Volume 5 Issue 6 | October 2020
By Tom Gullen, Executive Director
Friday, March 13, 2020

“Regretfully, we will be cancelling the remaining House League Playoff games.”

It pained me to write those words. The House League playoffs are special…they should be special. There would be no Semifinal Saturday, where would play game after game to decide who would go to the championships. There would be no Super Sunday. No coaches dressing up in tuxedos. No Shpiz and Comstock dressing as leprechauns. No national anthems. No signs in the bleachers. No big crowds. No awards celebrations. No photos on the ice.

The kids. There is a special place in my heart for these House kids, who play for the true love of the game. Most of the kids in our house league skate a couple hours a week. They do many different things in addition to hockey….but they still love the game. They were robbed. Every day when I go under the bleachers where we store stuff, I walk past the trophies from last year. I am asked what we are going to do with them?
The answer is we are going to use them. This year. We are going to make this year the best we can.

A couple weeks ago we had Rating sessions for the season on a Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Kids played baseball in the field next to the rink. We checked in the skaters outside. It was chaos…kids forgot sticks, jerseys, skates you name it….I loved it! We were back! As we greeted skaters and coaches there was an excitement in the air. Part of that was generated by our House League Commissioner Rob LeVoy, who missed his calling as a comedian at Second City. For six hours he greeted every family. Made every one laugh. What a treat he is.
Yes, the travel players had been skating for weeks, but this day made our program feel like it was 100% back.

And so, hockey will look different this year. Our first few weeks our focus was on building skills and our sessions were led by our outstanding skills coaches. This will help the players build a foundation for the season. A neighbor of mine with kids in the House League said it best…”we need this. Our Kids need this. We need to make this work.”

We will adapt, and it will be great. We will applaud and cheer and never lose sight that the ones who need this the most are the kids. We WILL make this work.

Let’s Play Hockey!
By Evan Nielsen, Hockey Director
In much the same way that songs from our youth stay with us many years later, it seems that lessons from coaches and teachers have a way of sticking with us decades later. I’m reminded of the coach who was big on hydration, “Drink a lot of water, even if you’re not thirsty.” I hear his voice as I refill my water bottle each day.
During recent weeks I’ve been thinking about another coach’s oft-used closing line and a different reminder. After almost every game, whatever the result and wherever we were playing, this coach would always finish with, “Hang together. Look out for each other.” At the time I didn’t think a lot about it. We spent a lot of time as a team and it seemed that just by virtue of our schedule we’d be ‘hanging together’ quite a bit. Whether I noticed it at the time or not, this coach was reinforcing a hugely important lesson. Being part of a team is more than just being physically present with your teammates or what takes place on the ice. This coach was reminding us that at the rink or away from it, good teammates stick together and do all they can to take care of one another. The timing of this reminder was important. It always came after a game and sometimes before a break from hockey. He was reinforcing to us that being a good teammate doesn’t end when we leave the rink or when the game ends. Being a good teammate means looking out for each other always.
The post-game reminders from this coach seem particularly relevant as we navigate the challenges of a hockey season in the midst of a pandemic. There are many unknowns, frequent updates, uncertainty about the future, but we have a unique team to lean on and from which we can find (and offer) support. We are all part of the larger WHC team and this team has stuck together and looked out for each other through the challenges of the pandemic thus far. This team-spirit is uplifting and instrumental as we press on to deliver the best hockey experience possible for our kids and their families.
As the days get shorter and the weather colder let us continue to be the best teammates we can be. Hang together. Look out for each other. I can think of few lessons from hockey more important right now.
We invite you to a Zoom session targeted for our Bantam aged players on Sunday, November 1 at 7:00 pm. The goal of Hockey in High School & Beyond is to educate all of our families on the possible options in the years ahead. The speakers will be:
Bobby Acri
WHC Director of Development

Matt Lindblad
WHC Lead Skills Instructor for Bantams
Evan Nielsen
WHC Hockey Director

Ryan Davlantes
WHC Skills Instructor
Topics that will be discussed include the following:

  • Current landscape at local High Schools and what you can do to prepare for High School hockey. What are the benefits of playing High School hockey?
  • Prep School Hockey: Understanding the different levels and the structure of prep hockey and academics.
  • Hockey after High School: Junior hockey, College Club (ACHA) hockey, NCAA Hockey options - these are all within reach!
"Hockey from the Heart"
The A Step aHead partners are excited to announce the 10th year of our program! We are proud of the work that has been done to educate our youth hockey community about sports safety and provide free baseline neurocognitive testing. We look forward to another 10 years of working to keep our athletes safe while they play the game they love. This year free baseline testing will be offered through November 30, 2020 at select Athletico clinics.