When Minnesota Hockey launched its Hard Divider Program two summers ago, the dividers were primarily sought after as a way to improve cross-ice play for players at the Mite/8U level. The boards enabled associations to provide a realistic game experience in an age-appropriate environment, which in turn allowed them to maximize players’ enjoyment and development at the same time.
As Moorhead Youth Hockey Association’s new Executive Director Rob Gramer will tell you though, the benefits of the boards go far beyond the game’s youngest players.
“The hard dividers were a huge success for Moorhead Hockey in our first year with them,” said Gramer, who spent last season as Moorhead’s In-House Director. “From Bantam/14U to Rookie/6U, the kids all enjoyed the hard dividers. We use a lot of small area games in our curriculum at all levels, and the players liked using the hard dividers as they allow for more realistic game play.”
Like most associations, Moorhead’s first priority was enhancing the experience for the players in the younger age groups.
“We play almost exclusively cross ice hockey at our Rookie/6U and Mite/8U levels,” said Gramer. “Many parents and grandparents commented on how it defined the space more clearly for them as spectators, making it easier to watch their players. I believe it also helped them accept cross ice hockey as real hockey.”
In addition to providing the kids with a better game environment, the coaches noticed several benefits they didn’t foresee. Coaches had spent considerable time in previous seasons fixing the black bumper pads, which were continuously being knocked out of place, and chasing pucks that went over them. The interruptions reduced playing time for the kids and limited the amount of feedback and instruction coaches could offer them. The hard dividers eliminated those issues and allowed coaches to focus on teaching, rather than managing.
As the season progressed, word spread and coaches at different levels made utilizing the boards a bigger part of their development plan.
“We were able to implement Sunday night cross ice games for our Squirts,” said Gramer. “It was a fantastic way for us to implement more small area game play for our Squirt/12Us, and we saw great improvements in their ability to handle the puck under duress in tight spaces, movement and support away from the puck, their speed of mind with the puck and learning to play quicker in transition.
“Our Peewee/12Us and Bantam/14Us [also] get tremendous benefit from the dividers in our spring and fall three-on-three leagues. The development of their playmaking ability in small space, movement of the puck, vision, and speed of mind is evident.”
With one full season of use completed, Moorhead is already looking forward to how they will to utilize the boards next season.
“The hard dividers were a great addition for Moorhead Hockey,” said Gramer. “We are excited about finding new ways to use them to help our kids develop and enjoy the game!”