It’s been a busy spring of Mission success stories.
The high-powered Chicago club qualified five teams for the USA Hockey postseason, two of which – the 19U girls and 14U boys – made it to the national final, with the girls winning and the boys narrowly losing in double-overtime.
Shortly thereafter, 14 Chicago Mission players, the most of any single organization, were selected in the USHL Draft. Two more received invites to the National Team Development Program.
Next came the news that a robust harvest of 37 Mission players were invited to the USA Hockey Girls and Boys Player Development Camps slated for this summer.
The Mission then topped it off with two alumni signing NHL contracts: Christian Dvorak, who inked a deal with Arizona, and Jordan Schmaltz, who signed a three-year pact with St. Louis.
“It’s becoming typical of how the season ends for us,” said Gino Cavallini, Mission hockey director. “Our measure of success is how many kids we move on to higher levels.”
By that measure and many more, the Chicago Mission has established itself as one of the nation’s premier hockey programs. But the coaches and staff are anything but satisfied.
“We try to stay ahead of everyone,” said Cavallini. “We want to offer value for the parents and maximize their hard-earned dollars in the development of these kids.”
With that goal in mind, Mission has been among the local leaders in implementing USA Hockey's American Development Model.
The effort began at 8U, with Mission hosting the AHAI ADM program, and this fall, Mission will expand age-appropriate, age-specific training to 10U, grooming another wave of potential in the black, white and Coyote green. For Cavallini, who played nearly 600 NHL games before finishing his career with six solid seasons in Europe, the expansion fits his views on skill development, views honed, in part, while watching his son play four years of youth hockey in Europe.
“It was entirely small-ice, skill development-focused,” said Cavallini. “So it’s nothing new.”
Seeing the benefits, Cavallini embraced a skill-development emphasis and he credits Mission coaches for delivering those same benefits along the shores of Lake Michigan.
“Our parents can see the changes,” he said. “The skill development in our players is noticeable. Player retention is high. The players and families want to be here, and there are a number of reasons why, but the biggest is the quality of our coaches.
“It’s no surprise our kids are getting better and having fun.”