USA Hockey Magazine

April / May 2018

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H E L I T T L E L E A G U E W O R L D S E R I E S has Williamsport, Pa., and if USA Hockey has its way, Plymouth, Mich., will soon become a frozen field of dreams for a select group of hockey players. The seeds that were planted last season in the Arizona desert when the Tier I 15 Only National Championship made its debut are looking to plant their roots in the ice at the USA Hockey Arena, the home of the National Team Development Program. "This event, in this venue, is our Williamsport," McLaughlin, the senior director of hockey devel- opment, told players and parents during this year's opening ceremony. "It's important that this age group finds a nation- al identity for this tournament and that's why I think it's important that we have it here at the USA Hockey Arena." t NATIONAL championships FIELD OF DREAMS It's all part of a larger plan to keep more players in the game at a forma- tive period in their development. At 15, there's a high level of variation in players, both cognitively and physi- cally. Creating a single-year age group gives players more time to develop at a pace that allows them to be more suc- cessful in the long run. "When you look at the development of players, every sport is different," said Bob Mancini, one of the archi- tects of the NTDP who now works as a regional manager with the American Development Model. "We know at this age a lot of play- ers, if they don't make their 16U team, they leave the game because they thought they weren't good enough. The science of long-term athlete development has shown us that's definitely not the case. There are real good players who need a little longer to develop." The single-year age group and nation- al championship debuted last year to rave reviews from coaches and parents at all levels. College scouts, NHL per- sonnel and current 14 & Under coaches also voiced how impressive the display of talent was again as the Buffalo Jr. Sabres edged Little Caesar's, 2-1, at this year's tournament. Shane Doan only has to look at his son, Josh, to see the benefits of play- ing in this division. The 21-year NHL Star who helped coach the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes team to the semifinals, thinks this gives youngsters another year to develop their skills as their young bod- ies continue to fill out. "This is a good year because it allows boys who aren't ready to make the jump to 16U to have another year to develop," he said. "That one year changes everything. I know for my boy and for our entire team it's been great and we really enjoy it." 18 // APRIL/MAY 2018 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM USA Hockey Swings For The Fences By Creating Its Own Version Of The Little League World Series by HARRY THOMPSON

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