BEDFORD, Mass. — Moments before hitting the ice for a Sunday-night USA Hockey youth clinic at The Edge Sports Center of Bedford, Katie Athanasoulas and her best friend, Jaime Griswold, explained why they are dressing up as the Lamoureux twins for Halloween.
“We love watching them,” Athanasoulas said of United States Olympians and twin sisters Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, without realizing Monique Lamoureux was standing behind her.
“Katie, this is Monique Lamoureux,” Jaime’s mother, two-time Olympian AJ Mleczko Griswold, interrupted.
“Hi, I heard you are going to be me for Halloween,” Lamoureux said while the two speechless girls looked up in awe.
“And you know what they said?” Mleczko Griswold added. “They said ‘I don’t want your old jerseys, mom. I want Monique and Jocelyne’s jerseys.’”
After the exchange, the 8-year-old girls, who play with the East Coast Wizards, joined about 65 to 70 of their male and female peers from the Wizards program for the 50-minute clinic. Led by 10 to 15 Wizards coaches, the clinic featured USA Hockey’s age-appropriate skill-development program known as the American Development Model.
USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Michele Amidon, Monique Lamoureux and her U.S. Olympic teammate, Hilary Knight, also helped conduct cross-ice drills that divided the rink into four smaller areas and gave each child a chance to handle the puck more.
“It’s a great way for us to give back and be accessible to these girls, because we remember when we were this age, and being able to be on the ice with your role models is pretty cool,” said Knight, noting that it’s also a welcomed break from training. “Absolutely, it’s a different mentality. It’s all fun and games and you get to meet different coaches and the younger generation coming up.”
The Edge was one of the rinks the U.S. National Team trained at in the run up to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, where the Americans won a silver medal.
“The Edge and [manager] Scott Fusco, they’ve been really good to us, especially some of us post-grads that have been skating here in the summer and the fall,” Lamoureux said. “So I figure they’re good to us, we want to be good to them. It’s good to give back — especially with the Wizards teams; they have 21 girls’ teams, which is unbelievable. So it’s good to work with the younger girls.”
Mleczko Griswold, who coaches in the Wizards’ program, was on the ice as well and said skating with Lamoureux and Knight meant the world to her daughter Jaime and son, Sam.
“For my children, the fact that I played on the [national] team is lost on them,” said Mleczko Griswold, who lives in Concord, Mass., and has two other children. “It was before they were around. I’m not sure they can really appreciate it … for them to play with these players, it’s far cooler than for them to play with their mom.
“I think for [the Olympians] to go out there, it gives them something to aspire to. It gives them something to work hard for; it makes them realize there are so many things to work hard toward. Whether they make that level or not, I think it’s important for little kids to have role models to look up to. And speaking for me, I only had male hockey players as role models, so I love it.”
Amidon said part of the reason the clinic was conducted for the Wizards is because they have implemented much of the ADM methodology so well.
“This association has been on the cutting edge of doing a lot of the right things, so USA Hockey just wants to show our support and support the East Coast Wizards and get the message out there,” Amidon said.
“They implement a lot of age-appropriate aspects of development; they play cross-ice hockey at the younger ages, they use station-based practices, they have a lot of high-end coaches on the ice, they educate their parents. On and on and on I could talk about them.”
Michael Lambert has three children on Wizards’ teams and also coaches in the program.
“This is great. They get a lot of touches and they all come off with a smile on their face,” he said. “It’s great. They watch [Knight and Lamoureux] on TV, they have their posters, and to actually be on the same sheet of ice with them is a treat.”
He also said the Wizards are committed to small-ice hockey.
“Every team practice you split a sheet of ice with another team,” he said, “and they’ve been doing that for years, and they are committed to ensuring that the kids get a lot of ice time and touches.”
But Amidon, who also conducted a short coaching seminar before the clinic, said even ADM front-runners can improve, especially because the coaches are usually parents who follow their kids through the ranks.
“So it’s constant coaching education,” she said. “We kind of use the example that if you were running a corporation and you used business techniques from 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, you’d be out of business. So you have to keep up with the times. The game has changed, and we know more than we used to know.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.