New England Hockey Journal - August 2016 - 42
THE HOCKEY MOM
don't think it's a coincidence that
since USA Hockey ended checking at the Pee Wee level in 2010,
participation numbers in that
age range reversed the dropoff
and began to climb. Because as much as
some kids yearn for the day they can experience the full-on physicality of hockey, others begin to find their skills neutralized and their enjoyment of the game
declining as it becomes more physical.
The traditional game of hockey, when
checking is included, is classified as a collision sport like American football and
rugby, as opposed to a contact sport like
basketball, soccer or lacrosse.
It is easy to forget that when
you are watching Mites waddle around the ice, or Squirts
scrambling after the puck.
But now that Sam is a firstyear Pee Wee, I see the foreshadowing of what's to come
every time he plays. The kids
are getting bigger, the push
and shove more brutal, and
the importance of body positioning paramount.
When two 200-pound players come
together in the NHL, traveling at average
puck rush speeds, the stopping force is
over 630 pounds, and they produce about
April Bowling is a mother of two, including one avid little hockey player named Sam. Owner of TriLife
Coaching, a multisport training firm in Essex, Mass. April also co-founded the TriROK Foundation.
an intro to checking ...
hold the 'yard sales'
5500 joules of energy - enough to fire
a puck about 400 miles per hour. I don't
know about you, but numbers like that
can make a hockey mom a little nervous.
So when Sammy got the chance to step
into a checking clinic with his friend Van,
his dad and I thought it might be a good
idea to help him understand
the art and science behind
safely and effectively using
the check before he actually
has to do it in game play. I
knew it was safe because it
was with a trusted coach, Neil
Mulcahey, and he assured me
that although Sam and Van
would be the youngest there,
they wouldn't be the smallest, and his focus would be
on body position, not, as he
called it, on producing a "yard sale."
I wasn't familiar with the term at the
time, but it was the first thing he discussed with the boys who joined him on
the ice. Apparently, the term "yard sale"
refers to the aftermath of a check that is
so devastating it knocks a player's gear
off ... after which, ostensibly, it could be
sold because he is likely out cold. (This
is the kind of mental picture, by the way,
that makes me want to switch my kid to
And thus, Neil's point: Yard sales are
not the goal of checking. Taking the opposing player out of the play while maintaining your position within that play IS
the goal. Going for the hardest hit possible
often does exactly the opposite. While
there were some disappointed faces on the
ice at that moment, I was silently rejoicing.
The first hour on the ice was spent in
skating drills focused on putting yourself in the right position to maintain
your role in a play while taking your opposition out of that same play. Not necessarily by checking, but by being in the
right place, at the right time, with the
right balance and the right trajectory.
Sam was panting and sweating, but not
smiling. This was hard work, and not the
physical fun he'd signed up for.
But that changed in the second hour.
And soon thereafter, he was grinning
ear to ear. He and Van practiced closing
one another off against the boards, evading checks and keeping heads up and
hands down when making contact. I had
to laugh when the coaches used pads to
knock Sam off balance as he skated drills
Continued from Page 8
EVERYTHING WE LEARNED ON THE
COURSE AND ON THE ICE IS NOW
AVAILABLE ON THE LACROSSE FIELD.
We do it with the #1 golf shafts on the PGA Tour, one of the fastest growing
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42 NEw ENGLAND HOCKEY JOURNAL August 2016
Ryan, they're afraid to get on their good
players because they're afraid they might
leave. I think with my connection with
Ryan, he knew I was doing it out of a passion for him developing into a great person, a great student and a great player."
It was at Dexter where Ryan grew as
more than just a star hockey player.
"Being at a school like Dexter-Southfield, Ryan was around great students, great
families and great people that expected to
do well in school, do well in sports and do
well whatever they were passionate about
here to use that as a tool to move on in life
to get into a great school or get a great job.
That part of his development became part
of the norm for Ryan," Dan said. "I have a
great coaching staff, but I think that Ryan's
development comes from our whole community more so than just me as a hockey
coach. I think all of those other things are
what's going to make it really good down
around the cones. But it didn't take long
before he knew what was coming and adjusted his balance and body position to
stay on course.
The best part came when he got separated from Van and had to practice with
the Bantams, two years older than him.
He rose to the challenge, but did it within the lessons he had learned ... focusing
on the purpose of the play, not the passion of the check.
He came off the ice exhilarated and
excited about what's to come in his hockey career. That's exactly the sweet spot
you want for your child in sports, right?
Striving, learning and having fun, all at
the same time. What you don't want for
your child? A head injury. So you might
think I was crazy to send my first year Pee
Wee to a checking camp, but I promise
the way the drills were conducted posed
minimal risk compared to normal game
play, without checking allowed. Instead,
I'm looking to the future. I forbid football,
but there is no way I can take the boy out
of hockey. So better he should learn how
to play the game right, and minimize his
risk, than for me to cover my ears and
sing la-la-la until he hits Bantams and I
can't pretend that hockey is no more dangerous than that cross-country career I
keep suggesting to him.
And the bonus? Sam thinking I'm the
coolest mom in the world for letting him
have the chance to play the real game,
hockey the way he knows it is meant
to be played and has been dreaming of
playing it since he first pointed to the TV
during a Bruins game at age 3 and said,
"Dat. I pway dat."
Yes, you do, Sam. Yes, you do.
the line for Ryan to get in front of a microphone if he's fortunate enough to don a
Bruins jersey, and I think the organization
is going to be excited to have an educated,
bright, nice kid that will be a great member of the community and a great person
that helps them win hockey games."
Ryan's exposure to the NHL life at a
young age has undoubtedly shaped his
"Meeting guys like Paul Kariya, Mike
Modano, some of the greats, Bobby Orr,
Ray Bourque, things like that, are things
you take with you for the rest of your life,"
Ryan said of his early hockey memories
spent at rinks across the country. "And
I'm excited to be here because I can finally try to be part of that."
Here, with his father, but more importantly right now, a coach who has helped
develop Harvard's strongest program in
years. Here, where it all began on that TD
Garden bench almost two decades earlier.
Here, at home.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of New England Hockey Journal - August 2016
NEHJ August 2016
Our Starting Lineup
Around the Region
Bruins Beat: Ryan Donato
NHL New England
NHL New England Digital Directory
BONUS: Comm Ave Charity Classic gallery
NEHJ Skate Guide: Brand Loyalty
NEHJ Skate Guide: Sharpening 101
NEHJ Skate Guide: Buyer's Guide
Prep/High School Guide
NEHJ TV EPISODES
The Goalie Guru
The Hockey Mom
Summer Camp Directory
Hangin' Out With …
New England Hockey Journal - August 2016
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