US hockey foundation looks solid

Posted March 02, 2010, at 9:40 p.m.

You have seen it more often than not. A much-anticipated game with lofty expectations turns out to be a lopsided dud.

But the gold-medal hockey game between the United States and Canadian men’s teams exceeded expectations with the U.S. overcoming a 2-0 deficit to tie it with 24 seconds left before Canadian captain Sidney Crosby won it in overtime.

“If you set out to write [a script], I don’t know if you could have written it any better, although, from our standpoint, we would have liked to have seen Zach Parise [who tied it] score again to win it,” said Dave Fischer, the senior director of communications for USA Hockey.

USA Hockey will now look to build off the performance of the youngest team in the tournament and the sixth seed.

Fischer said in the pre-tournament press conference attended by hundreds of media members, only one person picked Team USA to win the gold medal.

The Miracle on Ice in 1980, the U.S. team’s gold medal in Lake Placid, certainly gave the sport a monumental boost.

“We want to see the sport continue to grow and flourish in this country,” said Fischer. “Outside of winning the gold medal, you couldn’t have asked for anything better [in terms of promoting the sport]. It will certainly help influence kids. More will want to play the sport. What the bump will be remains to be seen.”

Programs like OneGoal and the American Development Model will help local hockey associations and parents expose more youngsters to the sport and provide training regimens, according to Fischer.

“We’re focusing on age-appropriate learning and we also want to help control the expense of the sport,” said Fischer.

One of the programs offered by OneGoal is to loan hockey equipment, except skates, to youngsters free over a period of time so they can try the sport.

“This way the parents don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to try it,” said Fischer.

The American Development Model has hired coaches like former Brown University coach and University of Maine defenseman Roger Grillo to serve as regional managers to aid local youth coaches and parents in the teaching of fundamentals.

One way to maximize skill development in the younger ages (8-13) is to play cross-ice games instead of full-length games, said Fischer.

“Kids get more touches on the puck and it gives them a better experience,” explained Fischer, who also noted that since there are multiple games going on simultaneously, there are more players on the ice and that reduces the cost per player.

Another offshoot of the American Development Model will be the establishment of regional programs for ages 13-17 that are modeled after the National Team Development Program which houses the U.S. Under-18 and Under-17 teams in Ann Arbor, Mich., and has been instrumental in the development of U.S. players.

“It’s like a gifted and talented program that schools offer,” said Fischer. “But instead of having teams travel all over the world, they will stay within their region and play for high-caliber club teams. This will cut costs.”

Fischer said Team USA’s players were outstanding ambassadors and role models.

“It was a wonderful group to work with. They were there to win the gold medal, but they also enjoyed the Olympic experience and fulfilled their obligations to promote the sport. They were fun to be around,” said Fischer.

“The next generation of players is awfully good,” said Fischer.

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