WAYNE, N.J. – Giancarlo Sears may only be 6 years old, but he already knows one of the most important aspects of hockey.
“I love to pass the puck to everybody,” said Giancarlo, who plays for the Woodbridge Wolfpack 6U squad. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.”
His teammate, 5-year-old John Gall, wasn’t as patient.
"Are we going to play yet?” John asked his mother, Victoria Porcaro. “It’s so exciting to be here.”
The youngsters were at the Wayne Ice Vault this past weekend to take part in an American Development Model 8U Jamboree, a two-day smorgasbord of hockey for kids who are beginning their march down the hockey path.
More than 100 youth teams from all over New Jersey converged on the Ice Vault, an endless parade of kids carefully carrying their sweaters on hangers, dragging equipment bags that are both bigger and heavier than they are.
The event, run by USA Hockey’s Atlantic Affiliate, gave youngsters a chance to kick-start their regular seasons that will begin soon.
Nick Regas is the hockey director at the Ice Vault and the New Jersey Bandits organization. He helped organize the 1,000 or so players in the jamboree.
“One team comes in, another goes out,” Regas said. “It starts at 7 a.m. and goes to 7 p.m. But it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great atmosphere. Look at the kids’ smiles.”
All games are played on the half-ice standard, with hard-board dividers to segment the rink. There are 25-minute periods, played with running time. No score is kept. Face-offs only happen at the start of the game. If a penalty occurs, that player is removed from the game and replaced for the remainder of his shift.
These modifications encourage kids to play, learn and efficiently develop skills instead of being a spectator for much of the game. There are no benchwarmers in the ADM.
“It’s more skill-oriented,” Regas said. “It’s really improved the pace. The skill development, skating, passing, has gone through the roof. The kids really enjoy it.”
This was the third year for the jamboree, and this year’s event had the biggest participation yet.
“They’re able to compete in a fun environment,” Regas said. “If they play now and we keep them intrigued, then they’re hooked for life. It’s huge to get them interested now.”
Parents seem to agree. Deborah Nixon’s 8-year-old son William plays for the New Jersey Bandits. She says he loves hockey and he loves the ADM jamboree format because it means he gets to play more.
“When he was on a team with 20 kids, he’d get on the ice twice in an hour,” Nixon said. “This way, the excitement level increases. He gets up in the morning and says, ‘Yes! I have hockey today.’”
And as for the atmosphere of the jamboree?
“It’s electric,” Nixon said. “It makes the kids feel like they’re important. This is their NHL. Of all the teams and kids here, maybe one might make the NHL. Right now, in their heads, they are [Henrik] Lundqvist or [Ryan] McDonagh.”
Nixon also enjoys the family aspect to the tourney.
“William wants to be here all day, being with the other kids, it becomes a family thing.”
Giancarlo’s father, Todd Sears, loves hockey and the ADM approach. Giancarlo just started skating in February but he’s already hooked.
“He came off the ice and said that he never wanted to leave,” said Sears. “It’s been a positive for him, as he develops respect for other kids and his coaches. He follows direction. He listens. I can absolutely see the change in him.”
“[John] comes from a family of hockey players,” Porcaro said. “But this teaches him a lot about teamwork and sportsmanship. It’s pretty amazing to have something like this for him.”
Scott Buzney coaches the New Jersey Stars from Princeton, N.J. He believes that the tournament serves many purposes.
“It gives the kids something to look forward to,” Buzney said. “It’s been motivation in practice for the last few weeks. I think this format is great for their age. They can see the ice, touch the puck and move the puck.
“They think it’s the greatest thing on earth. It’s the best motivational tool I’ve ever come across.”
Tony D’Anna is a coach with the Montclair Hockey Club who also applauds the ADM approach and the jamboree.
“It’s great,” D’Anna said. “You see all the smiles on the kids. They really enjoy it. It took a little while to get used to, but now I’d much rather play the smaller ice with the smaller nets. My boys played full-rink in their day. I wish they had this. USA Hockey has done a great job educating everyone about the ADM.”
So how much do the kids enjoy it?
“When I played my first game, I was extra excited,” John said. “It was better than Santa Claus.”
It doesn’t get much better than that.
NOTES: The Atlantic Affiliate hosts its annual 8U ADM jamboree in two locations, the Ice Works in Aston, Pennsylvania, and the Ice Vault in Wayne, New Jersey. This year they welcomed involvement from the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.
In Aston, 67 8U and 6U teams participated in the event, with each team playing four games over the weekend. Flyers alumnus Brad Marsh greeted them, along with packages of swag direct from Broad Street.
In Wayne, the Devils provided giveaways and interactive off-ice activities. Three-time Stanley Cup champion Ken Daneyko was also there to greet players and families, along with N.J. Devil, the mascot, who was a huge hit with the kids. The New Jersey half of the jamboree featured 100 teams playing four mini-games in a single day in a full-blown festival atmosphere with food, music and fun.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.