Black Bear Sports Group And USPHL Join To Form Mega Youth Hockey League

Some prominent entities in the United States’ east coast hockey community are joining forces.

It was announced this week that Black Bear Sports Group, the United States Premier Hockey League and the Tier-1 Hockey Federation are entering into a new collaboration for their youth hockey programs.

Teams of all ages from across Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania will now play in the THF-USPHL South Division (shortened to “THF South”). Meanwhile, 18U, 16U and 15O teams in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts will play in the USPHL-THF North Division (“USPHL North”), which will be administered by the THF. The youth teams of the USPHL North Member clubs will remain in their current leagues.

The two divisions discussed above will compete at season’s end for a USPHL Championship.

“Through our collaboration with the USPHL, the THF is now a one-of-a-kind organization in that we are the only group with clubs that operate from ‘cradle to college,’ from Mite through Midget at the youth level and every level of junior hockey developing players for NCAA Division-I, II and III schools,” said Murry N. Gunty, Founder and CEO of Black Bear Sports Group. “We are honored to collaborate with the USPHL and their member clubs, and look forward to building upon all of their successes to date.”

Tony Zasowski, previously the director of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), has been named commissioner of the THF. Zasowski brings a wealth of experience to the new role, having led one of the largest youth hockey leagues in the U.S., in addition to his work with the NAHL Central Scouting, prospects tournaments and combines initiatives.

“I am excited to work with all of our member clubs in the THF and USPHL to build one of the top Tier-1 organizations in the country,” said Tony Zasowski, Commissioner of the THF. “We have an amazing group of operators that will support the growth and placement of all our hockey players to the highest levels.”

The Mercer Chiefs will also be purchasing a Tier-2 NCDC junior hockey franchise, and field a team in the 2022-23 season.

“The Mercer Chiefs have a long history of success at the youth level so we are thrilled to have them join us in the NCDC,” said Bob Turow, Commissioner of the USPHL. “We believe this association at the Midget and youth levels will strengthen both of our organizations.”

For more information regarding the latest youth hockey news from around the world, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube!

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The final push for Russian Hockey Federation District Championships

March is the final month of competition in all eight districts of the Russian Hockey Federation (FHR). Each district recognizes champions at each of the age groups between 2005 and 2011 birth years. District play spans throughout the entire season with a round-robin format in which teams played one another. The team with the most points in the standings after all games are completed would earn the title as champion of their respective district.

District champions of three oldest age groups – 2005, 2006 and 2007 – earn an automatic bid to the 2022 Championships of Russia, slated to begin in late April. This is a similar format to that of USA Hockey and its 12 districts. 

The FHR is broken up into nine districts across the country:

With district championships nearing their conclusions, first-place finishers will advance to their respective national tournaments. 

The 2006 age group will be the first to take the ice, when teams come together in St. Petersburg from April 28 to May 8. After that, the 2007s will compete in Sochi at the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics from May 14 – 24. The oldest group, the 2005s, will overlap a bit with the U15s as their tournament will run from May 16 – 26 in Chelyabinsk.

All three tournaments will follow a similar format to that of district championships. Teams will play a round-robin format schedule. The team with the most points in the standings at the end of the tournament will once again be crowned as national champion.

World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of all three Russian national championships, featuring top players, highlights, recaps and more. Be sure to follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for the latest regarding Russia youth hockey.

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Helpful Approaches To Mental Success On And Off The Ice

To some extent we all understand that confidence is a helpful approach to success. Confident folks show up ready to take on the day’s challenges. Confident athletes show up ready to compete. They fully believe in their abilities. They know that they will give their opponent a run for their money.

Myth: Confidence Is For The Few

Some believe that confidence is reserved for only a small group of people. They believe that confidence is something a person is born with, like a personality trait. There are traits like charisma and being outgoing that are at times thought of as confidence. But those traits do not equal confidence. 

We have seen stories and known of people who have a quiet confidence who would not fit the description of a highly social person. Essentially, confidence is not limited to extroverts or those who can walk into a room and command attention, but for introverts and those who fly under the radar of mass attention.

Confidence is not a trait. A person is not born confident. Confidence is a mindset.

Myth: You Have To Be Winning To Be Confident

Others believe that in order to be confident you have to have won; that you have to have a winning record to be confident or that you have to have some sort of proof to be confident. Confidence is not just given to a person. 

Just because you have won does not mean you are automatically confident.

Winning helps. Knowing that you have the skill to win in competition, beat out opponents, and you have what it takes to reach your goals does build confidence. But winning is not necessary to be confident. You can be an underdog and be confident. You can be a backup goalie or be on the fourth line and still be confident. Confidence is a mindset.

Confidence Is A Choice

When I first learned that confidence could be a choice, I didn’t believe it. If confidence was a choice then I would be confident, why wouldn’t I choose to be confident all the time. Why aren’t all people automatically confident if we can just choose it? I didn’t buy into the idea that a person could actively choose to be confident.

