Saturday, August 19, 2006

My Boy’s gonna play in the big leagues

But before he (or she) gets there, we’d best fix up the rink a bit.

Back in May, Hockey Canada made some policy decisions about Minor hockey that will change the way the game is played and how your local rink might look. From a change to the way the games are called by officials (much more like the NHL of today) to the actual dimensions of your hometown rink, the game is about to look a lot different than just a year ago.

These are changes that wil be of concern across the country as small and large associations alike strive to meet the new standards of Hockey Canada, some cities will be more able to achieve them more quickly than others. Costs will be harder on some than they are on others and as for the on ice product, like the pros of last year, there will be a period of confusion on the ice while the players and officials adjust to the new regulations in effect.

Below is how one small Canadian city is planning on tackling the issue and how those changes will affect the game there. It's probably much the same wherever a reader of HockeyNation may live, so you can get some idea what your local association may be facing in the coming year.

The Daily News had local reaction to the mandated changes in two stories in yesterday’s paper. Focusing on how changes in the NHL have had an impact on local hockey associations’ right across Canada, including the Prince Rupert Minor Hockey Association.

And with change apparently comes expense. The necessary modification in rink dimensions at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre will cost more than 3,000 dollars, as room on the ice is created behind the net to increase the flow of play, just as the NHL has done. Of course NHL teams and owners probably can afford the modifications a little easier than the small rinks across the nation, but such is the cost of feeding the dreams and ambitions of those looking to make it to the big leagues.

While the city works on changing the dimensions of the rink, coaches will begin the process of changing the mindset of hockey players, suddenly thrown into a whole new way of playing the game. Those changes will provide some challenges for local players, which are explained in the two articles below.

Sing along with Tom, while you catch up on all the changes to the local rink.

By Patrick Witwicki
The Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, August 18, 2006
Pages One and Six

The new look NHL will now be seen in minor hockey rinks from coast to coast. And in Prince Rupert, the change in rink dimensions is costing the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre more than $3,000.

Canadian Hockey (CHA) shortly after the conclusion of the 2005-06 NHL season , was quick to send out memos to every single hockey rink in Canada, stating that they intended to follow what they considered was a successful module in the NHL.

“There was no certainly no warning,” said Eric Grossman, manager of recreational service for the civic centre. “This is a little more expensive, because we had to do some welding. Fortunately, we were able to do this.”

The dimensions of the hockey rink have changed in this fashion – the goal lines were moved back closer to the boards, while the blue lines were moved outward into the neutral zone, (see diagram here, as it appeared on page six of the story) making the attacking zones larger in an effort to provide more scoring.

And even though the CHA stated that no penalties would be issued if rinks didn’t comply immediately, there is a concern that provincial associations like the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association (BCAHA) may not allow individual associations to host provincial or national tournaments in the future if they don’t meet those guidelines, although that hasn’t been made official for the upcoming hockey season.

“It was the recommendation of Hockey Canada that all arenas do make these changes, however, we realize that this isn’t an overnight process,” said Brad Pascall, director of communications for the CHA.

Jerry Kurka, a Prince Rupert minor hockey coach, but also a BCAHA Coaching Committee Director for the Northwest region, said that it is expected that most rinks in B. C. will comply with the guidelines set out by the CHA.

“They’ve gone ahead with it,” he said. “All the minor hockey associations have been given notice to change the lines.”

However, specifically with the Jim Ciccone Arena, the new alignment of the blue lines will force hockey teams to adjust how they make line changes.

“The exit doors with the players’ boxes, one of the doors now happens to be on the inside of the blue line,” said Grossman.

“So players changing lines will now be offside.”

Bruce Tessier, second vice president for Prince Rupert minor hockey and a coach and referee for the association was called in to work alongside Grossman to make the transition more smooth.

“I’ve been working with the civic centre for the past two months,” he said.

“We put the brackets in so we can adjust the blue and goal lines. Our lines have been out of sync for years.”

Tessier pointed out that the alignment of the goal lines in the arena weren’t even in alignment with the previous guidelines, so making the change made sense, even though it was an expense that the Jim Ciccone Arena wasn’t expecting.

“Your attacking zones are another eight feet out,” he said. “It was a job and a half for the civic centre to work with it. This is going to cost a lot of money.”

Grossman added: “A few years ago we had to make some changes. In 1988, we did some reconstruction and the boards were custom-made.”

