Ice Hockey, like every top-level sport, requires big commitment from both parents and players.
Over the past several weekends, this has proved to be the case for many individuals vying for a spot on their perspective Central State Development hockey teams.
As mentioned in previous blogs, Missouri Youth Hockey has become a dominant force. Steve Brickman, a long time active member for Missouri hockey, recalls back when he first started in the mid-80s. “There wasn’t a team in St. Louis at tier II or at the tier I level in most cases, that could go out of town to Wisconsin, Chicago or wherever and be competitive. But now, we are looked upon as one of the strongest hockey markets per capita based on our numbers.”
This past season, Affton sent three teams at the tier II levels to Nationals. The year before that, Chesterfield won midget major and midget minor tier II National titles, which was the third midget major championship and the midget minor’s first.
The Central States Developmental Hockey League (CSDHL) is a competitive league organized for the elite Tier II hockey teams within Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois and the Central States region. It is affiliated with USA Hockey and field’s teams at the Squirt, Peewee Minor, Peewee Major, Bantam Minor, Bantam Major, Midget Minor and Midget Major Levels. It offers players the opportunity to compete against the best AAA and AA talent around the country, especially within the Midwest.
The CSDHL program includes excellent handpicked coaching, additional ice opportunities (practices & games), and the opportunity to participate in high-level tournaments, beyond the scope of traditional AA programs. The league prides itself on promoting player development and the highest standard of sportsmanship and academic excellence.
Being a part of the CSDHL requires a high level of commitment. CHA conducts tryouts in June and teams skate from August through March. Teams that qualify for USAH National Championship (Bantam, Midget Major, and Midget Minor) can expect to skate until early April.
As we all know, St. Louis Hockey is developing into something special. With the likes of Joe Vitale, Cam Janssen, Brandon Bollig and many more representing the state of Missouri in the NHL, the future continues to be bright.
This past youth hockey season, the 14U Affton Americans helped showcase Missouri Hockey once more by shutting out the Alaska All-Stars, 7-0 and earning their second USA Hockey National Championship in a row, for their age division.
“We were ready for this,” said Cameron Cox, who registered a goal and an assist during the championship game. Cox, who was the lone player on the team to compete in back-to-back championships, competed as a 13-year old the year before. Now, a year older year older, he said that he could sense a difference. “It was big. We were bigger, stronger and had more experience.”
In five games, the Americans outscored their opponents 49 to 4. This Affton group focused on doing what they did best all season long, and that was to out skate their opponents, emphasizing their team speed as well as their individual skill set. Playing this style of hockey helped them finish the season with a record of 49-15-2 overall record, including a 25-1-1 record in the Central States Development League.
Head Coach Matt Ocello said his team was excited to be there…“our team really came together and peaked at the right time”. At the final buzzer the players rushed their goaltender, Johnny Massara, who turned aside all 12 of the shots he faced in the final. Several minutes after the medal ceremony, players, coaches, family and friends enjoyed the moment a little longer.
So the bar has been set again for the upcoming season. Who will be the next team to showcase the great state of Missouri and the talent that lives within?
Hockey as we know is a physical sport and a fundamental part of the game is. But when should kids who are learning and playing this game start taking these types of hits on the ice? The governing body in Canada has said not until after they are out of the PeeWee level.
Last Saturday, the governing body voted 42-2 to remove body checking from the PeeWee level and below. They felt that this decision would minimize the risk of injury. They also say the main factors for the decision was that proper checking techniques needed to be taught.
Beginning in 2013-14, all body-checking from the PeeWee levels and below within leagues governed by Hockey Canada will be removed. "We're really looking at the skill of checking, and body-checking is the last stage," said Bob Nicholson, Hockey Canada President and IIHF Vice President. "We're going to really emphasize how to teach checking at a young age...We want to teach it but also we want to teach kids how to take a check." (Canada, 2013).
In addition to this rule change, a committee has been directed to build a mandatory national checking and instructional resource program to maintain the progressive execution of checking skills at the Novice to PeeWee levels and help prepare players for body-checking starting at the Bantam (13 and 14 year-old) level.
The decision was met with mixed reactions all over but was praised by USA Hockey, which changed the age of body-checking in the US over three years ago to the age of 14.
"We encourage teaching the fundamentals of checking at the PeeWee level, just no checking in games is allowed," said Dave Fisher, Communications Director at USA Hockey.
*Below is a graphic showing Canad's body-checking age as well as those of other countries:
Image above courtesy of jeffkrush.com
The Affton Americans Midget Major Central States Development Hockey team finished the 2012-13 hockey season with a number two ranking and a U18 Tier II 3A national championship.
Affton was ranked No. 1 for most of the season but found out that they had to change classes shortly before the tournament. They were moved into a class with more hockey rich teams from Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio and New York.
The Americans had to play four of the top 10 teams en route to the championship, including the number one team in the rankings, the Sylvania (OH) Maple Leafs. They lost in their first pool play game after starting the game off with a 2-0 lead. After giving up three goals in the third, the teams’ eyes were opened and focus regained.
The top two ranked in the nation matched up in the quarterfinals and Affton dominated the game, 4-1. The Americans would only give up three goals, all against ranked teams, in the playoff rounds, all of which were in the last five minutes of the games.
In the final two games, the Americans defeated the Wonderland (CT) Wizards, the No. 10 ranked team) 4-1 in the semifinals and the Chicago (IL) Bruins, the No. 4 ranked team, 3-1 to win the National Title.