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US Women's Hockey Aims for Continued Success in 2016-17

By Dan Scifo - Special to, 09/26/16, 8:45AM MDT


Opportunities abound for deep player pool to make an impact on Team USA

Reagan Carey believes the upcoming season is a critical one in the process of the continued development of the perennial powerhouse USA Women’s Hockey program.

Carey, the director of women’s hockey for USA Hockey, said the talented player pool is deep with many established veterans and promising newcomers, generating energy and excitement as the players prepare for the season.

“We’re going to put all of our best out there and see how the season pans out in regards to who will be there at the end and named to our national team,” Carey said. “The stakes are high, our players know it and they’re prepared to battle for spots. It’s going to be a really exciting year for us.”

Carey touched on this week's mini-training camp for post-graduates, noting the player pool is deeper than ever with 24 post-graduates who are currently active with the U.S. Women’s National Team and that includes 13 who are previous Olympians.

The first event of 2016-17 will be the Four Nations Cup tournament that will take place November in Finland, followed by a Dec. 17 showdown against Team Canada, a game that isn’t traditionally on the schedule.

“It’s a great opportunity for players, it’s exciting for fans, and it’s one more game to see how the player pool does,” Carey said.

That all leads to the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship, April 1-8, at the USA Hockey Arena, the first time the U.S. Will host the event since 2012 in Burlington, Vermont.

“Seeing the international level of players is something that’s rare, and for us to be able to do that, have a home crowd and see U.S. flags waving as we compete for a world championship is going to be special for our players and very important for our program,” Carey said.

The women’s world championship, a 22-game tournament that features the top female hockey players in the world, will be held in the U.S. for the fourth time in history, as the Americans seek their first gold medal on home soil. The U.S. fell 5-4 in overtime during the 2012 gold medal game against Canada.

“It was a tough loss in Burlington and I know our players are eager to get back out there and have the opportunity to earn a world championship on home ice,” Carey said.

The event will run in conjunction with the USA Hockey Girls’ and Women’s National Championships. The Tier I girls and the women’s championships will take place in Farmington, Michigan, while the girls’ Tier II event is at Troy, Michigan. Both are less than an hour from the USA Hockey Arena.

According to Carey, approximately 20,000 girls were registered in the U.S. and played within USA Hockey programs in 1998 when the Winter Olympics took place and impacted awareness of the women’s game. That number has since spiked to more than 70,000 today.

“It’s a testament to the focus from USA Hockey, determining how to best align the events because our goal is to showcase female hockey in the best way possible,” Carey said. “To host a world championship is special, but to do it in conjunction with girls’ and women’s nationals jump-starts interest and enthusiasm, not just for Michigan, but all of USA Hockey to be proud of how far the women’s team has come.”

The USA Hockey women’s program is currently a powerhouse. Americans have won gold or the top spot in the last five events, including a pair of IIHF U18 and Women’s World Championships. The U.S. won, or finished second, in 18 of 19 events since Carey became involved with the program in August 2010.

“Certainly there’s a full commitment from our veterans, and we’re so grateful to have such terrific leaders in our program,” Carey said. “Our core of leaders sets the tone for any incoming players, as well as the mainstays on the roster. That’s a huge factor for us.”

Carey said the U.S. program has remained dominant thanks to the structure of USA Hockey and the work at the district level. She added that the internal focus is on the program and the players to progress daily to ensure the U.S. remains at the top.

“There’s a lot to be said for the grassroots level, how deep, strong and capable the player pool is,” Carey said. “That starts before we get to national team camp. As a foundation, that is critical for us and a huge reason why we’re at the top of the pile. Certainly, as NCAA programs grow, that’s a big part in preparing players, too.

“We’re in a really great spot, seeing the benefit of our U18 development programs and how prepared our younger players are to have an impact on the senior level at an early age.”

Players can perhaps make the biggest impact soon as the women’s program prepares to begin its season.

In addition to the tournaments that will take place, there are annual camps and festivals for the active player pool that are being considered for spots on upcoming rosters. The next major camp will be in December when a U.S. Women’s National Team development camp is held at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. 

“Knowing all the players in the pool are all battling for the final spot on the national team roster, the energy around that alone is exciting,” Carey said. “To have these big events we get to host is going to be great. We’re looking forward to a great season.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.

Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.

USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?

Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.

The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.

USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process

ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.

USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?

ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.

Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.

Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.

USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?

ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.

USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?

ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.

For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.

USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?

ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.

Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.

With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.

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