USA Hockey Magazine

January 2019

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34 // JANUARY 2019 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM By Jeff Carpenter New Trend Taking Root In The Pacific Northwest Looks To Spread Nationwide PHOTOS COURTESY OF Jason Vaillancourt; Doug Kirton I t c a n t a k e t i m e f o r t h i n g s that sprout up in the Pacific Northwest to take root in other p a r t s o f t h e c o u n t r y. Ta k e S t a r b u c k s, f o r e x a m p l e . O r Amazon. Even Pearl Jam spent years perfecting its chops in the Seattle area before taking the rest of the country by storm. The same could be true with the recent shift to playing half- ice games at the 10 & Under level. Based on the early returns, it's working incredibly well, with players having more fun and getting more puck touches, effectively placing their development on the right track. U n d e r t h e a u s p i c e s o f t h e A m e r i c a n Development Model, players at the 8 & Under level play cross-ice or half-ice games, which creates more opportunity for puck touches and increased engagement on an age-appro- priate playing surface. The Pacific Northwest Amateur Hockey Association made the bold decision to follow those same principles by having their 10U teams play half-ice games throughout the state of Washington. And now some youth hockey organizations in Oregon and Alaska are incorporating it as well. "The game has changed and we need to change with it," said Doug Kirton, hockey director for the Sno-King Jr. Thunderbirds. "The time and space on the ice is gone and you need to put these kids in a situation where they can get comfortable in that traffic area." One reason for the move is that there isn't a significant difference between players at the 8U and 10U age levels, and this initiative helps lessen that jump. With less ice to cover, some of the more talented kids can't just take off at the red line, collecting multiple breakaway opportunities per game. "Some of the parents at the 10U travel level have said they've seen their kid benefit from it, particularly the better players," said Jason Vaillancourt, vice president of the Portland Jr. Winterhawks who also coaches a 10U team. "They are seeing their kids have to make qu ick deci sion s i n t he cor ner when t hey a r e s u r r ou nde d by t h r e e pl ayer s . T hei r decision making has improved, along with their quickness. "Half-ice games are so fast, that when they move to full ice you really see their patience with the puck to make a good decision as they have more time." Local house leagues have also generated great feedback as well. Playing half-ice allows two games to take place at the same time, which puts more kids on the ice. As a result, rinks are packed with kids and parents feeding off the energy inside the building. "A lot of the kids, when we first did it said it was the best year of hockey in their life," Vaillancourt said. "I heard a stat that a lot of the drop off in youth hockey is between Half-Ice, Full Flight

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