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Atlantic Jamboree: Big Fun on Small Ice

10/12/2016, 4:15pm MDT
By Jayson Hron - USA Hockey

What happens when you combine small-ice hockey, barbeque, live music, Stanley Cup champions and a 6-foot-tall smiling, mustachioed devil from the Pine Barrens? Well, you get the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association’s 8U jamboree, an event that spreads joy for boys and girls throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania each year.

This season, nearly 200 8U and 6U teams participated at the Ice Works in Aston, Pennsylvania, and the Ice Vault in Wayne, New Jersey. Each team played four games, with boys, girls and combined teams all facing off for fun, skill development and stratification within the Atlantic Hockey ranks.

In New Jersey, the festival atmosphere flowed from a parking lot band and barbeque for jamboree participants and their families. N.J. Devil also made an appearance, along with New Jersey Devils alumni Ken Daneyko, Colin White and Bryce Salvador. White and Salvador did double duty, representing the Devils and also watching their own children play in the jamboree.

“My child had a blast,” said White, who played 12 seasons in the NHL and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003. “These annual jamborees really get the kids excited for the season and I think it’s great how the Devils show their support for youth hockey by bringing down alumni, the mascot, the marketing events team and giveaways for all the kids.

“It was impressive to see more than 100 mite teams from New Jersey participate this year. It’s a testament to what USA Hockey, the Atlantic Affiliate, New Jersey youth leagues, rinks and the Devils are doing at the grassroots level.”

Salvador’s son also enjoyed his jamboree experience.

“The opportunity for him to play four different teams in a matter of hours was a great team-bonding experience for him and his teammates,” said the former Devils defenseman whose NHL career included more than 800 games and a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.

“Combining the benefits of exposing kids to the excitement of playing quick games against different teams with the advantages the half-ice environment provides is invaluable for their development and enjoyment of the game.”

Like many of the participating teams, the New Jersey Bandits are a fixture at the 8U jamboree, returning year after year. For Bandits 8U coach Michael Chanfrau, it’s a great way to start the season.

“I’ve seen this event mature over the years and it really is something other districts should consider, too,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s a fun atmosphere. But it’s also a good way to gauge the skill level of each team.”

As part of the registration process, jamboree coaches complete a questionnaire to establish an estimate of each team’s development level and competitiveness. Jamboree officials then position teams accordingly.

“The idea is that the kids develop better and enjoy the game more by playing like-skilled competition,” said Chanfrau. “This sets the tone for the entire season. We rarely have lopsided games anymore.”

With meaningful games being another core tenet of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, the annual jamboree delivers in more ways than one, providing fun with age-specific competition and efficient skill development.

“USA Hockey’s ADM and the cross-ice games have really helped kids focus on skill development, and most importantly, having fun,” said White. “As a parent and former NHL player, it’s refreshing to see, and I know my child is loving it.”

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