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Cal Foote’s Hockey Hero

Every day – usually around lunchtime – Cal Foote gets a text from his hockey hero.

While almost all youth hockey players will pick out an NHLer to emulate, to admire, or simply to worship while watching them excel on the ice, few are ever lucky enough to meet, let alone get to know their idol.

In Foote’s case, he interacted with his idol on a daily basis and continues to do so to this day. That’s because his hockey hero is his dad, former NHL defenseman Adam Foote.

“I was young when I watched him play, and that was all I wanted to do when I grew up,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cal Foote said of his dad. “Whenever he was out there, whenever he was playing I was always watching him to see what he was doing.”

In 2019-20, Adam Foote coached the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets. Among his players on that squad was his younger son Nolan Foote, today a player in the New Jersey Devils system.

Cal might not have benefitted from his father’s coaching, but the sage advice offered by a father who played 1,154 games over 20 seasons at the same position as Cal is never far away.

Even today, he still turns to his dad for advice.

“I always get that text message before the game, giving me a few pointers,” Cal said. Sometimes, it’s simple, straightforward message such as move your feet. On other occasions, the text can come with a video attached, often featuring diagrams on a white board, as well as clips of NHL players executing the described play properly.

Cal putting his dad in the unique position of cheering against the team with which he won both of his Stanley Cups, the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado and Tampa Bay squared off in the 2021-22 Stanley Cup final, with dad’s old team winning in six game.

Adam Foote won Stanley Cups with the Avalanche in 1995-96 and 2000-01.

Born in 1998, Cal wasn’t around for his dad’s first Cup win and can’t really recall the second one.

“I want to say I remember the ’01 Cup, but I don’t,” Cal Foote told The Athletic. “All I really remember about playoff time in Colorado was that they have the white pom-poms. I used to love playing with those and cheering him on.”

The post Cal Foote’s Hockey Hero appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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What To Do In Cases of Abuse

While sport is often considered to be a safe, healthy environment that contributes to the positive development of young people, it is also an area where violence can manifest itself in various ways, including sexual assault.

“The studies we currently have at our disposal show that between two and eight per cent of minor age athletes are victims of sexual abuse within the context of sport,” states a report on Sexual Abuse of Young People in Sport by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec.  “To date, available statistics have shown that most of the victims of sexual abuse in sport are young female athletes, although a large proportion of boys are also victimized.

“Researchers have noted that young people who have been sexually abused in the context of sport often have low self-esteem, strained relationships with their parents, and eating disorders. In addition, they are often high performance athletes.”

It is essential to not tolerate behaviour in sport that would be considered unacceptable in other contexts, such as day-care centres or schools, continues the report.

“Parents can also play a role in prevention by finding out what preventative measures are in place in the organization their child attends and by choosing sports organizations that give priority to the well-being of young people.” 

The decision to report to law enforcement is entirely yours, states Erinn Robinson, director of media relations, Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN). 

“Some survivors say that reporting and seeking justice helped them recover and regain a sense of control over their lives,” says Robinson. “Understanding how to report and learning more about the experience can take away some of the unknowns and help you feel more prepared.”

RAINN notes several options for reporting sexual assault:

  • Call 911. If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. Help will come to you, wherever you are.
  • Contact the local police department. Call the direct line of your local police station or visit the station in person. If you are on a college campus you may also be able to contact campus-based law enforcement.
  • Visit a medical center. If you are being treated for injuries resulting from sexual assault, tell a medical professional that you wish to report the crime. You can also choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam. 

To learn more about the options in your area of the United States, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). You’ll be connected to a staff member from a local sexual assault service provider who will walk you through the process of getting help and reporting to law enforcement at your own pace.

In most areas, there are specific law enforcement officers who are trained to interact with sexual assault survivors. Service providers can connect you to these officers, and might also send a trained advocate to accompany you through the reporting process.

There is no limitation on when a victim can report a crime to police, notes information from RAINN. However, in many states, there is a limitation on when charges can be filed and a case can be prosecuted. This is called the statute of limitations and varies by state, type of crime, age of the victim, and various other factors. 

Anyone affected by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, can find support on the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can also visit online.rainn.org to receive support via confidential online chat.

For more information on the telephone and online hotlines, visit https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline and https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-online-hotline

Trained counsellors with Childhelp are available to talk through child abuse situations. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline can be contacted in the United States or Canada by telephone, texting or online chat. The number is 1-800-4-A-CHILD )1-800-422-4453. Further information, and online chat, is available at childhelphotline.org.

Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7 e-mental health service offering free, confidential support to young people in English and French. The Peer-to-Peer Community at Kids Help Phone is a bilingual, online, mental health support forum available across Canada. In the community, youth can anonymously share their personal experiences, offer inspiration and ask questions to connect, comfort and cheer each other on.

To contact Kids Help Phone, call 1-800-668-6868, visit www.kidshelpphone.ca, text CONNECT to 686868 or connect through Facebook Messenger at KidsHelpPhone.ca/Messenger. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, contact 911 or the emergency services in your area right away.

The post What To Do In Cases of Abuse appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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Signs Your Player is Possibly Being Abused

It will never happen to my kid … until it does.

Child abuse occurs at every socio-economic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all regions and at all levels of education. Studies indicate that 40 to 50 per cent of athletes have experienced anything from mild harassment to severe abuse, according to Childhelp.

What if my child doesn’t tell me that they are being abused? Are there indicators I should be looking out for in my kid’s behaviour?

The Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe for Athletes prevention education program notes indicators of possible abuse in sports include, but are not limited to, missing practices, illness, loss of interest, withdrawal, and a child performing significantly below his or her abilities. 

“Look for signs of disengagement in young people,” Daphne Young, chief communications officer at Childhelp, said. “They used to be so excited about their sport and couldn’t wait to go to practice and now they’re pulling back or want to quit.

“Watch for slippage in grades, change in physicality, whether they’re covering up more, eating more, or starving themselves. There could be a withdrawal or withholding of engagement or you may see the flip side and see a child exuberantly happy, super engaged, super thrilled and very secretive because there’s a new love in their life, not understanding that this could be an older person taking advantage.

“Watch for dramatic shifts in behaviour and try to ensure that you ask questions without being accusatory.”

Young says Speak Up Be Safe for Athletes was started because there was a specific need for it.

“This is a specialized audience and it needs its own niche prevention because we know that predators are going to crystalize around places where they have access to children and coaches, I believe, are second only to educators in gaining that close relationship and occasionally abusing it,” Young said. 

In October, Childhelp will be launching a specialty version of their hotline, called the Courage First Athletes Help Line, in partnership with the Foundation for Global Sports Development, to help protect children in sports.

Counsellors working the hotline will be specially trained to deal with issues in youth athletics. In the meantime, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline can be contacted in the United States or Canada by telephone, texting or online chat. The number is 1-800-4-A-CHILD ) 1-800-422-4453. Further information, and online chat, is available at childhelphotline.org.

It’s not always easy to spot sexual abuse because perpetrators often take steps to hide their actions, says Erinn Robinson, director of media relations, Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN).

The most important thing to keep in mind when looking for signs of child sexual abuse is to keep an eye on sudden changes in your child’s behaviour, says Robinson.

“Trust your gut and don’t ignore your feelings if something seems off. If a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can’t tell you anything specific, listen.”

RAINN lists the following as warning signs to watch for:

Physical Signs

Behavioral Signs

  • Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
  • Keeping secrets or not talking as much as usual
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or being afraid to be away from primary caregivers, especially if this is a new behavior
  • Regressive behaviors or resuming behaviors they had grown out of, such as thumb sucking or bedwetting
  • Overly compliant behavior
  • Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Spending an unusual amount of time alone
  • Trying to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe

Emotional Signs

  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in mood or personality, such as increased aggression
  • Decrease in confidence or self-image
  • Excessive worry or fearfulness
  • Increase in unexplained health problems such as stomach aches and headaches
  • Loss or decrease in interest in school, activities, and friends
  • Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
  • Self-harming behaviors

Canada’s Kids Help Phone offers tips on what to do if a young person comes to you to discuss an abusive situation.

These tips include listening without judgment and keeping the line of communication open by letting the young person know they can talk to you about anything and staying calm. If a young person discloses a potentially harmful situation to you, get help for them right away. If they are in immediate danger, call 911 or the emergency services in your area. You may also have a duty to report child abuse or neglect to your local child protection services. 

Kids Help Phone is a resource that can connect young people with crisis responders. To contact Kids Help Phone, call 1-800-668-6868, visit www.kidshelpphone.ca, text CONNECT to 686868 or connect through Facebook Messenger at KidsHelpPhone.ca/Messenger. 

 RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673) connects callers in the United States with trained staff members from sexual assault service providers in their area and online.rainn.org connects to one-on-one chats with trained RAINN support specialists 24/7.

