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USA Hockey Needs to Change

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Whether you are a player, a coach or a ref, you are undoubtedly a member of USA Hockey simply because, whether you like it or not, USAH is a modern-day monopoly.  They have control of the player registration process for everyone from mites to senior citizens, they have control of the entire coaching certification process (which simply means that you went to a USAH Seminar) and, should you ever want to get out on the ice and officiate, they have control of you too.  


The cost of their membership privilege is about $50 per year.  For that fifty bucks, you get fake insurance (try bringing your Registration Form to an emergency room) and you get a childish magazine.  I, for one, expect a bit more from USAH.  Let me say that if administrative functions were the limit of their influence, USAH might be acceptable.  But the fact is that USAH also makes the rules, they create the development models and they write national policy.   


First of all, if USAH provided some comprehensive information on working with beginners, and truly knew something about tuly teaching the game, they might start with some guidance as to which hand should go on top of the stick.  New players should have a fighting chance of developing puck control skills.  As such, USAH should make this Lesson #1.  They do not. 

 

If USAH, in addition to suggesting that skating coaches bring candy and balloons to Learn to Skate classes, incorporated some of the biomechanics needed to skate properly I would not complain.  But they do not.  


There are some other issues with USAH.  The mass marketing of senseless drills comes to mind.  When was the last time that, during an actual game, you skated in a Figure 8 around the faceoff circles?  How about skating in a squatted position, with one foot on the ice and the other leg fully extended. How often does that happen?  


Before you yell “Balance” or “Edge Control” may I suggest that you go to a game and take note of instances in which balance is needed and when edge control is utilized?  Then ask yourself how to incorporate those skills into your next practice.  If you do that, you are on the right track.  If you rely on someone else, your players may wind up skating with one foot on the ice and their other leg fully extended.  
Practicing things that do not occur in a game is a waste of time.  It causes players to dislike practice and it hampers their development.  USAH really should know that.  Honest.


The other issue that weighs heavily in my thoughts is USAH’s treatment of Women.  It was not that long ago that the members of our Women’s National Team were offered the embarrassingly low amount of $1000 per month.  It should be pointed out that this offer came at the conclusion of a 13-month negotiation process.  So, it took USAH over a year to determine that our best players, while representing our country at the World Championships, were worth about $250 a week?   


What happens to one of our players if a stick breaks? (the women were not getting equipment at that time).  Suppose someone needed new $500 skates?  Remember, we are talking about a National Team.  Do you think that they offered the men $250 a week?  Did you happen to see anybody on the men’s team in the pro shop – checking price tags to see if he could afford to buy basic things?  Did he ever, for even one second, have to question whether or not he could afford to represent his country?   


Please bear in mind that the women did not ask for equal pay.  They asked for a living wage.  They asked for reasonable treatment.  They asked for respect.  After 13 long months of negotiation USA Hockey’s answer was “No”.  Draw your own conclusions.  


Interestingly, USA Hockey magazine, in its recent edition offered a buff piece to suggest that gender issues have been addressed and have been corrected.  The article is entitled "Ever Expanding Roles Have Helped More Women Break Hockey’s Glass Ceiling".  OK, so the title suggests that an evolving ‘gender neutral’ schema is responsible for placing women in never before available positions  of influence.  The piece, however, points out the following as examples of that change in the "once male dominated hockey world":

# 1 – An Assistant Coach with a women’s D1 Program.  (She has been there for 11 years now.  That’s a long time to be an assistant.  The article did not mention how many times she may have been passed over for the Head Coaching position?)

# 2 – A former Figure Skater who is now a skating instructor with NTDP.  (She has been there for 18 years now.  In the off-season, she still works with local youth players – which could possibly mean that NTDP does not pay her enough money to afford a vacation).

# 3 – Someone with a Law Degree who attended Yale and now works with the NHLPA in the Health & Safety Department.  A guy from my old Brooklyn neighborhood works in that department too. He does not have a Law Degree.  He did not go to Yale.  No further comment is needed. 

# 4 – A former Women’s National Team player who now works in a Fan Development department.  Really?!?  Fan Development people are the ones who call you up and say "your youth team can skate on ice in-between the 1st and 2nd Periods – you only need to purchase 200 advance tickets for the game".

The same USA Hockey group that thought it was wise to offer the women’s National Team players $250 per week just published an article to let us know that there are women who are "playing a leading role in changing the face of the game".  I find the article, and its intent, offensive. 

If we accept this, things will not change.  And things at USA Hockey really do have to change.  They have a development model that lacks the most essential of hockey basics.  They have demonstrated a strong preference for the past and, in so doing, clearly lacked the understanding that is needed to lead us into the future.  


I am one voice but know that I am not alone.  Make your voice heard too.   Ask for change.  The present leadership group is not acceptable.  



Pops Ryan



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