Busiest Dates on the Calendar Coincide with U.S. National Holiday

Food, family…and face-offs?

In what has become a tradition in the youth hockey world, the weekend following American Thanksgiving has become perhaps the biggest tournament weekend of the season. Turkey dinners, family gatherings, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and a whole lot of hockey action across the country.

It’s a wonderful way to skate off the turkey hangover, and it seems like each and every year, more and more teams are getting in on the Thanksgiving action.

When we say there was a remarkable amount of tournaments taking place across the country, we’re not exaggerating. 

There were 16 U.S. tournaments listed on the World Hockey Hub alone, and it’s easy to assume there were even more taking place across the country. Those 16 events took place in 12 different cities, with more than 1,500 teams in action.

In a ‘normal’ year, plenty of Canadian teams would take part in American festivities, partaking in some of the very tournaments mentioned below. Canada, however, had its own busy weekend of youth hockey, with tournaments like Silver Sticks; more on that later this week.

Here is a look at some of the highlights from the U.S. tournament weekend:

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One Team At Each GTHL Age Group To Keep An Eye On

The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) resumed regular hockey activities on Nov. 1, but its teams have been up and running for a regular hockey season since October. That means plenty of hockey to analyze and start figuring out who the teams to beat are in the most storied youth hockey league in North America. Here are our teams to beat in the GTHL this season.

Toronto Jr. Canadiens – U16 (2006)

The Toronto Jr. Canadiens are the team beat to beat in the GTHL this season at the U16 age level. As we head into the third weekend of November, they hold a perfect 14-0-0 record, which puts them in the top spot of the Canadian Rankings, and No. 2 in the world. On Oct. 10, the Jr. Canadiens gave the Mississauga Senators their first loss of the season by a 6-4 final; on Nov. 14, they did it again, this time with the scoreboard reading 6-2 at the final buzzer. It’s early in the season, sure, but the Jr. Canadiens are picking up steam and its hard to see anybody derailing them at the moment.

Toronto Jr. Canadiens – U15 (2007)

Much like their 2006 counterparts, the Toronto Jr. Canadiens are dominating early in the season at the U15 age group, too. Checking at No. 1 in the Canadian Rankings and No. 3 worldwide, the Jr. Canadiens have a nearly flawless 10-0-1 record on the young season. The Jr. Canadiens kicked off their 2021-22 campaign against the Toronto Marlboros and picked up a 5-3 win. To make sure it wasn’t a bit of opening-game luck, they did the same on Oct. 10, beating the Marlboros 4-2. The Jr. Canadiens’ one tie came at the hands of Ottawa Myers Automotive, a squad that has played to a 13-7-4 record so far this season. We’re not counting out the Marlboros just yet though — an 18-2-1 record makes them a terrifying next-on-schedule for any of the GTHL clubs. 

Vaughan Kings – U14 (2008)

They won the Toronto Red Wings Early Bird tournament to bring in some early-season hardware, and the Vaughan Kings have won a whole lot of other games too. Ranked No. 1 in Canada and ranked No. 2 worldwide, the Kings have a 15-0-0 record alongside an 82-18 goal differential so far this year. Some of their wins have come against top competition, as well, as the Kings have taken down the No. 4-ranked Peterborough Petes, the No. 5-ranked North York Rangers, the No. 6-ranked Toronto Jr. Canadiens, the No. 8-ranked Toronto Marlboros and the No. 10-ranked Elgin Middlesex Chiefs.

Don Mills Flyers – U13 (2009)

The Don Mills Flyers have been climbing up the World Rankings, and for good reason. They check in at No. 2 this week as their record grows to 14-2-0 on the season. In a recent battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2, it was Don Mills prevailing over top-ranked North York Rangers 4-3, and they celebrated by beating the No. 3-ranked Toronto Red Wings 4-0 three days later. Don Mills has No. 4 ranked Ottawa Myers Automotive next on the calendar, and they have also already beaten the No. 6-ranked Toronto Titans. One of their two losses came at the hands of the No. 7-ranked Sun County Panthers, the other a 5-4 OT thriller to the Huron-Perth Lakers.

Toronto Marlboros – U12 (2010)

It was a close call between No. 1 and No. 2, but when No. 1 has already beaten the team below it in the rankings, you have to go with the top dogs. The Toronto Marlboros have a 19-2-1 record so far this season, including a win over the No. 2 Vaughan Kings (a 3-1 final, if you were interested). Both of their losses have come to ranked opponents (No. 4 Toronto Jr. Canadiens in overtime and No. 7 Soo Jr. Greyhounds), and they’re outscoring their competition 96-28 in 2021-22. Other big victories for the Marlboros include two over No. 5 North York and one over No. 10 Oakville, as well as a win to avenge the OT loss to the Jr. Greyhounds. 