The post Signs Your Player is Possibly Being Abused appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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How to Spot A Possible Predator At The Rink

It is time to talk about something uncomfortable and often inconceivable — sexual abuse in minor hockey.

Keeping children safe can be challenging because many perpetrators who sexually abuse children are often in positions of trust. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN), 93% of child sexual assault victims know the perpetrator. 

The difficult part is these abusers often blend in and are often impossible to spot until it is too late.

For example, the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, in a report on Sexual Abuse of Young People in Sport, states that an analysis of 159 cases of sexual abuse in sport reported in the print media revealed that the perpetrators of the abuse were coaches, teachers and instructors in 98% of the cases.

So are there any signs that a coach or trainer may be a predator?

RAINN advises to be cautious of an adult who spends time with children and exhibits the following behaviours:

  • Does not respect boundaries or listen when someone tells them no
  • Engages in touching that a child or child’s parents/guardians have indicated is unwanted
  • Tries to be a child’s friend rather than filling an adult role in the child’s life
  • Does not seem to have age-appropriate relationships
  • Talks with children about their personal problems or relationships
  • Spends time alone with children outside of their role in the child’s life or makes up excuses to be alone with the child
  • Expresses unusual interest in child’s sexual development, such as commenting on sexual characteristics or sexualizing normal behaviors
  • Gives a child gifts without occasion or reason
  • Spends a lot of time with your child or another child you know
  • Restricts a child’s access to other adults

NHLPA member and Boston Bruins great Patrice Bergeron has talked about the importance of reaching out.

“Sometimes you don’t want to share things with those you are closest to, your parents, siblings or friends,” Bergeron said through a Kids Help Phone statement. “I think having someone to hear you out, someone who is there for you and understands what you’re going through, that’s very important. It’s not easy to talk and ask for support, but people are always there to help you.”

Young people in the United States who need help processing an abusive relationship can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected to a staff member from a local sexual assault service provider who will walk them through the process of getting the help they need.

Contacting a hotline to discuss concerns or ask questions can be done by means of a telephone call, text or online chat.

“What we have discovered for example, with texting, is that we got way more young women who were more comfortable texting us than we expected, and with chat we discovered that a lot more gender fluid children would feel comfortable talking to us via chat,” says Daphne Young, chief communications officer at Childhelp. “So, we’ve really changed through technology for young people in the modes that they’re most comfortable with.”

Young cautions children and teens to look for “that icky feeling in your stomach” where you may not have words for it but the actions that someone takes makes you feel awkward, weird, or uncomfortable.

“You probably feel completely alone in this moment, like you’ve done something wrong or brought this on yourself,” Young says, appealing to the victims of abuse who are hesitant to seek help. “What you don’t realize is that usually a predator has hundreds of victims in a lifetime, if not more, and so the step you take to seek help not only will keep you safe but it will potentially align you with others who have come forward.

“The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD, 1-800-422-4453) is completely anonymous. No one can find you. No one can do a reverse search or force you to take any action. They’re just going to give you every resource possible, all the support you need, therapeutic opportunities, people to talk to who will back you up in your community, and anything you need to help you through the process. So, I would say, just make the call, or text, or chat. If you don’t want anyone else to hear then give is a text message and let us know and we’ll take care of you.”

Many communities have sexual assault or crisis lines that allow people to talk to someone about what they’re feeling. You can also talk to family, friends, teachers, counsellors or someone else you trust.

Canada’s Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) notes the following as some of the ways to identify an adult who is safe to talk to:

  • Thoughtful: The person actively listens to you and believes you when you tell them something.
  • Trustworthy: The person is dependable, a confidant and someone you feel comfortable talking to.
  • Respectful: The person is mindful and considerate of your feelings and your boundaries.
  • Helpful: The person provides guidance and helps you find solutions to problems.
  • Caring: The person does what’s best for you, puts you first and cares about your mental and emotional wellbeing and physical safety.

The post How to Spot A Possible Predator At The Rink appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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Minor Hockey Memories: Terry Ryan

Elite Level Hockey recently asked a number of former professional players to reminisce about their favorite youth hockey memories, and to discuss what they would change about today’s youth hockey culture.

Terry Ryan was the Montreal Canadiens first-round pick and the eighth overall selection at the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

A native of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, Rvan represented Canada at the ISBHF ball hockey tournament and has been a part of teams that captured both world and national championships.