However, if you break it down you can begin to see how a person, athlete, or coach can choose confidence. Confidence is the unshakable belief in your ability. The belief in yourself is a thought process. Our minds can choose what thoughts to repeat, what thoughts to listen to, and what thoughts to interrupt. The constant self-talk statement of doubt or unworthiness certainly is not going to help a person be confident when the pressure is up. In fact, not only will it lead to a decrease in personal confidence but it also leads to poor performance. The athlete who is constantly questioning their ability will completely shut down after a mistake.

But a confident athlete can choose their thoughts to say, “I’m ready,” “I’ve trained for this,” and “No one will outwork me.” An athlete who tells themselves confident statements is going to be better prepared for competition and bounce back more quickly if they make a mistake. The more confident thoughts an athlete has, the stronger his or her belief becomes in their ability to perform. As this belief is continuously reinforced by confident thinking, the athlete builds and maintains a sense of confidence.

Start Choosing Confidence

Make a list of at least 10 positive confidence-building statements. The idea of 10 may seem like it’s not too many, but it can be tough to think of statements that actually mean something to you.

If you get 10 easily, push for 15–20. Once you have the list, read and reread it again. Build the reading this list into your routines. The more you go over the list the more the statements will ring true to you. Your pattern of thoughts will develop your mindset. Thinking specific confidence boosting thoughts will strengthen specific neural-pathways in your brain. The statements will become an automatic response when you’re faced with difficult or challenging times. You will maintain a sense of belief and confidence by choosing a confident mindset. This mindset determines your behavior and subsequently your performance.

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. 

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First Ever AAA Spring Invite Set For Detroit

World Hockey Events is headed to Hockeytown, USA for the first ever AAA Spring Invite. Eighty Elite and AAA programs from all across North America are headed to the Motor City on April 22nd for a tournament that’s guaranteed to be an instant classic. Bragging rights are on the line for Michigan programs as they look to defend their home turf against teams from New Jersey, Tennessee, Nebraska, New York, and New Hampshire. Nobody does hockey better than the city of Detroit, and this tournament better be on your spring team’s to-do list.

“The World Hockey Events team is chomping at the bit to kick this thing off,” said Jason Deskins, National Director of Recruitment at Total Package Hockey. “This is the first tournament we’ve developed under the newly formed World Hockey Events umbrella, and we can already tell that we’ve got a recipe for success. Our team has over 20 years of tournament experience, so it only made sense to host our first event in America’s favorite hockey city. We can’t wait for you and your team to experience the inaugural AAA Spring Invite.”

All of the action is going down at two of the metro area’s premier hockey venues; Troy Sports Center and Viking Ice Arena. Combined, the two facilities feature six full-sized rinks, which is more than enough ice for the 200-plus games taking place over the tournament’s three-day span. Not to mention, each venue is conveniently located near plenty of places to grab a bite, pick up a new stick, or take your mind off the game for a bit.

Already looking for things to do in the area? You came to the right spot! Detroit has no shortage of off-ice activities, whether you’re looking for team bonding experiences or some plain, old R&R. The AAA Spring Invite takes place just a quick ride away from the Arena District, which is home to four professional sports teams. Plus, you can’t forget about all of the spots to grab a team dinner on Detroit’s renowned Monroe Street. All parents and coaches are highly encouraged to round out the weekend by sharing a pint at the home of All Day IPA, Founders Brewing Company.

A tournament built by the best in the game, for the best in the game. What more could you ask for? Click HERE to register for the AAA Spring Invite!

Want more from World Hockey Events? Check out our complete lineup of tournaments HERE.

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Indoor Activities, Gatherings Halted in Provinces, Forcing GTHL And Others To Pause Season

With the province of Ontario entering a lockdown reminiscent of the initial COVID-19 wave in 2020, Canada’s largest hockey league has hit pause once again.

The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) officially announced a halt in operations Monday, following the announcement from the Ontario government that youth hockey — like most everything else — would be put on the shelves until further notice.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is sweeping through North America and causing another round of disruptions for normal activities in the youth hockey community.

Per the Government of Ontario’s new temporary restrictions, the province moves to a ‘Stage Two of the Roadmap to Reopen’ plan. That means indoor sports are paused for a period of at least 21 days beginning on Jan. 5 at 12:01 a.m. Indoor sports facilities are closed until at least Jan. 26.

Similar lockdown measures are being enforced in British Columbia and Quebec, the latter of which has a strict 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. complete curfew.

An ominous photo of hockey nets padlocked together on an outdoor rink in Quebec has been making the rounds on social media as a statement about the severity of the lockdown.

 

The GTHL Top Prospects Game, originally scheduled to take place on Jan. 13, has been postponed, and a new date will be announced when the lockdown measures are lifted.

The Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, an annual tournament that brings top talent from both Canada and the U.S. together, was a recent casualty, as well.

No official word yet on the status of the Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament; the iconic event was slated to proceed as usual after some heavy lifting by tournament organizers to secure fully vaccinated teams from six different countries.

“As we continue with our provincial vaccine booster efforts, we must look at every option to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” Ontario premier Doug Ford said in the official release from the province announcing the new policies. “Putting these targeted and time-limited measures in place will give us more opportunity to deliver vaccines to all Ontarians and ensure everyone has maximum protection against this virus.”

Canadian youth hockey players lost the entire 2020-21 hockey season, and the hope was that it would be the only time a youth hockey generation would have to experience something so drastic. With the IIHF World Junior Championship canceled, NHL games being postponed, it’s hard to know when Canadian hockey players will be able to get back onto the ice, but we hope it will be as soon as possible.

For more news from the world of youth hockey, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube.

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Total Package Hockey and World Hockey Group Team Up To Create World Hockey Events

A coordinated effort to raise the bar of youth hockey tournaments, camps and more

EXETER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Two of the biggest entities in youth hockey events — Total Package Hockey (TPH) and World Hockey Group (WHG) — have teamed up in a joint venture to launch World Hockey Events (WHE). Between the two organizations, WHG and TPH account for more than 20 years of tournament operations experience, with a global network of elite coaches, knowledgeable scouts and evaluators, experienced tournament directors and state-of-the-art facilities. Through World Hockey Events, the two groups combine to raise the bar of expectations regarding tournaments and events worldwide.

Together, the organizations merge to provide more than 25 tournaments, camps and tours throughout North America and Europe. World Hockey Events includes tournaments for Tier-I and Tier-II level teams as well as individual programming for Elite and AAA-level athletes. Not just offering world-class events for the youth hockey community, but a first-class experience for the athlete, the team and the families.

“People can expect the absolute best,” said WHG chief executive officer Travis Bezio. “Players, coaches and parents attending a World Hockey Event will experience the very best in competition, hospitality and travel. A seamless process from start to finish that will leave everyone with memories that’ll last a lifetime.”

The current portfolio includes iconic events such as The World Selects Invitational in Nashville, Champions League Hockey and Grand Rapids AAA Kick-Off Classic. Other programming like international tours to European World Selects events and individual-entry tournaments like The Atlantic Scramble and New England States Rivalry Challenge

“At TPH, we’ve always prided ourselves on running great youth hockey events since our first tournament 15 years ago,” said TPH chief executive officer Alan Keeso. “By working together with Travis Bezio and his team at World Hockey Group, we feel it’s an opportunity for both groups to elevate all of our events to heights never seen before in youth hockey.”

As part of the merger, WorldHockeyHub.com will serve as home for the entire World Hockey Events portfolio. Every tournament, tour, and event from the team at WHE will be available exclusively on the World Hockey Hub, with multimedia coverage, schedules, standings, tournament recaps and digital media provided by The Pulse of Youth Hockey

Through World Hockey Events, both TPH and WHG expand their respective footprints on the youth hockey landscape, improving on current programming and venturing into new endeavors like the expansion of Champions League, World Selects and the Centers of Excellence.

For more information regarding World Hockey Events and its complete list of events, click HERE.

About Total Package Hockey: Founded in 2001, it is Total Package Hockey’s (TPH) vision to become the world leader in positively impacting the lives of student-athletes through sport. TPH prides itself on operating at a standard that exceeds expectations of student-athletes, families, coaches, teachers, advisors and all other entities within both athletic and academic circles. With platforms that include association management, elite prospects programs, tournaments and showcases, camps and clinics and its hallmark Center of Excellence academy model, TPH services over 10,000 student-athletes on an annual basis, throughout 15 U.S. based divisions.

About World Hockey Group: The worldwide leader in youth hockey tournaments and events. World Hockey Group (WHG) provides more than two dozen unique events in exotic locations around the globe. The team at WHG is deeply involved in the youth hockey community, with an international presence in various countries including the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia and central Europe. WHG prides itself on providing world-class competition along with a first-class travel experience. Events like the Champions League and World Selects tournament series offer amazing opportunities abroad both on and off the ice for the entire family to enjoy.

About World Hockey Hub: The Pulse of Youth Hockey. World Hockey Hub (WHH) is your number one resource for the latest news, team rankings, highlights, analysis and more from the world of youth hockey. WHH is the worldwide leader in providing global coverage of the game year-round. With an international rankings system, a comprehensive list of more than 500 tournaments, event ratings and reviews as well as the latest team and prospect news, WHH is your one-stop-shop for everything youth hockey related. 

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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:

Was your holiday weekend filled with family hugs and exciting hockey? Tell us know about it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

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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.

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.

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. 

Want more news from the world of youth hockey? Follow World Hockey Hub on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.