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Five Keys To A Mental Recovery Plan

One of the most demanding positions in any sport is playing goalie. All eyes are on them. They can’t hide from a mistake or a misstep. When the game is over the goalie is analyzed by everyone including their own coach, teammates, parents of the team, the opposing team and coaches, and even themselves.

The position often receives the most credit for a team win, but at the same time receives the most criticism following a loss. The most elite goalies not only require physical strength but mental and emotional strength as well.

An invaluable asset to goalies is to have a mental recovery plan. One that works following a loss, but also can be used right after a bad goal. 

Goalies have, on average, less than a minute to get ready and set for the next play. That means if the goalie is thinking about the past mistake, what they should have done better, complaining about the ref, or worrying about their teammates, their mind is not where it needs to be.

If your mindset is not focused on the present play, your performance suffers.

5 Keys to a Mental Recovery Plan

Self-talk

A great question I like to ask athletes I work with is, “Who is the person you listen to the most?” Often, answers include parents, coaches, teammates, or teachers. Many people tend to forget that saying “myself” is an option.

The person you listen to most is yourself. Your internal narrative or self-talk consists of the thoughts and dialogue in your mind that you have all day long. This occurs automatically and we may not even pay attention to messages we send ourselves daily.

When goalies are in the crease, they need to be intentional about the messages they have on repeat. Their self-talk is critical for top performance.

If your self-talk is negative, overly critical and harsh, you are not helping yourself. You need to support yourself through positive self-talk. You don’t have to lie and tell yourself everything is great. But you need to be intentional about helping yourself perform better.

Cue yourself with instruction; “see the puck,” “play strong,” and “quick feet.” These phrases help you stay on task. You can also use motivational self-talk; “trust yourself,” “I got this,” “I’m ready,” or “I trained for this.”

Have 3 to 5 self-talk phrases that help keep you ready, positive and focused. Don’t help your opponents out by beating yourself. Create your top performance through great self-talk.

Body Language

The best way to let your opponent know they’ve gotten the best of you is through body language. Many athletes don’t recognize the importance of body language.

Picture your opponent throwing their head back, then putting their hands up as if to blame their teammates for a bad play. Or if your opponent bends over, slams and breaks their stick, and skates slowly to the bench. Or imagine the players who have their head down on the bench and no one’s communicating with each other. Those players have already lost. They have been mentally beaten. They have checked out and their mindset is not in a place for their top performance.

As a goalie, you cannot let the opponent take up space in your mind. Be intentional about your body language. Imagine 5 things a goalie with good body language does.

Could you do all those things in practice and in games? Don’t allow your body language to be something that just happens. Practice it. Do not allow your body language to give anything away for free.

Positive body language for goalies includes keeping your head up, eyes on the play, standing tall in between plays and communicating effectively with teammates. Work to avoid blaming teammates, slamming your stick, throwing your head back or hanging your head, bending over in disappointment or getting in the referee’s face.

Imagery/Visualization

Goalies need to use their mind to their advantage. It’s great to keep the positivity up through self-talk and body language but these skills bring you back to your baseline performance. Imagery and visualization take your performance to the next level.

You cannot outperform your self-image. That means if you don’t see yourself making incredible saves, showing up big in the third period or shutting down the opponent’s power play, your chances of doing so greatly diminish.

Imagery involves all the senses — seeing, feeling, hearing, movement, smelling, taste — to recreate positive plays in the mind’s eye. The mind is so powerful that simply imagining great plays and good techniques solidify those brain-thinking patterns leading to quicker reaction times, increased performance and improved self-confidence. 

Create a self-image of an elite goalie. See yourself succeeding and making the clutch plays.

Re-Focus Cues

It’s easy to get stuck in the last play. Our minds want to analyze the past and make corrections for the future. But there is not time to go through that thinking process during a game. This activity is better saved for after the game.

Instead, you need to forget the last play and re-focus on the immediate task. This is easier said than done, it’s a skill that requires practice.

With intentional attention shifting, you can get yourself back into the present by focusing on exactly what is right in front of you.

One of my favorite re-focus cues from a collegiate goalie I’ve worked with is, “Next Shot. Next Save.” This four-word phrase moves the attention to the next play. The past play doesn’t matter anymore, I need to focus on my next save.

Another goalie reset focus through a physical routine of tapping the goal post with their stick, adjusting their pads and getting back into their ready stance. Doing this routine intentionally helps them reset their mind and body.

Relaxation

The paradox of being a goalie is that you must be alert while at the same time relaxed.

If you become too anxious, you may play ahead of yourself. Getting yourself out of proper position, cheating on your corners or playing too far off the crease.

If you contract your muscles too tightly, you lose reaction time, your movements lose their flow and you get tired much more quickly.

If your mind is not relaxed, tunnel vision occurs and you may not be able to see the entire ice as you should. You may start overthinking about the last couple of plays and losing present focus.

The best performances for goalies requires the right amount of energy.