He now spends his time acting and can currently be seen as Ted Hitchcock on the hit comedy, Shoresey.

WHAT ORGANIZATION DID YOU PLAY MINOR HOCKEY FOR AS A KID?

RYAN: The Mount Pearl Blades in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland.

DID YOU ALWAYS PLAY AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF HOCKEY FOR YOUR AGE?

RYAN: After I was 11, my dad coached a Junior B team. I was on the ice a lot because of that and we all hung out quite a bit in Mount Pearl. We played all the sports, but there was never a lack of ice time and from 10 on, I improved quite a bit, but before that I wasn’t even much interested, to be honest. 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF YOUTH HOCKEY?

RYAN: The Quebec Peewee Tournament. We went there in 1991 and 1992. If you follow my Instagram, you will see that the team from 1989-‘90 was inducted into the Mount Pearl Sports Hall of Fame.

Outside of being successful at that tournament — the most successful from Newfoundland — it was just fun. There was a perfect combination of competition and fun. It was great that we won, but had we not scored a goal we would have had a blast. It was a perfect minor hockey trip. 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PRACTISE DRILL AS A KID?

RYAN: No doubt 3-on-3. Pushing yourselves, coach would blow it down if you’re making a mistake. I like the freedom to do what I want to do. It’s good work and friendly competition. I like 3-on-3 amongst players, amongst friends, competitive friends, and teammates.

DID YOU PLAY MINOR HOCKEY AGAINST ANY NOTABLE PLAYERS?

RYAN: Growing up,  Daniel Cleary and Harold Druken — who both played in the NHL — and only because we had tournaments on the mainland. Growing up in Newfoundland, we didn’t get much competition — which is why I left at 14 to play Junior — but I did play a little bit of Midget out in Quesnel, B.C. and came across some great players that would soon be in the WHL and then the NHL — Jason Weimer and Adam Deadmarsh. 

Terry Ryan in Shoresy

Terry Ryan (second from the left) stars in SHORESY —  streaming exclusively on Crave in Canada and Hulu in the U.S. — a spin-off of its smash-hit predecessor, LETTERKENNY.

DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FAVOURITE STICK?

RYAN: My favourite stick was a white and red classic Gretzky Titan. It wasn’t the best stick, it was my favourite because Wayne Gretzky used it. When I switched, I quickly realized that the Sherwood Feather Light at the time was the lightest wood stick, at least the lightest one that I got my hands on. Eventually, of course, that changed to aluminum and everything else, but for five or six years growing up, it was definitely the classic Gretzky Titan. 

HOW MUCH OF A ROLE DID YOUR PARENTS PLAY IN YOUR HOCKEY GROWING UP?

RYAN: My mom managed the teams. My father played professional hockey himself for the Minnesota Fighting Saints, amongst others. He didn’t put a lot of pressure on me. His role, I guess, was to make sure that I wasn’t feeling too pressured. He only came to games when I asked him to and he gave me advice from afar. He never coached my teams, just let me grow up on my own and navigate my own way around my hockey journey, which I appreciate. 

HOW MUCH OTHER HOCKEY DEVELOPMENT DID YOU DO OUTSIDE OF YOUR REGULAR TEAM?

RYAN: Not a whole lot. We played street hockey every single day and if we could get the ice we’d get it. It was a lot of practice, but it was just a lot of time put in amongst friends — it didn’t feel like practice. As far as specialized camps, my dad ran one for a week or two in the summer with a guy named Paul Boutilier, who played for the New York Islanders and had a couple of Stanley Cups. That was interesting, but it was more to get together with the boys. 

DID YOU PLAY HOCKEY ALL YEAR LONG OR DID YOUR PLAY OTHER SPORTS IN THE SUMMER?

As soon as hockey was over, I looked forward to getting out on the baseball diamond and the soccer field. 

I played ball hockey, that’s a little bit different, but I felt that was enough. I knew how to skate. Ball hockey was keeping me on my toes when it came to the mental side of the game, and it’s actually harder to play defense. I feel that playing ball hockey my whole life, I became a decent defensive player when I wanted to be because it’s easier to skate than it is to run, and the ball hockey offensive zone is much bigger, so it really helped me. 

For the most part, it was baseball and soccer in the summer. If it was any other hockey camp, it would be right before I started up again in September. 

I might have been in pro hockey before I put on my skates in July. Even then, it was few and far between. 

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT MINOR HOCKEY RIGHT NOW?

RYAN: It would be parents living through their kids and expectations. 