Grossman also said that Prince Rupert had one advantage over other associations, in that the ice was out, so it was easier to make adjustments to the alignment, but other associations may not have that luxury.

“Some arenas may find it too difficult,” he said. “Most arenas are custom-made.”

The thought-process behind the change is to open up the game, and make it more exciting. The combination of the new dimensions and calling the rules like the NHL does (see related story below) will provide more excitement and scoring, said Pascall.

“Prior to our board passing this, we had three or four meetings with the Canadian Recreation Council (all arena managers in Canada) and discussed the pros and cons to make it happen,” he said. “It was all for the betterment of the game in the eyes of our board.

“We are confident that these changes are for the betterment of the game, and we do not see a change in the upcoming years.”

By Patrick Witwicki
The Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, August 18, 2006
Page Six

It could be a chaotic year for all minor hockey associations all over B. C.

That’s because after receiving notice from Canadian Hockey (CHA) that all levels of hockey will now be expected to enforce the game similarly t how it was called at the NHL level, the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association has endorsed the idea, and coachers, players and officials alike will have to make the proper adjustment.

Jerry Kurka, who has been involved in Prince Rupert minor hockey for years, and who is also a BCAHA coaching director for the Northwest region, is well aware how tough the transition might be.

“The BCAHA is adopting those same rules,” he said. “Most of BCAHA will be talking to all of the coaches.

“The only way this is going to work and not make a travesty of the game is if we teach the kids how to check properly. Players are so used to certain habits, and hockey is repetitive … once you’re used to doing something a certain way, it’s tough to change.”

The main emphasis on the way the rules are called details specifically with obstruction, like hooking and tripping. In the past, only the most serious infractions were called, while players, for the most part, were allowed to get away with it.

But now, any time a player uses his stick or free arm to impede a player’s progress, that player will be assessed a penalty.

While the new rules will give forwards more of an advantage, it’s the defencemen who will endure the most difficult transition. Travis Lorette is entering his second year of midget A hockey, and he isn’t alone in sharing his displeasure about the new rules.

”Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “I prefer the old style. I wouldn’t really want to play that way.”

Bruce Tessier, who was an assistant coach with the midget A team last season, but is also a referee for minor hockey, is expecting a very difficult season for everybody, pointing out that at least in the NHL, they do have the luxury of having two referees on the ice who can call penalties, whereas minor hockey only has one.

“I don’t know if we’re going to the bad or the good side,” he said. “It’s going to be tough on officials, and it’s going to be a lot more difficult to call. “It’s gone to European style hockey.”

Tessier is also concerned that the way a hockey game is called will be different in every association. For example, while Rupert officials may be strict in enforcing the rules, it’s quite possible that other Skeena Valley Associations may not.

“Every region’s different,” he said. “and now the players with the midget team, who are used to using a little bit of stick, won’t be able to.

“This is going to be a fun year.”

For their part, the CHA is well aware that the transition period could be difficult, and are already working on a strategy to help coaches, players, and officials alike.

“We have enhanced our printed materials for key officiating and coaching course conductors in Canada,” said Brad Pascall, director of communications for the CHA.

“We will also be posting enhanced information and videos within our website (, focusing on education of the new rule emphasis.

But the key to succeeding in these initiatives will lie heavily on the shoulders of coaches, said Kurka.

“If the coaches don’t get proactive, it’s not going to work,” he said. “I committed to making it mandatory that myself and the instructors meet with all the coaches.”

That said, the most difficult transition will occur with the players and officials themselves, he said.

“Referees are mandated to call everything,” said Kurka. “Now, they’re taking judgment away from them, You’re going to have some referees who buck the system.”

But Lorette is convinced that the players will have the toughest time adjusting to the new rules.

“It’s going to force the players to be more mobile,” he said. “In front of the net, you can’t do anything about it. There were some good battles in the past.

“Now, you basically can put your body in front, and that’s it. It’s basically keep your hands to yourself.”

Still, the hope is that the new rules will open up the game, and provide more scoring. In addition, players in the past that were considered “too small” by junior hockey standards will now have every opportunity to use their skill.

”It’s all about speed,” said Lorette.

“It definitely will let the forwards skate more. And tit’s definitely going to change my game a bit.
“Defence will have to be more mobile. The size of the D was increasing, but now they might get smaller.”

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