I’m not saying you should be falling asleep out there; that’s too far in the other direction. You need to find the right energy level for you. Some of your teammates require their energy to be at 10, headbutting one another, jumping up and down, and hyping themselves up. Others require a lower energy level of 3 or 4, listening to music and being calm but ready.

Think of your best performance, what was your energy level at on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s important to work to recreate that exact energy level. Many professional goalies tend to have a lower energy level where they are intensely focused, in the zone and ready for anything.

If your energy level gets too high, which is often the case, you need to be able to relax the body and the mind. Through squared breathing you can calm the mind and the body. This technique requires four-second inhale, four-second hold, four-second exhale, four-second hold and then repeat. This short breathing exercise can be done in between plays, after a goal or during the period break.

Also combine your self-talk and re-focus cues to bring your energy level to where it needs to be. These techniques do not have to occur in isolation and help improve your recovery plan while used together.

Final Thoughts

Having a planned recovery plan will set you apart from your competition. Some of the best goalies in the NHL credit their success to sports psychology skills. Those goalies include Braden Holtby and Carter Hart.

Create your personal recovery plan using the suggestions above. As a goalie you need to be able to shake off the last play. Good or bad, it’s in the past. The most important play is the next one.

By Blaise Fayolle, EdD, CMPC, LLPC 

Blaise Fayolle holds a doctorate in Sport and Performance Psychology and is credentialed as a Certified Mental Performance Consultant® through the Associated for Applied Sport Psychology. Blaise is also a licensed mental health professional in Michigan.

Big winners at the CCM World Invite

The 2021 CCM World Invite Chicago brought 504 teams to the Chicagoland area for a massive early-season tournament this past weekend. Who emerged victorious? Let’s take a closer look at the top Super Tacks divisions for the ’05 through ’10 age groups.

16U Super Tacks

Chicago Mission took advantage of their home ice for the 16U age group, as they cruised to a 6-0-0 record in the Windy City. They dominated preliminary-round play, posting a 6-1 win over the NEW Jr. Gamblers and a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Vengeance on Friday before a 5-0 win over Belle Tire on Saturday. From there, it was a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Lakers on Saturday evening, and then a 7-2 win over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers Sunday morning before Mission finished things off with a 4-1 win over Culver Academy in the finals. Hats off to Culver, too, for a nearly flawless weekend, as well.

15U Super Tacks

Team Wisconsin gave up four goals at the CCM World Invite…over six games. With that type of defense and goaltending, it’s easy to see how they emerged victorious at the 15U age group. They registered 5-0 and 2-0 shutout wins over the MDHL (Michigan) and Pittsburgh Vengeance, respectively, on Friday, before a 3-1 win over Florida Alliance Saturday to charge into the elimination rounds. There, it was another shutout win — 3-0 over Team Illinois — in the quarters before a 3-1 win over the Cleveland Barons Sunday morning in the semifinals. In the finals, Chicago Mission managed to score twice, but, it wasn’t enough, as Team Wisconsin headed home champions thanks to a 4-2 victory.

2007 Super Tacks

Compuware had some fun after making the four-hour drive down to Chicago. With a 3-2 win over Team Wisconsin in the finals, Compuware secured a perfect weekend. They started things off with a 4-3 win over the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes and a 3-1 win over CarShield on Friday, before really hitting their stride on Saturday. There, Compuware posted back-to-back five-goal games, beating St. Louis Park 5-2 and then the Indy Jr. Fuel 5-1 in the quarterfinals. On Sunday, they recorded a 4-0 win over the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets before winning it all a few hours later.

2008 Super Tacks

The Los Angeles Jr. Kings entered the CCM World Invite Chicago as the highest-ranked participating team, and they lived up to the billing. The Kings posted a perfect 6-0 record on the weekend, out-scoring the competition 34-13 in the process. After posting a 6-2 win over the Indy Jr. Fuel and a 7-3 win over the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals to start, the Kings followed up with 7-1 and 4-2 wins over Sioux Falls Power and the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets Saturday. On Sunday, an 8-4 win over the Nashville Warriors secured their spot in the finals, where the Kings beat the Chicago Reapers 2-1.

2009 Super Tacks

The home cooking served the Chicago Reapers well this past weekend, as they emerged unscathed from a crowded 2009 class at the World Invite in their backyard. The Reapers pitched three shutouts during their run to the Super Tacks title – including back-to-back Friday 6-0 wins over the California Golden Bears and Nashville Warriors to start things off with a bang. Their last shutout? The finals, of course, as the Reapers blanked Florida Alliance 5-0. The hometown team scored 34 goals in their six games, while only allowing three all weekend – never more than one goal against in each game.