I have hockey schools here and there, and when I do, parents often ask me “what does little Johnny have to do to make the NHL?” and to start, I would say let’s hope he/she has fun. 

Outside of that there are a lot of success stories — and success is in the eyes of the beholder.

Players can travel all over the world and never play a game in the NHL. They can get a degree through hockey. They can live on their own and learn to grow up from boys to men. I think parents need to realize that the goal isn’t always the NHL.

It’s a very small percentage of people that get to play in the NHL, but tens of thousands get to experience hockey after the minor hockey level and I’m sure a lot of them consider their careers a success, including myself.

Whether it’s Pro or Junior or Midget, the longer you stay on board, I feel you’re using those attributes you’re learning in the dressing room off the ice, which can only be a good thing. I do feel that the attributes it takes to be successful in and around a dressing room are the same ones it takes to be successful in real life. I think hockey imitates real life in many, many ways. 

So, what would I change? The parent’s expectations.

More Minor Hockey Memories …

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Gagner Learning On The Job As Marlies Owner

As a player, Sam Gagner finds himself at a crossroads in his NHL career. His contract with the Detroit Red WIngs is up. He doesn’t know yet if he’ll be offered a new one.

”I still feel even though I’m a veteran that I have some years left and I can help this group continue to grow,” said Gagner, 32. “I’d like to be back but obviously there’s a lot at play.”

If it turns out that this is the end of the line for Gagner’s pro playing career, he’s already got his post-hockey life all lined up.

Last year, Gagner and John Tavares, the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, went in together and purchased the Toronto Marlboros franchise in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

Much of what he’s learned about the business of hockey Gagner is now implementing on a smaller scale as he helps to run the Marlboros.

“Yeah, I think you learn things all the time about being a player and then it helps you on the other side as well,” Gagner said. “I think that the main focus of youth hockey is player development.

“I’ve learned a lot over my years of what it takes to be a successful player in this league and seeing other players, seeing decisions that managers make, coaches make, all those different types of things. You try and take those lessons with you in every facet of life. Hopefully it can help with that for sure.”

Gagner spent the majority of his youth hockey career playing for the Marlboros. He went right from their U16 AAA team into junior hockey in 2005.

A first-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers, Gagner holds a share of the Oilers’ single-game points record of eight with Hockey Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. Gagner has been playing in the NHL since 2007 but he’s never forgotten his hockey roots.

“I really enjoyed my time as a Marlboro when I was a kid,” Gagner said. “For the career I’ve had, I owe a lot to the Marlboros for it.”

Now he’s viewing ownership of the Marlboros as a way of repaying both the organization and the game for all that it’s given to him.

“I felt like it was a great opportunity to help continue with the great tradition that they have and try and move it forward,” Gagner said. “So that was kind of the main focus behind that.”

Interestingly, Gagner played in the OHL for the London Knights, the team owned by former NHLers Dale and Mark Hunter.

The success story they’ve fashioned with the Knights launched a trend of other ex-NHLers buying their old junior franchise.

Gagner doesn’t know whether he and Tavares will prove to be trendsetters in terms of NHLers purchasing their former youth hockey club. In fact, he really doesn’t care whether they are creating a buzz in that regard.

“I don’t know,” Gagner said. “I didn’t get into it for that.”

For the time being, he’s mostly taking a hands-off approach in terms of the day-to-day operations of the Marlboros organization while still an active NHL player.

“My main focus right now is being the best player I can be,” Gagner said. “I try to lend help and advice wherever I can there. We have really good people involved who keep me updated. I’m just trying to help in any way I can.”

One day, though, he and Tavares know that like every other youth hockey operator, they’ll find themselves dealing with complaints from parents about their kid’s ice time.

“Not yet but I’m sure it will come at some point,” Gagner said with a laugh.

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Gagner Learning On The Job As Marlies Owner

As a player, Sam Gagner finds himself at a crossroads in his NHL career. His contract with the Detroit Red WIngs is up. He doesn’t know yet if he’ll be offered a new one.

”I still feel even though I’m a veteran that I have some years left and I can help this group continue to grow,” said Gagner, 32. “I’d like to be back but obviously there’s a lot at play.”

If it turns out that this is the end of the line for Gagner’s pro playing career, he’s already got his post-hockey life all lined up.

Last year, Gagner and John Tavares, the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, went in together and purchased the Toronto Marlboros franchise in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

Much of what he’s learned about the business of hockey Gagner is now implementing on a smaller scale as he helps to run the Marlboros.

