Welcome to another season of hectic days, racing from rink to rink, grabbing fast food while doing homework in the car and traveling to somewhat exotic tournament destinations. Yes, we are all looking forward to those things. With close to 30,000 Youth, Girls, Disabled, High School and Adult players in Illinois, there are a lot of moving parts and planning to make a successful and safe season.
Again, this season, the focus for AHAI is player safety, member conduct and information/communication with the AHAI membership.
The A Step aHead initiative is a free baseline testing program open to all AHAI players aged 11 to 18. This program is free due to the support and sponsorship of the Chicago Blackhawks, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Athletico Physical Therapy and AHAI. Information on the A Step aHead program can be found on the right sidebar of the AHAI website or by clicking here.
All USA Hockey Coaches and Officials are required to complete the SafeSport education program. This program rolled out by USA Hockey is designed to create awareness of player safety off the ice. These include without limitation Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Screening, Locker Room Supervision and Hazing Policies, in addition to Codes of Conduct applicable to administrators, coaches, officials, parents, players and spectators.
Officials are instructed to call aggressive penalty infractions. All officials have gone through educational seminars and have been instructed to call the aggressive, dangerous penalties. Coaches that attend USA Hockey/AHAI Coaching Education Program Clinics are instructed on the prevention of dangerous play. Players also need to take responsibility for their actions. Remember penalties are only called after they happen.
Additionally, you will see younger, competent officials working games that might be considered higher level games. IHOA and AHAI support and administer an Officials Advanced Placement program. These selected officials receive additional monthly training and supervision to help advance their capabilities each time they hit the ice.
Currently there is a shortage of officials due to the growth of the number of games and the declining retention of officials from season to season. USA Hockey, IHOA and AHAI are continually trying to turn the tide back to growing the number of officials though various incentive programs. These programs are starting to show better retention at least for younger officials.
All of us need to try and look at the bigger picture when we think of the players and officials. The way we, the players, coaches, family and administrators conduct ourselves, has a distinct impact on the players’ development and enjoyment along with the retention of officials, particularly younger officials.
SNAPSHOT, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter, is in its 6th year of production and AHAI hopes SNAPSHOT meets the needs of you, the members. The goal has always been to provide timely and accurate information to all of AHAI’s members. SNAPSHOT, along with AHAI’s social media sites, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are the main sources of communication with AHAI members. Additionally, there is ahaienews.com that allows our members to search and access past articles from SNAPSHOT. Ahaienews.com also has many other relevant articles, tips and advice from other trusted sources like Changing the Game Project, Positive Coaching Alliance and USA Hockey. Please continue to send in your questions to “Ask AHAI” and your ideas and suggestions for articles you’d like to see in upcoming issues of SNAPSHOT.
AHAI has great support from the Chicago Blackhawks and the Blackhawk Alumni. The Chicago Blackhawks offer financial assistance and host many events that support the AHAI membership. With Annie Camins (Senior Director of Fan Development) along with Spencer Montgomery (Fan Development Manager), Samantha Ratty and Laura Jordan (Fan Development Assistants) the Blackhawks team up to host Game-Day Skates, Youth Coach, Player and Volunteer of the Month, Hockey Moms’ Night Out and the Illinois State High School Championship at the United Center. The Blackhawk Alumni present scholarships each season to deserving High School players who represent dedication to education, community service, family as well as playing hockey.
I would also suggest that you check out some exciting Junior level hockey in the area. The Chicago Steel (Geneva) play in the top Junior hockey league in the country (USHL). This league includes the top USA Hockey National Development team and The Central Illinois Flying Aces (Bloomington). Other Junior level teams in the area include the Tier II (NAHL) Springfield Jr. Blues, and Tier III, Peoria Mustangs.
Although the season looks like a long haul in early September, time goes by very quickly. Before you know it there are Thanksgiving tournaments, Holiday tournaments, then we quickly move into league and State playoffs. This season it’s everyone’s responsibility to help make it a safe and enjoyable experience.
John Dunne, AHAI President