2010 Super Tacks (Crosby)

In a super-stacked Super Tacks at the 2010 age group, tournament organizers split the birth year into Crosby and Ovechkin divisions. In the Crosby division, there were seven ranked teams among the 12, and it was No. 1 holding the rest at bay. Chicago Mission navigated the tournament field with ease, posting a 6-0-0 record en route to a championship. They played the St. Louis AAA Blues in the first game and then again in the last game, and both times, Mission posted 7-1 wins. Along the way, they also took down the No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 5 L.A. Jr. Kings, too. 

2010 Super Tacks (Ovechkin)

The Madison Capitols took care of business in the other 2010 Super Tacks division, registering their own perfect 6-0-0 record in the Ovi division. No strangers to winning close ones, the Caps never won by more than two goals, but each and every time out, they found a way to win – including a 4-3 final over the Colorado Thunderbirds in the final on Sunday.

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Predictions For The World’s Largest Youth Hockey Tournament

Five hundred and four teams. Ten thousand players. 

There’s nothing quite like the CCM World Invite Chicago.

The annual tournament continues to bring some of the top talent from the U.S. and beyond into the Windy City area for some epic November battles, and this year should be no different. While it won’t be like years past with travel restrictions and the like, it’s going to be a jam-packed hockey weekend.

We’re especially excited for the 2010 age group, which has so many top-tier teams competing that they had to split up the Super Tacks division into Crosby and Ovechkin divisions. Seven of the top 10 teams in the most-recent World Hockey Hub U.S. rankings for the age group will be competing in the Crosby.

Who wins? Well, here’s a look at the Super Tacks division for ’05 through ’10 age groups:

16U Super Tacks

The No. 5 Long Island Gulls and the No. 10 Chicago Mission squads highlight the 16-team field for the 16U age group. Other teams to watch out for include local organizations in Team Illinois and the Chicago Reapers, but plenty of visitors like the Florida Alliance, Culver Academy and the Minnesota Lakers. The Gulls will certainly have their say in who comes home with some hardware, but we like the home team here.

Prediction: Chicago Mission

15U Super Tacks

The No. 5-ranked Chicago Mission boys are the lone team from the World Hockey Hub’s Top 10 list at the 15U age group, and, just like discussed above, it’s hard to go against the teams enjoying home cooking and their own rinks during a tournament like this. Watch out for Team Wisconsin and Belle Tire, but we think Mission takes this age group too.

Prediction: Chicago Mission

2007 Super Tacks

It looks like a wide-open field for the ’07 squads, with the Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers representing the WHH Top 10 rankings at No. 7 as the lone ranked team. They’re 17-2-0 on the season, and they may be able to get some revenge on one of the two teams that have handed them a loss if they meet up with the Chicago Reapers in the elimination rounds. Still, with a goal differential of 100-39 on the season, we’re not gambling with this guess.

Prediction: NEW Jr. Gamblers

2008 Super Tacks

From the bright lights of Hollywood, the Los Angeles Jr. Kings are the highest-ranked team entering the field for the 2008 birth year. The Kings check in at No. 8 on the Hub list. We like their chances getting out of their own division, but we will advise them to watch out for the Chicago Fury and the Chicago Reapers when they reach the quarterfinals. Seacoast Performance Academy, at 18-7-3 on the season, could make for a fun battle with the Kings down the road, too, as east coast would meet west coast in a Windy City throw-down.

Prediction: L.A. Jr. Kings

2009 Super Tacks

The 2009 age group is where things start to get more interesting. The State of Illinois is certainly represented well, with the No. 3-ranked Chicago Reapers and the No. 7-ranked Windy City Storm joined by the Chicago Fury, Team Illinois and Chicago Mission. The No. 10 St. Louis AAA Blues will be making the drive in, and they’re going to pose a threat to the hometown teams. With teams from Michigan, Massachusetts, California and Colorado all showing up, the 20-team Super Tacks group will be a difficult one to emerge victorious from. The Reapers, however, are a team on a mission this season, and we don’t see them slowing down this weekend.

Prediction: Chicago Reapers

2010 Super Tacks

As discussed at the top, this ’10 group is something. Seven of the 12 teams in the Crosby division appear in our most-recent U.S. rankings – No. 1 Chicago Mission, No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, No. 5 L.A. Jr. Kings, No. 6 Chicago Reapers, No. 7 Chicago Fury, No. 9 South Shore Kings and No. 10 Little Caesars. In the 10-team Ovechkin division, there’s a whole bunch of teams ready to make their case to move on up in the rankings too, like the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes and Ohio AAA Blue Jackets. In the Crosby, both of the top teams in Mission and Pittsburgh got good (well, as good as it can be in these two stacked divisions) draws in the preliminary rounds, and we think it’s going to come down to an eventual showdown between the two for the tournament title. Our pick? We’re going to call for the “upset” even though between those two rosters, it’s anything but.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite

Want more coverage from the world’s largest youth hockey tournament? Follow WHH on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest from CCM Chicago and other great events.

