Lancers – Let the Games Begin… on and off the ice.

Lancers open at home tonight against struggling new comer, Fargo.   This will be a good team for the Lancers to open up against.  It should build some team confidence ss the Omaha works through certain woes in the defensive end.  Fargo is struggling in that end of the ice too, going 0-3 in Sioux City last week and getting out shot 92-54  (3 game total).  The difference between these two teams is that Omaha is able to find the back of the net despite defensive woes, Fargo has not.  Lancers will win and should put of 6 or more goals tonight.  The big question is will the Lancer defense/goaltending be able to shut down Fargo’s lackluster offense.  Hopefully they will and continue to build confidence in that end of the ice.

 

Speaking of goaltending, the shake up has started, err, continued.  Goetz was sent packing, as well as Weninger.   The Weninger departure caught some off guard but I suspected either Teglia or Weninger to leave, though I didn’t see it happening before tonight’s matchup.  Obviously Bliss see’s something in Teglia that he didn’t see in Weninger.   To replacling Weninger, Bliss has brought in Dan Sullivan.  Sullivan played for Apple Core of the Eastern Junior Hockey League last season and compiled a 4-6 record in 10 starts with a 4.04 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.   Dan played for Apple Core Junior B team in the EMPIRE league at the start of last season and was arguably the best goalie in the leage.  Apple Core called him up to their Jr. A team in February to play for their EJHL Junior team where his 4-6 record comes from.  The EJHL is not the strongest of leagues, taking a back seat to the NAHL.  But it is getting better and some argue that the NAHL is falling off a bit.  The gap seems to be closing between these two leagues.

 

In summary, I think Dan Sullivan is worth a look but I don’t foresee him being the “end all, be all”.  I don’t think this fixes the Lancer’s goaltending issues and I don’t believe this will be the last major goaltending change on the roster.  I still look for a trade to happen in the first half of this season and I don’t think we see our post season starting goalie present on the roster yet.

 

In other news, Bliss cut USHL veteran Ryan Peltoma and acquired defenseman, Ian Ruel from Indiana.  Ian is a 6’ 4” second year player and Michigan native that should help our depth on the blue line.  I think Bliss will continue to keep his eyes open for defensive changes but his is a start.

 

Tyler Elbrecht also left the team this week to attend college at Iowa State.  I assume he will play for their club team.  Tyler was the only returning defenseman from last year’s championship team.  I was hoping Tyler would step up this season, but looking at the numbers in Sioux City, the only role he was looking to fill was Conboy’s goon role (minus Conboy’s ability to score).  I know fighting is part of hockey and nobody agrees that hockey has a necessary place in the game more than me.  But anybody that knows me, and none of you do, knows that I’m not a fan of cheap or unnecessary penalties, or unnecessary fighting.  With that said, before we get into a Conboy discussion, let me say this:  Conboy is a decent hockey player but I think he could have been more effective if he wasn’t so focused on being a goon last season.  I think many of his fights were unnecessary.  At times he showed great discipline but many times, he was a loose cannon.  From what I saw in Elbrecht last weekend, he was trying to fill that role.  It’s my opinion that this team has other problems to address outside of who’s going to be the goon and judging by last weekend’s performance, we could have done without Elbrecht’s 24 penalty minutes.  I don’t see this as a big loss.

 

So the game is on tonight.  More to come on this next week. 

Hockey Parents, What have you learned from youth hockey?

We all hope that our kid(s) learn something from playing youth hockey.  Sure some are destined for the NHL, at least it looks like that from the way some parents act around the rink.  But most are simply hoping that our children learn good morals and values, that hardwork can be rewarding, how to be a team player, learn to be respectful and responsible, etc. 

 

But what, as parents, have we learned?  This is your chance to chime in.  I ran across this and found it extremely funny (and sadly true for many).

 

Did You Ever Notice…

 

…that when your kid was a Mite, that was by far the most important level of hockey?

…that when your kid cross-checked another kid, it was a good, physical play?

…that when your kid was crossed-checked, the opposing kid must have a criminal record?

…that when you scream and argue a call, it’s justified?

…that when the opposing fans scream and argue a call, they are loud mouth parents?

…that your kid’s goal was a thing of beauty?

…that the opposing kid’s goal was the luckiest thing you’ve ever seen?

 

…that when your kid was a squirt, that was without a doubt the most important level of hockey?

…that when your kid played well and his team won, his coach was a genius?

…that when your kid struggled and his team lost, his coach was a total bonehead?

…that when your kid has long forgotten a loss, you’re still stewing over it?

…that when your kid has long forgotten a win, you’re still bragging about it?

…that your team was obviously robbed by the officials on a disallowed goal?

…that the officials made the proper call on an opponent’s disallowed goal?

 

…that when your kid was a peewee, that was unequivocally the most important level of hockey?

…that your kid should “be more creative” with the puck?

…that the other kids on the team are puck hogs and need to learn how to pass?

…that your kid has nice-looking hair?

…that the other team’s kids all have mullets and are in dire need of haircuts?

