Welcome to the 2013-14 season! The hockey season is upon us and for our 135 players, from Minor Atom to Major Midget, and their families and fans, there are a large number of changes for our organization. We enter this season on the heels of our best season ever and with our objectives and goals set for further improvement. This newsletter is intended to up-date Predator fans on new developments for the 2013-2014 season - both on and off the ice.
We thank you for your ongoing commitment and interest in the NCOHA Predators.
As the hopefuls for the 2014 Canadian Men’s Olympic team take to the ice, or the ball hockey floor, there has been much discussion regarding hockey in Canada, our minor hockey system, skill development, the future of body-checking, and where hockey is headed in a world which offers so many athletic pursuits to Canadian youth. With our season beginning on Saturday, I decided, on behalf of the NCOHA Predator Executive, to take this opportunity to discuss the growth and development of our organization. While some of the information may be ‘old hat’ to some, our organization is broadly dispersed, and alters radically every year.
Assessing a Hockey Program:
The Predators are a fast growing and radically improved hockey organization which aims to cooperate with our local minor hockey associations to develop and promote our local talent. That is the purpose of our hockey program. In 2013-14, we will be engaged in more direct liaison with these hockey organizations to increase cooperation and enhance performance.
There are several ways to assess a hockey program: On-Ice Performance, Player Development, Coaching Expertise, Health and Safety, and all the extras that come with a complete hockey program. It is my purpose to address each of these areas to inform you of developments in the NCOHA Predators program.
In terms of performance, the Preds are on the move: The Predators have improved dramatically in the past few seasons. This is true in every possible indicator of success. In the past four seasons, wins have doubled; points acquired in league play have increased from 81 at the conclusion of the 2010 season to 167 at the end of 2012-13; goals for are way up and goals against have declined dramatically. While statistics are often disregarded, they remain the most significant measuring stick in sport. The success in the league has led to success in the play-offs. In 2013, three Preds teams eliminated the rival Barrie Colts in the play-offs. We hope for more in the coming season!
Player development is at the heart of Predator success. We provide a program that begins at Minor Atom and ends at Major Midget affording an opportunity for 135 young players to play at the highest level. For 2013-14, our teams will receive two practices per week for a total of approximately two hours and forty-five minutes. They also receive a minimum of nine hours of instruction in August for team preparation. In addition to regular practices, all eight teams will receive developmental ice, with on-ice professionals, for the purpose of skill development. Predator coaches also provide ancillary opportunities for these players to enhance team-building, physical fitness, and game readiness – these opportunities run the gamut from recreational team-building to extensive strength and conditioning programs and on-ice camps.
The location of ice time, and the times for practices, are always a focal point. Our zone is not one that is rich in infrastructure nor in a youthful demographic so we have some challenges. The Predators have just signed a renewed contract with the Rama Mask for 36 months. Further, we continue to acquire ice time at Gravenhurst and the Orillia rinks. Our practice times are allotted according to our in-zone locations and with the rationale that younger teams get earlier ice. Given the vested interests of 135 players, approximately 270 parents and 40 team officials, our final schedules are based on an assessment of interests and an application of compromise.
Player Development in Minor Midget
Minor Midget is a special year for AAA hockey players and it is an organizational priority. Most players engage in hockey for fun and to acquire the team experience. That is as it should be. At the AAA level, however, there are those with higher aspirations. To cater to those special players, their talents and their dreams, the Predators engage in annual “Scouting Symposiums” bringing in experts from the Ontario Hockey League and the NCAA. These presentations focus on providing families and players current and accurate information on navigating the hockey path. This will occur again in early 2014 for the Bantam teams and the Midget teams.
This year, the draft eligible Minor Midget team will be traveling to Bowling Green University in Ohio on an NCAA viewing trip. The players and families will travel together, visiting the University, viewing the athletic facilities, attending symposiums with the athletic staff. Further, they will attend two NCAA games and participate in two exhibition games with opponents from Ohio.
Coaching selection and development is key to success in sport – it is also an annual point of contention. The Predators are proud of their selection process, the coaches we have selected and what they offer our players. Currently, four of our 8 coaches, and many of our assistant coaches, are non-parents with very specific expertise in hockey on both sides of the boards – and several are Predator alumni. This list includes experience in the OHL, the OHA, professional leagues in the United States and Europe and the NCAA.