What To Watch For This Winter In Canada

Hockey season is heating up across Canada, and we’ve circled a couple key dates for the 2021-22 season. 

Here is our ‘Canadian Tournaments to Watch’ list for the coming months. Miss anything? Be sure to tell us about it at the bottom of the page. 👇

November

Rocky Mt. Classic Calgary – Nov. 10-14 – Calgary, Alberta

The ninth annual Rocky Mountain Classic U15 AAA Invitational serves as a huge kick-off event for western Canada. Notable past participants include NHL first-round picks Peyton Krebs (No. 17 overall in 2019 by Vegas), Sam Steel (No. 30 overall in 2016 by Anaheim) and Bowen Byram (No. 4 overall in 2019 by Colorado), as well as top 2022 prospect Matthew Savoie.

Blueline Tournament – Nov. 12-14 – Kitchener, Ontario

You know it’s good when there’s a 50th anniversary attached to this year’s event. The Kitchener Jr. Rangers will be welcoming some top teams to their neck of the woods for an early season battle at the U12, U13, U14, U15, U16, and U18 AAA levels.

International Silver Stick Final – Nov. 25-28 – Whitby, Ontario

It will be a little different than most years, with Silver Stick championships being decided separately between the United States and Canada due to border-crossing concerns. That said, some of the best teams in Canada will be fighting for those gorgeous trophies at the U10, U12, U14 and U16 levels in Whitby on the last weekend of November.

December

The Canadiens Cup – Dec. 3-5 – Toronto, Ontario

Sponsored by Sports Illustrated, the Canadiens Cup Tyler Cragg Memorial will bring together the 2007 through 2012 birth-years for AAA and Elite levels of play. Prospects By Sports Illustrated HD Live Streams will be available for all the contests, with pre and post-game interviews and a SportsCenter-like tournament wrap-up hyping things up for the participants.

Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic Tournament – Dec. 27-30 – Toronto, Ontario

The 28th annual Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic routinely brings top Canadian teams together, while most years also allowing a select group of American squads in on the holiday fun, too. In 2019, the Minor Midget final was an All-Michigan battle between Detroit HoneyBaked and Detroit Compuware; we’ll see if the American teams are able to head north to try to maintain their standing in the prestigious holiday invitational. 

January

John Reid Memorial U15 AAA Hockey Tournament – Jan. 13-16 – St. Albert, Alberta

The 42nd edition of the John Reid Memorial U15 AAA Hockey Tournament guarantees impressive hockey to kick off the calendar year out west. The event, which would traditionally bring western U.S. teams into the fold to battle with western Canada clubs, welcomes hundreds of scouts each year. You can understand why when you look at the alumni list, which features names like Jonathan Toews, Jarome Iginla, Matthew Barzal, Tyson Barrie and Colton Parayko.

International Silver Stick Final – Jan. 14-16 – Sarnia

A few months after crowning half of the Silver Stick champions, the U11, U13, U15 and U18 teams get a stab at adding some hardware in the Sarnia edition of the iconic tournament. In case you weren’t aware, the Silver Stick tournaments have been happening for 64 years now, and the winners’ names get displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

February

Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament – Feb. 9-20 – Quebec

When you visit the website, you are presented with a big, bold statement that says, “The most prestigious minor hockey tournament in the world!” I don’t think anybody can argue with it. The tournament is second-to-none, with teams across the globe flocking to Quebec with only a two-game guarantee just for the opportunity to compete against the best in the world. The tournament directors recently announced that the 62nd edition of the February tournament is open for out-of-towners who are vaccinated – depending on how the season plays out (and the rest of the world’s health dynamics as it relates to COVID). This might be the first massive youth hockey event with worldwide competition in more than two years. We can’t wait.

What did we miss? Fill out the form below and let us know what big events you’ve circled on the calendar for the upcoming season!

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Winners from the 2021 CCM World Invite Motown

The CCM World Invite Motown brought a remarkable amount of talent to Metro Detroit for the annual early-season tournament. Hosted by 200×85, it is one of the largest tournaments in youth hockey, with more than 300 teams competing across seven age groups. For top teams in the U.S., this event is a must for its high level of competition in the hockey hotbed known as Hockeytown.

Let’s take a look at who emerged victorious in their respective divisions, with write-ups from each of the Super Tacks divisions:

18U Super Tacks – Michigan Development Hockey League

The Michigan Development Hockey League (MDHL) representatives — a squad of high school hockey players from across the state — won the oldest age group, topping the Mt. Lebanon Hornets 2-0 in the championship game. The MDHL finished 5-1 in the tournament, and it was their second victory over the Hornets after beating them Friday evening. They dropped a 3-0 contest to the Tri-State Spartans on Saturday, but rebounded with a victory over the Pittsburgh Vengeance 5-3 and then shutouts in their semifinal (4-0 over rival Michigan Hockey Advancement) and final appearances.