…that your kid’s team is so well behaved in the hotel on overnight trips?

…that the opposing team in the same hotel is running around without any control, being too loud?

 

…that when your kid was a bantam, that was undeniably the most important level of hockey?

…that your kid can skate like the wind?

…that your kid’s teammates really should be taking power-skating lessons?

…that when your kid registers a hat trick, a thrown hat is pretty cool?

…that when an opposing player gets a hat trick, a thrown hat is just plain uncalled for?

…that a 6 – 2 win was a blowout?

…that a 6 – 2 loss was a simple case of a few missed opportunities and some really bad calls?

 

…that when your kid was nearing the end of his high school or midget career, you wished you could do it all over again?

The history of the butt end of a hockey stick

Remember the days when there was one size stick and Mites to Midgets used it…  actually there was no Midget division then, but you get my drift.  In my case, it was always a handy down or something found at the rink.  I don’t think I had a new stick until I was 12.  Any old piece of lumber would do and it was probably comparable to a flex 390, by today’s standards.  Dad would cut it off and slap that big black plastic/rubber knob thingy on the end.  It made the already too fat stick, twice as fat in the single place you needed to hang onto.  Wow, has our sport has come a long way.

 

Fast forward to today.  My kid started in a youth stick that you could practically bend into a semi-circle.  Soon after, I put him into a nice two piece junior shaft and now he is moving into an intermediate shaft.  I, on the other hand, find myself moving the opposite direction.  I recently purchased an intermediate shaft for my own use.  A 75 flex.  Why?  Probably for the same reason I can’t hit 3 and 4 irons anymore and have moved to hybrids to replace them.  I’m not exactly sure what the reason for both are, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I’m getting older.

 

Back to the topic.  The other day, while taping my new intermediate stick, I was thinking about those big black “end knobs” everybody had on their sticks in the 70’s and maybe 80’s.  Seemed normal at the time but so did suspenders.  We, as the hockey community, have largely done away with those knobs and replaced these with a taped knob of some sort.  The beauty of the taped knob is the uniqueness of each.  Everybody has a style and it’s almost like snowflakes, where no single tape job is exactly the same.  When you think about it, it’s almost an expression of ourselves.  Look at any pro, college, or junior bench and observe the line of sticks, specifically the tape jobs on the knob.  They are almost so unique, you can pick out your stick out of 100, simply by looking at the knobs. 

 

My style, like most I would assume, has evolved over years.  I used to tape a 6 inch long knob with paper in the end to make it bigger (and saving tape).  I would then twist the tape into a string and spiral it down and back up for a “cross-grip”.  Then cover it with a layer of tape.  I was always on a strict tape budget then so, along with filler paper in the knob, I would also sometimes use a shoe string for my grip, instead of twisted tape.  That would save me 12” of tape.  That evolved into several reiterations and I also started making more than 4.50/hr.  For a long time I used twisted tape and made three passes around the very end, then continued down the shaft, for the grip, for about 3 inches and back up, for my “famous” cross grip.  After years of using this, it has evolved into what I use today.  Two passes of twisted tape at the very end than simply taping over it for about 2.5 inches down the shaft.  Yes, I did away with the “cross grip.” 

 

So the days of my old Titan stick (no longer than 30 inches) with a big gawd-awful black knob have evolved into my Easton Elite with a small, neat, simple knob.  This is probably of no interest to anybody, hockey player or not.   But I just got to thinking about it the other day the thought of the big black knob made me smile.  I thought I would type my thoughts on here.

Tryouts – How should hockey teams get picked?

I started this blog a year ago and quickly found out how time consuming it was to maintain.  I had every intention on maintaining it but lost track of it once I got into hockey season.  I’m taking another stab at it and will make every effort to maintain it on a weekly basis.

 

As I got back into it this week, I was surprised that something I wrote last year was still getting hit on a regular bases.  A topic about how coaches pick teams at youth hockey tryouts.  It is always a hot topic around here this time of year and being tryout season, I found myself thinking about it too.

 

But all of this reminded me of a conversation I was involved in some time ago.  There was a group of us talking to a certain Tier 1 Junior A coach at his tryout.  If you are familiar with these tryouts, you know that some are open tryouts and some are not.  Even the closed tryouts will have 90 kids attending and every one of them are outstanding Midget hockey players, most from AAA organizations.  Of course some are drafted or returning players.  Most are not.  The number of spots the coach is trying to fill varies from team to team and year to year.  Not unlike any youth tryout at a Peewee or Bantam level.

 

But during that conversation, somebody asked this coach how he evaluates 90 kids when he’s only got 5 spots available on the team.  This coach replied by saying that he already has a very good idea which kids are going to make this team even prior to this closed tryout.  And the single most import factor between decided between two kids is his family and upbringing.  He’s looking for a good kid that will get along with others, that is strong academically to meet the academic challenges these kids are faced with, with a desire to work, learn, play and win, and that also comes from a good stable home.  He really emphasized that last part.  What type of home and parenting these kids come from has a big influence on which kids get picked to play Tier 1 Junior A.  Obviously you have to have talent to play at that level, but these things he listed were deciding factors when deciding between two kids.