“Yeah, I think you learn things all the time about being a player and then it helps you on the other side as well,” Gagner said. “I think that the main focus of youth hockey is player development.

“I’ve learned a lot over my years of what it takes to be a successful player in this league and seeing other players, seeing decisions that managers make, coaches make, all those different types of things. You try and take those lessons with you in every facet of life. Hopefully it can help with that for sure.”

Gagner spent the majority of his youth hockey career playing for the Marlboros. He went right from their U16 AAA team into junior hockey in 2005.

A first-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers, Gagner holds a share of the Oilers’ single-game points record of eight with Hockey Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. Gagner has been playing in the NHL since 2007 but he’s never forgotten his hockey roots.

“I really enjoyed my time as a Marlboro when I was a kid,” Gagner said. “For the career I’ve had, I owe a lot to the Marlboros for it.”

Now he’s viewing ownership of the Marlboros as a way of repaying both the organization and the game for all that it’s given to him.

“I felt like it was a great opportunity to help continue with the great tradition that they have and try and move it forward,” Gagner said. “So that was kind of the main focus behind that.”

Interestingly, Gagner played in the OHL for the London Knights, the team owned by former NHLers Dale and Mark Hunter.

The success story they’ve fashioned with the Knights launched a trend of other ex-NHLers buying their old junior franchise.

Gagner doesn’t know whether he and Tavares will prove to be trendsetters in terms of NHLers purchasing their former youth hockey club. In fact, he really doesn’t care whether they are creating a buzz in that regard.

“I don’t know,” Gagner said. “I didn’t get into it for that.”

For the time being, he’s mostly taking a hands-off approach in terms of the day-to-day operations of the Marlboros organization while still an active NHL player.

“My main focus right now is being the best player I can be,” Gagner said. “I try to lend help and advice wherever I can there. We have really good people involved who keep me updated. I’m just trying to help in any way I can.”

One day, though, he and Tavares know that like every other youth hockey operator, they’ll find themselves dealing with complaints from parents about their kid’s ice time.

“Not yet but I’m sure it will come at some point,” Gagner said with a laugh.

The post Gagner Learning On The Job As Marlies Owner appeared first on Elite Level Hockey.

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Iginla Enjoys Helping Kids Pursue Their Hockey Dreams

Sure, the players on the RINK Kelowna teams know that their head coach is a Hall of Famer and that he scored 625 goals and collected over 1300 points in 20 NHL campaigns.

Between the ages of 13 and 14, they’re too young to have witnessed any of it in person, but these kids are YouTube savvy. They know how to Google Jarome Iginla’s name.

Actually, it’s about the only way they’re going to find out about their coach’s historic accomplishments during his playing days, which include an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup appearance.

Iginla isn’t bothering to talk about it himself. He knows that these kids aren’t there to hear about his career. They’re working on building a career of their own.

It’s in that respect where Iginla’s vast experience can be of value to them.

“I really enjoy that part of it, where you’re trying to help them get to the next level, help them learn what is the next step and prepare them to try to follow their dreams,” Iginla told the Calgary Sun.

The 2022-23 season was Iginla’s first with the RINK Kelowna Academy. Instead of boasting of his own hockey accomplishments, he seeks instead to utilize those he called teammates during his NHL days, guys who are still plying their trade in the league and thus familiar to his players, as examples to follow for inspiration.

“You try to get across to them when you watch (Sidney) Crosby and (Nathan) MacKinnon and you watch (Patrice) Bergeron . . . I’ve seen all these guys up close and the guys who are successful, they worked daily on their game.

“The practices, they didn’t waste them. Even in the NHL, not everybody goes out with the same focus and the same determination to get better. Brad Marchand, I played with him when he was younger and he was good, and he’s gotten better and better every year because he works so hard at it.

“So you try to relay that to the kids. ‘At the end of the year, you’ll improve if you don’t waste your time, if you’re not out there fooling around.’ “

Academies like RINK Kelowna are proving to be pipelines to a chance at the next level, either through the junior ranks or via a college scholarship.

Two of the top three players and seven of the first 12 selected in the 2021 Western Hockey League bantam draft were from Western Canada hockey academies. Iginla’s son Tij, who was playing for the RINK Kelowna under-18 squad, was selected ninth overall by the Seattle Thunderbirds. His RINK teammate Ryder Ritchie went to the Prince Albert Raiders with the 14th overall pick and Jaxsin Vaughan was tabbed with the 21st selection by the Regina Pats.