16U Super Tacks – Fox Motors

Fox Motors only had to travel a few hours, driving in from Grand Rapids, Mich., for their pack of games. They thrived while staying in-state, picking up the 16U Super Tacks title. Fox dropped their opening game against the Pittsburgh Vengeance, but from there, they were nearly perfect, out-scoring the competition 18-5 in victories over the Anaheim Jr. Ice Dogs (5-1), Philadelphia Hockey Club (3-2), Team Alaska (2-0), Belle Tire (3-1) and Anaheim Jr. Ice Dogs again in the final (5-1).

15U Super Tacks – Phoenix Jr. Coyotes

The Phoenix Jr. Coyotes enjoyed their trip to Motown, as they head home with a big 15U tournament title. They fell to the Chicago Bulldogs 4-2 in their first game Friday afternoon, but rebounded with a 4-0 shutout win over the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies seven hours later. From there, it was a 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Vengeance and a 5-2 win over the Tri-State Spartans on Saturday to head into Sunday with some momentum. In the semifinals, it was an All-Arizona battle, with the Jr. Coyotes prevailing over the Jr. Sun Devils; the Coyotes finished things off with a 2-1 win over Belle Tire in the final.

‘07 Super Tacks – Little Caesars

The ‘07 Little Caesars squad — currently ranked No. 4 among U.S. teams and No. 18 worldwide in the World Hockey Hub rankings — played to a perfect weekend, as they recorded a 6-0 record en route to a division title. In their two Friday contests, Caesars showed off the benefits of home cooking, as they posted back-to-back shutouts; 4-0 over Team Alaska and then 6-0 over the Indy Jr. Fuel. On Saturday, they took care of the CarShield Hockey Club 4-1 and in-state foe Fox Motors 5-2. After a second win over CarShield in the semifinals, Little Caesars squared off against their longtime rival in Compuware, and LC picked up a 5-1 win.

‘08 Super Tacks – HoneyBaked 

They received a wake-up call from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Jr. Knights in the opener, but from there, it was all W’s for the ‘08 HoneyBaked boys. The HB squad shook off a 5-2 loss in the opener to win five straight games, starting with a 6-0 win over the Syracuse Nationals, followed by victories over the No. 6-ranked St. Louis Jr. Blues, Chicago Reapers and Oakland Jr. Grizzlies to reach the finals. There, they posted a 3-1 win over No. 2-ranked Little Caesars, giving their LC neighbors their only loss of the tournament.

‘09 Super Tacks – Anaheim Jr. Ducks

The Anaheim Jr. Ducks — ranked No. 2 in the U.S. by WHH — enjoyed their visit to Hockeytown, as they returned home with an unblemished 6-0 record at the CCM Motown. The Jr. Ducks kept things tight, never scoring more than three goals, but allowing only more than one goal just one time all weekend. They recorded wins over Team Illinois (3-2), the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights (3-1), Little Caesars (2-1), HoneyBaked (2-1), Wilkes-Barre again (3-0) and the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite (2-1). 

‘10 Super Tacks – Pittsburgh Penguins Elite

Other than a 1-1 tie to Fox Motors, it was a perfect weekend for the No. 2-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite group at the 2010 age group. The Pens kicked things off with a 7-1 win over Compuware, before posting an even more dominating 9-3 win over the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes in their second Friday battle. Saturday featured the aforementioned tie before a 5-1 win over Florida Alliance, setting Pittsburgh up for a semifinal 7-3 win over the Chicago Reapers and a 4-3 victory over Little Caesars in the final.

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WHH Predictions for seven divisions at this weekend’s CCM Motown

The CCM World Invite Motown is coming to Metro Detroit this week, and it’s bringing hundreds of hockey teams from across the country to Michigan along with it.

The annual tournament — this year featuring a whopping 306 teams across 10 age groups — has been a staple in the youth hockey calendar for top teams in North America for more than a dozen years.

With COVID-19 still restricting international travel, it will be limited to teams from only the U.S., meaning we will still have to wait to see how some of the squads stack up with their Canadian counterparts.

Each age group is split into two or three divisions, all named after CCM’s equipment lineups. The Super Tacks divisions will feature top AAA teams from across the country, while the Ribcor and Jetspeed divisions will feature talented A/AA teams with a few AAA squads mixed in.

We’ve focused our attention on the Super Tacks pools, breaking down the teams participating and providing our picks for who we think will come out on top by Championship Sunday. Here we go.

18U Super Tacks

There are eight teams participating in the 18U Super Tacks division, which means plenty of opportunities for the players competing to catch the eye of scouts in attendance. From the looks of it, three Pennsylvania teams — the Mt. Lebanon Hornets, the Pittsburgh Vengeance and the Pittsburgh Predators — will be squaring off with a team of Michigan high school all-star teams in Michigan Hockey Advancement and the Michigan Development Hockey League. We like the in-state programs here, as Michigan’s high school hockey scene brings in top players at the oldest age groups, and they’re hungry to make impressions before the winter season kicks off with their respective high schools.