Our team officials engage in continuous hockey education, supported by the organization. Most recently, six of our coaches completed the prestigious Ontario Hockey Association’s coaching program. This session is taught by current OHL and NHL coaches and is deemed second to none for coaches that wish to hone their skills at a high level. Attendees such as Minor Peewee Coach Eddy Smith (alumni of the SSM Greyhounds); Major Bantam Coaches Jamie Clarke and Roy Micks (Orillia Travelways Centennial Cup Champions and Tier 11 Jr. A coach and General Manager) and Tobias Whalen (Oshawa Generals Captain with professional career) and Andrew Morris (Tier 11 Jr. A in Orillia, four years in NCAA and a professional career in the US) emphasized the professionalism in the instruction, a focus on developing and countering systems in all three zones of play and the tactics of special teams. They each came home with a great deal to teach our players and new methods on how to do so effectively. We recognize that the selection and the development of our coaches is key to the enjoyment and success of our players.
Strength and Conditioning:
As in any sport, development requires more than just on-ice instruction. The Predators have encouraged the implementation of age-specific off-ice programs for our players. We have contracted, and utilized, strength and conditioning experts to develop programs for our players. By way of example, our Minor Midget team has just completed a development program provided by Mike Torkoff of Next Level Sports. This program provided on-ice instruction throughout the off-season, hockey-specific strength and conditioning programs and team-based physical assessments. Torkoff, a regular participant in the OHL Combine Assessments for draftees, developed this program together with Mark Fitzgerald, the Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Toronto Marlies. The development program culminated with a one-week camp with on-ice instruction, off-ice components and a team-building exercise at the OPP’s rigorous confidence course. This last event was expertly run by OPP Auxiliary member (and long-time NHL referee) Dan Marouelli and Sgt. Dan Anthony of the OPP.
Use of Video:
Apart from the conditioning component, the Preds this year will make more broad use of video as a coaching tool. With the contracting of a videographer and the purchase of new equipment for our coaching room, our staff will utilize game tape organized into face-offs, special teams and zone-specific play. Our organizational goal for this year is to provide this service for eight home games for each team.
As the Predators have evolved, a recent focus has been the marketing of this expansion to the Eastern AAA league, the OMHA, the OHF and Hockey Canada. Currently, the Predators have entered a proposal to host the 2014 Minor Midget Showcase in Orillia. This Showcase is the premier event for exhibiting the talent of draft eligible hockey players. The Predators have entered a business case to host the Major Midget All-Star game in 2014 as well. So too, the Predators have forged a close link with the new Junior C team in Orillia and its coaching staff. It is great to have Junior hockey back in Orillia and our affiliation will ensure mutual success for our players. This affiliation is in addition to our alumni that have gone on to play for Junior teams in their local centres such as Midland, Penetang and Huntsville.
Health and Safety:
Both physical and mental safety in sport are vital to the enjoyment of our young players. The Predators have continued with our successful and preventative “Cyber-bullying Policy” and have not yet received a complaint of this major concern in youth sport. Further, we have emphasized the new “two-deep” policy of the OHF which requires the presence of two team officials in dressing room or in close proximity. Concussions too, are a major concern. The Preds have continued the relationship with the Concussion Management Research Group and will be providing new training to our team officials. Further, we will shortly select an organizational representative specifically for these important issues.
The Predators recognize that young players want to have fun and feel good about their hockey experience. To this end, we have up-dated our excellent apparel line, added new logos to the ice surface at Rama, totally remodelled our two dressing rooms at Rama and have acquired banners to hang for two of our significant achievements. Further, we have tasked our Ice Scheduler with acquiring home ice in various areas of our zone so that our young players can play in front of a local crowd. This is a challenge but we are working on it.
Making it Happen:
Running a hockey program is not always an easy task. There are various challenges that unfortunately hit the front pages everyday. Our executive is a progressive one that is active in all aspects of AAA hockey in Ontario. I thank Vice-President Rich Foshay, Kevin Russell Equipment and Apparel, Treasurer Les Keay, Player Development and Promotion Roy Micks, OMHA Representative Dave Dunn, ETA Representative Roger Crandell, Secretary Karen Wait, Public Relations Jen Ricca, Risk Management Dave Winnitoy, and Ice Scheduling Al Scott and Doug Beckett for their volunteerism and countless hours in support of amateur hockey in our area. Further I thank all of our coaches and team officials for making these opportunities available. Finally, I thank all of our players and their families to their commitment to this organization and this great game.
The coming season is both and challenge and an opportunity for all of us and our players. We look forward to both. Thank-you.
Yours in Hockey,