Iginla emphasizes to his players that their chances of getting to the next level of the game will be in large part driven by how much they are willing to push themselves to improve.

“You try to get across that it’s not when the coach is watching,” Iginla explained. “You have to be self-driven if you really want to get to the next level. If I turn my head, it can’t be, ‘OK, now I can relax.’ No, it’s self-driven, and I think we have a lot of those.

“There’s a lot of hockey at these academies. It’s funny, we have two hours of ice every day and I thought, ‘Man, that’s a long time.’ I’d be cutting practice short at an hour and a half. I’d be like, ‘Ok, that’s enough. We’ve done lots today.’ And the kids are like, ‘No, we still have another half hour!’ They want it, and that’s pretty neat. I like that.

“They are really, really into it and have opportunities to do some good things in hockey and follow their dreams or paths. So it’s really cool. And it’s fun when you see them get better. It’s really neat to see them get better from the beginning of the year and to see them enjoy it. It’s very rewarding.

“Overall, it’s been great.”

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How One Coach Rediscovered His Love For Hockey

When John Imperiale walked away from behind the bench after years as a youth hockey coach, he admits to feeling just a little bit disillusioned by the direction that the game was taking.

“I’ve been in hockey for awhile and you see these coaches making promises and parents kind of scrambling for the higher level, but it’s just an elite few that go on, not even to play pro but to make money playing hockey,” Imperiale said. “People lose sight of that.”

A chance to coach older kids — teenagers on the brink of becoming young men — brought the love back into the game for Imperiale.

“For me coming back, I wanted to get back to the grassroots stuff where you have a coach and built those relationships where you could count on the coach,” Imperiale explained. “I find that’s a little bit lost now in minor hockey. There’s too much money to be made and it had just kind of gone sideways for me, to be honest.”

A good friend operates the Mississauga Beast organization in the GTHL. His AA team of ‘04s were suddenly without a coach on the eve of the season. He called Imperiale to gauge his interest in taking over the role.

“Reluctantly, I said yes but I’m glad I did,” Imperiale said. “It  was fun.”

Coaching a group of players who weren’t focused on chasing the elusive dream of becoming NHLers, Imperiale was able to connect with these kids on another level.

Most were facing life-altering decisions away from the rink. Would they go to university or college? Would they be entering the workforce? Was it time to cut the cord and move away from home?

“They are young men but they’re also still kids,” Imperiale said. “They’re going right out of Grade 12 into university. A lot of these kids have no clue what they want to do. They’re trying to pick out a career right out of Grade 12.”

Imperiale coached this group for four years, through their U18 season. He found another method to connect with them by bringing sons Nicolas and Michael behind the bench as assistant coaches. Nicolas served the first three years before moving to Alberta, where he’s coaching with the Calgary Buffaloes. Michael took over for Nicolas this season.

“And I brought one of (Michael’s) friends who also coached on the bench,” Imperiale said. “Just to have them on the bench, guys who are close in age to the players, was of real value to those kids. They can talk about university, they can talk about girls and relationships.

“For me, I’m an older guy. They’re not going to talk to me about those things. They can relate a lot better to (Michael) because they’re closer in age. That was a good thing this year as well, to have that support mechanism.”

All of these kids are trying to figure out where life is going to next take them. As much as it was about X’s and O’s, coaching strategy for Imperiale was also quite frequently devoted to life lessons.

“Some of these kids are planning to go to junior camps and try out but it’s not an easy thing to do, cracking a junior lineup out of AA,” Imperiale said. “Still, I encourage that. Take your chance. You don’t want to have any regrets at the end of the day. See where it takes you.”

There are other ways to stay in the game, and he sought to emphasize that with his players as well.

“They see they the opportunity of coaching and some of them even asked me if you need me to come to your practices with the younger guys, help out with some drills,” Imperiale said.

“That’s what I also kind of want to do is build that coaching tree. My older son is off doing his thing and he’s going to pass on that knowledge. My younger son, he’s going to pass on that knowledge. Just kind of building that good foundation of coaching practices along the way.”

“I was coaching and I was at the rink and I ran into two of my old players who are coaching in another organization. Some of these kids are going on to have successful careers coaching and working with kids and really getting an appreciation for that. That comes from having a good coach. You see what that coach has given to you and what you’ve learned from it. If you had a bad coaching experience, you probably won’t go into coaching. But if you’ve had positive experiences, you might at the end of the day.”

