by evening the playing field and giving everyone a fair shake. Look below for current minorities in the NHL.
(AS OF JANUARY 30, 2013)
NHL Players of African Descent or Ancestry Active Players (Only current NHL team or affiliate identified): Akim Aliu, Forward, Calgary Flames Paul Bissonnette, Forward, Phoenix Coyotes Francis Bouillon, Defense, Nashville Predators J.T. Brown, Forward, Tampa Bay Lightning Dustin Byfuglien, Defense, Winnipeg Jets, Member of Stanley Cup Team, Trevor Daley, Defense, Dallas Stars Robbie Earl, Forward, Minnesota Wild Ray Emery, Goaltender, Chicago Blackhawks Maxime Fortunnus, Defense, Dallas Stars Mark Fraser, Defense, Toronto Maple Leafs Jarome Iginla, Forward, Calgary Flames Derek Joslin, Defense, Vancouver Canucks Evander Kane, Forward, Winnipeg Jets Greg Mauldin, Forward, Colorado Avalanche Jamal Mayers, Forward, Chicago Blackhawks Kenndal McArdle, Forward, Winnipeg Jets Johnny Oduya, Defense, Chicago Blackhawks Kyle Okposo, Forward, New York Islanders Theo Peckham, Defense, Edmonton Oilers Ryan Reaves, Forward, St. Louis Blues Bryce Salvador, Defense, New Jersey Devils Wayne Simmonds, Forward, Philadelphia Flyers Devante Smith-Pelly, Forward, Anaheim Ducks Anthony Stewart, Forward, Carolina Hurricanes Chris Stewart, Forward, St. Louis Blues P.K. Subban, Defense, Montreal Canadiens Joel Ward, Forward, Washington Capitals
NHL Players of Aboriginal Descent or Ancestry Active Players (Only current NHL team or affiliate identified): Arron Asham, Forward, Pittsburgh Penguins Rene Bourque, Forward, Montreal Canadiens Kyle Chipchura, Forward, Phoenix Coyotes Jonathan Cheechoo, Forward, St. Louis Blues Vernon Fiddler, Forward, Dallas Stars Chris Kelly, Forward, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins D.J. King, Forward, Washington Capitals Dwight King, Forward, Los Angeles Kings Cody McCormick, Forward, Buffalo Sabres T.J. Oshie, Forward, St. Louis Blues Carey Price, Goaltender, Montreal CanadiensWade Redden, Defense, New York Rangers Sheldon Souray, Defense, Anaheim Ducks Jordin Tootoo, Forward, Nashville Predators
NHL Players of Asian Descent or Ancestry Active Players (Only current NHL team or affiliate identified):Chris Beckford-Tseu, Goaltender, Florida Panthers Manny Malhotra, Forward, Vancouver Canucks Jon Matsumoto, Forward, Florida Panthers Raymond Sawada, Forward, Dallas Stars Devin Setoguchi, Forward, Minnesota Wild Brandon Yip, Forward, Nashville Predators
A majority of Americans have suffered from the Cinderella story of Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA mens basketball tournament. The real March Madness is the Frozen Four for us hockey fans, however, and we wanted to give our fans a way to get even more involved in the action while giving your bracketology skills a second shot.
Go to http://www.timhortonsbackyardclassic.com/frozen-four-bracket-challenge.html to enter your bracket by Friday at 1:59 pm by emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is 100% free!
"In our backyard we have amazing youth hockey teams who are playing on a national level and you can watch for free!"
Why are we willing to shell out hundreds of dollars, sit in an hour of traffic pre and post-game, while spending $15 on beer and concessions watching the Sabres lose? Yet, literally in our backyard we have amazing youth hockey teams who are playing on a national level and you can watch often for free or under $10! Between the Buffalo Jr. Sabres teams to the Amherst Youth Hockey teams playing at the Northtown Center, four-rink facility in Amherst, NY, which hosts USA Hockey Nationals for multiple age levels every year; there is no reason to only pay to see the pros. Now don't get me wrong, I love going to a Sabres game at least once a year because it's a great atmosphere when you're spending time with 19,070 other people who share at least one thing in common with you, a love for Buffalo sports.
Coming from the referee perspective, I believe youth hockey has been revolutionized with USA Hockey's initiatives. In an attempt to better the game, in my opinion, they have lessened the quality of talent at a local level as compared to Hockey Canada. It is a different style of play up in the Great White North and it often trumps the USA Hockey talent. Yet don't let this turn you off because the United States is churning out young players like never before. And its not just boys playing hockey anymore, the girls game is rapidly growing as well!
Next time you want to go to watch a hockey game, avoid yourself the financial troubles and other difficulties associated with seeing a professional sports game and give youth sports a chance! Especially at the Nationals level you won't regret it!
With the couple days of warm weather which turned our ice rink into a swimming pool; some of you might have been smart enough to take out your plastic. But for those of you that stuck it out, Bravo! You may have been rewarded with a couple more skating days as the temperatures are staying low during the nighttime. However, with my time constraints I settled for taking the plastic from our Backyard Classic Rinks after ice had once again settled on top of our couple inches of water. This makes for a nightmare!
Lesson to be learned here: wait until the ice is completely gone, if possible, because even a thin layer of ice can accumulate during removal and make the plastic a 100 or more lb sheet. Unfortunately, in my case, we had to get it out to prepare for flag football leagues and it took me two and a half hours just to remove the plastic (granted I was by myself). And ALWAYS remember to check the slope of your land to see where the water will drain!!
Listed below are just some of the many news stories done and pictures taken at the 2013 Tim Hortons Backyard Classic. Please Enjoy!
On behalf of the children, their families, coaches, staff, Board of Directors, and Dominik Hasek, I would like to express our sincerest appreciation for your support of The Dominik Hasek Youth Hockey League, Inc. by playing in the 5th Annual Tim Hortons Backyard Classic.
It is through support from generous people such as you and your teammates that allows us to continue to make a difference in the lives of children all over our community.
As a 501(c)3, please accept this email as a receipt for the player fees you donated. Please retain this letter as final confirmation of your gift.
Thank you again for your generosity and support in helping change the lives of our children. We hope to see you at next year’s tournament!
Sean F. Green
The Dominik Hasek Youth Hockey League, Inc. DBA Hasek’s Heroes
Co-Chair Tim Hortons Backyard Classic
Co-Chair Tim Hortons Backyard Classic
@Backyard Classic and #Backyardclassic
My name is Nick Penberthy and am the Founder of the Tim Hortons Backyard Classic. Now after 5 years of running the THBYC we have raised over $30,000 for Hasek's Heroes.