 

I walked away from that conversation thinking this:   Is it any different at a Div. 1 NCAA level?  Absolutely not.  Is it any different at PF Changs or Russell Stover Midget AAA programs.  Not likely.  Should it be any different at a bantam AA, Peewee AA or Squirt AA level?  You tell me.  Should these teams be picked only by the merit of hockey skills shown during a 3 hour tryout?  Or do the coaches have the liberty to take in other factors as attitude, family, history, etc?

My favorite time of year – Youth Hockey Tryouts

We are nearing the most anticipated time of the year.  Youth hockey tryouts.  I truly believe youth hockey parents get more stressed out and concerned this time of year than most of the players.  Omaha Gladiators have announced coaches and tryout dates.  OMAHA Jr. Mavericks have announced dates but have not announced coaches yet.  Is this cause for panic?  For some, yes.  Some seem ultra concerned.  You see, hockey has historically been a team sport.  But in the last 5-10 years, a phenomenon has taken place.  This once great team sporting event has now turned its focus from the team and put that emphasis on the “personal development” of our young Sidney Crosby’s.  As a hockey fanatic being involved in this sport for almost 3 decades, it’s sad.  It’s not limited to Omaha by any means.  Actually, I think USA Hockey is as much to blame as anybody.  USA Hockey has good intentions and is a good organization, but even their emphasis is on personal development.  Everything is about the development of our children.  It’s not about the team anymore, which is sad.  But the sooner we realize that your young budding BPHL super stars are really nothing more than that, the better off our sport will be. 

Travel Hockey – How do these coaches pick teams?

Reading eyeonomaha, I’m a little confused as to what makes people so mad.  It seems that some are pissed that OMAHA tried to tell them what team they made and who was coaching it.  It seems they would have rather played for a “lower level” team and for a coach of their choice.  But then others seem pissed that their child was unjustifiably cut  from a “higher level” team.  Then there are others that are bitter for unexplained reasons.  As I tried to figure this out, I began to think about how a coach goes about picking a team. 

First, it’s obviously important the right coaches get put in place.  Should this fall on a single “coaching director” or should it be decided on a “coaching selection committee.”  Will either of those solutions quiet the bitching.  Not likely.  It just allows the finger to be pointed to a different person or group.  I personally think it should be done by committee. Who should be on the committee?  Not sure about that.  Maybe a coaching director and the Midget Major coach.  Maybe OMAHA could ask somebody from the Lancer and Maverick organization to sit in on the committee, review applications, conduct interviews, and vote.  Would that quiet the bitching?  Not likely.  More people to point the finger at.  Not to mention parents would hold it against their respective organizations and drag their names through the mud.  I’m not sure how you get to the proper method of selecting coaches. 

Assuming you get the right coaches, how should they pick their team?  Should it be up to the individual coach?  Should there be independent evaluations?  Is there such thing as an independent evaluation?  Des Moines does it by an independent evaluation.  I can tell you, it doesn’t rid you of the same issues you have today.  It makes it worse in some cases. 

I’ve heard several times this season, at almost every level, that “the team was pre picked”,  “Teams look a lot like last year”, “my kid can’t get a fair tryout”, or “they didn’t even look at my kid because the coach doesn’t like his dad”.  Does this really happen?  Probably.  Why wouldn’t it?  It happens at EVERY LEVEL of hockey from College and Juniors down. 

Ironically, I’ve never heard somebody say, “My child got cut because he’s cancer in the locker room” or “a lazy piece of dung in practice” or “thinks scoring goals is more important than winning” or “his Dad was banging a mom on the team last year.” 

Tryouts are just that.  But my bet is that every coach goes into tryouts with some sort of preconceived opinion on most players.  Is that wrong to do?  Should the coach disregard the fact that a kid caused 4 fights in a locker room the year before and solely evaluate him on talent shown in 2 hours of tryouts? 

Real Life – If you are a hiring manager and interviewing 2 candidates.  Candidate #1 works for a friend of yours that you trust.  He told you that this person is on their way to getting fired because they can’t get along with anybody in the office and always coming in late.  Candidate #2 is internal, not nearly as qualified on paper but you know they are a hard working person.  Candidate #1 has a great interview.  #2 is nervous and sweating.  Which do you hire? 

Hockey – You are picking your team.  You have 14 players identified.  You are between two players for one spot.  Both skated for you before.  Player one is not nearly as talented as player 2.  Player one works hard, does everything you ask of him, gets along with everybody, continually improves, and parents are very supportive.  Player two will score more goals for you.  Dad pays him $20 a goal and the kid won’t pass the puck to save his life.  He skates like the wind in a game, but lazy in practice and cancer in the locker room.  Player one had 2 assists in tryouts.  Player two had 5 goals.   

If you cut player one, his parents find you after tryouts and thank you for the opportunity to tryout.  If you cut player two, his parents are livid, pointing fingers and dragging your name through the mud.  Who do you pick?