His tenure with this group of kids at an end, Imperiale is going back to work with younger players next season.

“After this U18 team, I’m dropping down to U13,” Imperiale said. “So I’m kind of starting this whole thing again, and I’ll take this team as far as they want me and try to build those same relationships along the way.”

He still sees concerns with the way youth hockey works today but is determined that it won’t impact the approach that he takes to working with young players in order to help them grow as both players and people.

“The way the structure is set up, people are worrying about where they are going next year before the season even ends,” imperiale said. “Another problem is helicopter parenting. When my father signed me up, I kind of begged him to let me play. Now they’re signing up their kids before the kids are even asking to play sports.

“These days, parents are into everybody’s business. I think that’s the deterrent for volunteer coaches is the parents. It’s not the kids. They love working with the kids. It’s the parents that are watching little Johnny’s every move and every reaction to the coach. It’s just getting a little ridiculous.

“They see a different game. As a coach, you’re watching how the team is doing. As a parent, you’re watching how your kid is doing. It’s a very different perspective. I’ll continue to coach until the parents get to be too much. The kids just want to play and have fun.”

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Girls Hockey Growing In Non-Traditional NHL Markets

The NHL likes to talk about growing the game. In places such as Dallas, Carolina, Nashville, Washington and Tampa Bay, they’re not merely talking the talk. The league and its member teams are walking the walk.

There’s been an emphasis in those markets toward growing girls hockey programs and the evidence is showing that the fruits of those labors are beginning to bloom.

USA Hockey is showing over 3,000 girls are registered across Dallas, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Raleigh and Washington, D.C, five non-traditional hockey markets that all qualified their teams for Stanley Cup play during the 2021-22 season.

True, those numbers may still pale in comparison to USA hockey hotbeds such as Michigan, Minnesota and Massachusetts. Minnesota alone counts some 13,000 girls playing hockey across the state.

However, these digits are also displaying significant progress being made in the development of girls hockey programs in new areas. The number of girls playing hockey in those states and in the District of Columbia were up 71.3 percent from 2011 to 2021. That is impressive, considering that in each market, they were basically building from Ground Zero.

Grassroots programs such as Preds Girls Hockey, operated by the Nashville Predators, Canes Girls Youth Hockey, set up by the Carolina Hurricanes and All Caps All Her, developed by the Washington Capitals, are building a solid base of hockey participation among girls in their communities.

“It’s cool to see it go from basically nothing to we’ve got kids coming into the sport at 5-, 6-years old and now they could stay here all the way to going to play college hockey,” Hurricanes girls’ and women’s youth and amateur hockey specialist Alyssa Gagliardi told Associated Press.

During the season the Dallas Stars provide a Rookie Girls program. It consists of free four-week programs with 30-minute on-ice sessions for girls ages 4-14 who are interested in playing the game of hockey. Each Saturday during the program, kids are provided with all equipment necessary for a fun and safe experience. Trained coaches help the girls discover and learn about hockey.

Girls Hockey keeps growing

The Tampa Bay Lightning are offering a girls-only summer hockey camp at AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel from July 29th – 31st. Along with on-ice sessions, they also include an off-ice training event as well as chalk talks on hockey rules and strategies.

But getting these programs off the ground is always a struggle.

“I’ll go to schools and we’ll do ball hockey and stuff like that and so many girls are still so surprised that I actually played,” Kelley Steadman, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s hockey development ambassador, told AP.

Steadman won two world championships with the USA and played women’s pro hockey. Generally, this is news to the young girls she’s introducing to the game.

“They’ll be like: ‘Oh, did you play?” Steadman said. “So here we’re still kind of at that grassroots (level) for some of these girls, where they’re not even aware of what women’s hockey is.”

Kristen Wright, USA Hockey’s regional manager of female hockey, insists that in order to develop interest in the game, young girls need to see and meet mentors such as Steadman. Only then can they become infatuated with hockey.

“Some of the challenges that come with that are female role models,” Wright explained to AP. “Convincing girls that hockey is for them, they need to see it. You really need to see different female hockey players have female coaches and have that engagement there.”

Certainly, there are other factors that often inhibit the broadening of a girls hockey base in these areas. Economics, the cost of playing the game, is sometimes an issue. Another detriment can be the lack of available ice rinks.

“Right now I think it’s more of a numbers thing,” Nashville director of amateur hockey Kristen Bowness said. “We just need more girls playing in order to get leagues up and running.”

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