Predicted winner: Michigan Hockey Advancement 18U

16U Super Tacks

The 16U field seems to be a real toss-up, as there aren’t any teams who have made a lot of noise in earlier fall tournaments. Much like the 18U group, the two Michigan high school collections will have a say in who emerges victorious, but fellow Michigan squads from Belle Tire and Fox Motors will be forces as well. Two teams that are traveling the farthest for the tournament will be ones to watch, too; the Anaheim Jr. Ice Dogs and Team Alaska don’t want to make the trek for nothing. We think Fox Motors, fresh off celebrating a college commitment to Lake Superior State for forward Hunter Ramos, will claim bragging rights. 

Predicted winner: Fox Motors

15O Super Tacks

HoneyBaked leads the field in the 15O age group. One name to keep an eye on is defenseman Dakoda Rheaume-Mullin, the son of Manon Rheaume. Dakoda and the HB boys will be challenged by in-state foes in the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies and Belle Tire, as well as the Pittsburgh Vengeance. A unique twist for this age group is that the 12 participating squads will be getting an early taste of what their USA Hockey nationals could be like in the spring, as some of the games will be played at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, which is hosting that age group’s Tier 1 championship in April.

Predicted winner: HoneyBaked

14U Super Tacks

Things really heat up when you get to the 14U age bracket for the CCM Motown. At the 2007 birth-year level, Little Caesars leads the field as the No. 4-ranked team in the U.S., with a fistful of other top American teams Compuware, Victory Honda, Fox Motors, Carshield Hockey Club and Florida Alliance. The Caesars club has a 9-2-1 record on the season, and they’ll be looking to add to it. 

Predicted winner: Little Caesars

13U Super Tacks

A 16-team field fills the 2008 division, including No. 8-ranked Little Caesars, No. 20-ranked St. Louis Jr. Blues, Buffalo Jr. Sabres and HoneyBaked. Caesars checks in at 8-0-2 on the season, but we like the 14-5-1 record the Jr. Blues have thus far. They have logged a lot of games, and that early experience is going to pay off in their visit to Hockeytown this weekend.

Predicted winner: St. Louis Jr. Blues

12U Super Tacks

A deep 2009 group will take over three rinks for the 12U Super Tacks division, and there’s a lot of budding starpower. We’ve got No. 19 Anaheim Jr. Ducks, and they’re joined by No. 20 Chicago Reapers, as well as Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and Little Caesars. All in all, the 12U tournament is going to be fun to watch play out. 

Predicted winner: Anaheim Jr. Ducks

11U Super Tacks

The 2010 class is headlined by No. 5-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 11-ranked Chicago Fury, with plenty of pressure coming from the NEW Jr. Gamblers, the Chicago Reapers and Little Caesars. The little Pens hold a 10-2-1 record and could add to those totals substantially this weekend. 

Predicted winner: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of the CCM Motown, including recaps and analysis of this weekend’s games. Like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TwitterTikTok and YouTube for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.

More From The World Hockey Hub

Striving for growth and change in hockey’s birthplace

The impacts of COVID-19 have brought changes and new ideas to almost all aspects of life.

Why would hockey be any different?

In hockey-crazed Canada, leaders of the youth hockey community have identified the need for change. At the “birthplace of hockey” as Canada is affectionately known, it is time to make the sport more welcoming and accessible to the changing demographics and lifestyles within the country.

The Future of Hockey Lab — first opening in Nova Scotia — will be actively pursuing the aforementioned needs, as its founders strive to find new ways to grow the game outside of its traditional audience.

Spanning across the top of the program’s new website upon each visit: ‘The Future of Hockey Lab enables the creation, experimentation and testing of game-changing ideas and innovations to make the sport of hockey more accessible for all who wish to participate.’

A five-point list outlines its mission just below the mission statement. Those are:

The Future of Hockey Lab was co-founded by Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Amy Walsh and Carolyn Townsend, previously with Sport Nova Scotia. 

“We know the sport of hockey is truly loved by many, but it’s really only accessible to a select few and that select few is getting smaller and smaller,” Walsh said in an interview with CBC. “So this is really about testing ideas and new innovations that might make the game more accessible to all people.”

Hockey Canada is assisting with the creation of the lab, and there is financial support from Bauer Hockey, Scotiabank and Canadian Tire through their Jumpstart Charities initiative.

It’s a project that has been in the works for a few years now, as Hockey Nova Scotia commissioned a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in December of 2019 to speak with the general public about how to better make hockey a welcoming sport for all.

That task force spoke with 840 members of their community — many who had bad experiences and left the game or never started at all — and produced a report to make the hockey community take a look in the mirror.

From there, Hockey Nova Scotia created “The Player’s Journey” in which they mapped out the experience of a player from start to finish, creating hundreds of data points on how to improve the customer experience for players of all ages. The Women’s Worlds Legacy Development Plan, meanwhile, was created by female hockey players to help better support the girls’ game and help grow and enhance it.

The Future of Hockey Lab’s ‘theory of change’ shared below is something that can be embraced by all hockey nations, not just Canada.

“WHAT IF… Folks from communities across the province could get all the supports they need to develop and TRY game-changing ideas and innovations? Running experiments to address barriers to access in hockey, and learning what works and what doesn’t—then growing, expanding and supporting everything that works. This is our theory of change, and how we can one day realize a more inclusive game.”

There’s always room for the sport to grow, and to do that, everyone needs to do their best to make hockey a fun, rewarding and welcoming experience for all its participants and their families. 

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Canada’s top youth league set to return for ’21-22 season

Since its inception in 1911, the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) has seen its share of historic moments.

The 2020-21 season made history, in a way that nobody ever wanted to see.

After missing an entire season of hockey because of COVID-19, the GTHL — arguably the best youth hockey league in the entire world — is set to return for 2021-22, a welcomed sight for the Canadian hockey community.

In late August, the storied organization announced its “Game Plan 2.0” framework for returning to play this season, setting out how it plans to handle the unique environment North America still finds itself in during the battle with COVID-19. A substantial part of that plan is requiring vaccines for GTHL directors and staff, GTHL member executives and staff, team officials, timekeepers, on-ice officials, instructors, in-arena employees of the GTHL and players who were born in or before 2009 (barring medical or approved exemptions under the Ontario Human Rights Code).

The competitive divisions of the GTHL are slated to begin on November 1, while some of the house leagues and learn-to-play programs have an earlier start.

“The Game Plan 2.0 and the Vaccine Policy puts the safety and well being of players as the top priority as we begin the much-anticipated return to programming.” said Scott Oakman, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the GTHL. “Players, their families, and minor hockey associations are excited to be able to return to play and we are working hard at creating the safest environment for them.” 

A very robust return-to-play plan can be viewed here.

One of the highlights is that while face masks must be worn at all times inside facilities, players, team officials and on-ice officials will not be required to wear masks on the ice. Coaches must wear a face mask on the bench.

The 2019-2020 GTHL season was cancelled on March 12, 2020, and while plans were in place for a 2020-21 season, it did not come to fruition.

A return to play means that some of the best young players in the world get a chance to return to action during a crucial time for their career aspirations. The largest minor hockey league in the world, the GTHL annually showcases more than 40,000 hockey players in Markham, Mississauga, Toronto and Vaughan. 

The league has gone through a variety of changes as it has expanded over the years. Today, age groups start at Under-7 (the 2015 birth-year for this season) up through Under-18 (2004 and 2005 birth years) at the AAA, AA and A levels. The Under-14 through Under-17 AAA age groups are some of the most heavily scouted divisions of hockey in the entire world, with a recent alumni list featuring the likes of John Tavares, Jack and Quinn Hughes, Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin and many, many more.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the league itself, you will surely have come across some of the member clubs. Storied programs like the Don Mills Flyers, Markham Majors, Mississauga Rebels, North York Rangers, Toronto Jr. Canadiens, Toronto Marlboros and Vaughan Kings are just some of the powerhouses routinely competing for GTHL titles. 

In every generation of GTHL alumni lists, the names jump off the page. In some of the early days, the likes of Red Kelly, Frank Mahovlich and Ken Dryden stand out, and it only gets better from there.

In the 1970s, spectators of the GTHL got to see Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy and Adam Oates. A few years later, it would be Adam Graves, Brendan Shanahan and Sean Burke. Blockbuster names continued, with Eric Lindros, Anson Carter, Mike Peca, Kevin Weekes and Jason Allison all spanning three birth years between 1973 and 1975. 

As the league continued to establish itself more and more as an international powerhouse, talent continued to appear and develop within its member programs. We won’t list them all, but just from a quick skim…check out these NHLers (with their birth year in parentheses):

Mike Cammalleri (1982)
Ray Emery (1982)
Jason Spezza (1983)
Rick Nash (1984)
Brent Burns (1985)
Andrew Cogliano (1987)
Wayne Simmonds (1988)
P.K. Subban (1989)
Sam Gagner (1989)
John Tavares (1990)
Alex Pietrangelo (1990)
Ryan O’Rielly (1991)
Tyler Seguin (1992)
Jeff Skinner (1992)
Dougie Hamilton (1993)
Max Domi (1995)
Darnell Nurse (1995)
Connor McDavid (1997)
Mitch Marner (1997)
Jakob Chychrun (1998)
Quinn Hughes (1999)
Jack Hughes (2001)

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of the GTHL, and other top youth leagues around the world all season long. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.