Friday, May 1, 2015

From Rags to Riches; Hockey Moms Reflect on Journey to Nationals


by Jennifer Terzini
Liverpool, N.Y.

Of all the sports my children have played, hockey has always been my favorite one to watch. Sure, it's freezing cold (even when we play in August), and we often travel far,  play early or late, but it’s the one sport that has always captivated my attention. I don’t understand the intricacies of the game – it is not important for me to know. What I know is that my son loves it and not only has he become a better hockey player in all these years, but it has also contributed to shaping him into a fine young man.

We have been blessed with talented, caring, passionate coaches throughout the years that teach not only hockey skills, but life lessons as well. Whispers of Nationals started early for this “rags to riches” team. This was Kyle’s first year playing for this organization, and knew
w many of these boys only from competing against them throughout the years. In his mind, he had something to prove – his ego was at work. We grew to love the players, and their families. While it was always a long shot, Nationals was still out there as an attainable goal. Whispers turned to talk.

After qualifying for Nationals at States, we had less than three weeks to make these boys dream happen. Blood, sweat and tears were shed to make this a reality for them. Talk turned to action.



Everything seemed so “official” at Nationals - men in suits with clipboards sitting in the bleachers evaluating kids, catered meals for important people, team banners from across the country hung from ceilings, Nationals apparel flying off the shelves. The boys looked “different” to me in those first couple of games. They were nervous. They lost their first two in tight games to teams that they could have beat on any other given day. After losing the first two, we knew we would not advance to the crossover. Perhaps it was because there was nothing left to lose, but the boys were “on fire” in their last game. They beat a team from California that had lost only one other game their entire season, and that was in their State Tournament.

As it turns out, we had a pretty amazing place to play. Dallas, Texas is a place neither Kyle nor I had been before. It’s a beautiful city that provided the backdrop for memories that I think both of us will carry with us forever.

From a mom’s perspective, hockey is bigger than the game played on the ice. Hockey is getting to an ice rink an hour before a game even starts so your child can do off ice drills with his teammates, tape sticks, suit up and rock it out in the locker room to their favorite “pump up” songs. Hockey is traveling thousands of miles in a season, staying in random hotels in random cities weekend after weekend because that’s how it’s done. Hockey is “killing time” with people who go from strangers 
to family in a 70 game season. Hockey is watching your child share experiences with young men he will remember and tell stories about well into his adulthood. Hockey is seeing a passion and fire ignited in your son when he skates onto the ice that is unparalleled anywhere else in his life. Hockey is pride, fear, excitement and love!

“This is your moment. You’re meant to be here.” – Herb Brooks

Jennifer Terzini is a Hockey Mom of Kyle Terzini, Defenseman from Liverpool, NY




Living the Dream
                                                                       
by Pam Bianchi
Liverpool, NY

Last month my son Tommy’s 16U hockey team, Center State Stampede, traveled to Plano, Texas to compete in the 2015 Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Nationals. The days leading up to the tournament were exciting! When we arrived at the Dr. Pepper Star Center Ice Arena, the reaction was one of amazement - to finally be at the place we had only seen photos of online. All of the banners were hanging from the ceiling displaying each of the teams across the U.S. that would be representing their state (even Alaska). Only two teams from each state were selected, so it was quite an honor for Center State to be there representing New York State. Us Moms quickly found our team’s banner and took pictures of it!


On the morning of the first game, the line to buy Nationals apparel was long, but devoted hockey moms waited to get items for their sons, siblings, spouses and even Grandparents! As the anticipated first game approached, the lights on the rink were bright, the mood was positive, and the team was ready to go! Games were going on all around us, and just to watch teams from all over the U.S. experience hockey at such a high level was surreal. The other 16U teams were very good and it was impressive to watch such great hockey being played by young teens. As I watched the first game, I realized that these teams were the best of the best in their state for a reason. It was obvious how skilled they were. The skating was fast, the puck was cycled quickly and the players competed hard right up until the end of each game. No one gave up; everyone wanted to win, and it showed. Each player gave it their all.


Another apparent fact was that if just one mistake was made, the opponent quickly capitalized on it. In previous season games, Center State could usually recover from a mistake and answer back with a goal to even the score. But against another state ranked team, it was not so easy. Center State lost its first game to Connecticut, by only two goals, and its second to Texas, by only one goal, but won the third game against Orange County, California’s number one team in their state. It was a hard fought, physical game right up until the end, and Center State won by only one goal. A California Mom told me after the game that Orange County had lost only one game all season, at states, and this was only their second loss all year! 

Orange County was ranked 11th in the nation! Many parents and spectators said that it was the best youth hockey game they had ever seen! After the game, several of the California parents came over to shake our hands and tell us how good our team was. The other hockey moms from California were very nice and complimented our boys. Center State won against the most challenging team it faced, yet did not have enough points to advance to the semi-finals.


Overall, the trip to Nationals was amazing! To be able to hold its own against such tough competition is something for the team to be proud of! It was a wonderful experience for my son, Tommy, the Center State 16U Team, and their families. The memories for the boys and us Hockey Moms will last a lifetime.

Pam Bianchi is a Hockey Mom of Tommy Bianchi, Forward from Liverpool, NY




Watching from A Distance
 by Suzanne Kozikoski
Liverpool, NY

A hockey mom's perspective from another state is 100 times more nerve wracking than actually being at the game but when you have another child that has activities during the same week as Nationals you have to stay home while sending your husband and son on their way. I had some great hockey moms who did go, because you can't always rely on your husband to keep you up to date on games and keep you posted with pictures, that kept me informed with updates throughout the game and throughout the day.

As a goalie mom I think I see the game differently than that of a player mom.  I watch the other team, do they have the puck, are they in our zone, do we have defense?  Did my son just let in a soft goal, do we have the defense ready, or was the goal just a damn good goal that the other team got on us? I also watch for shots on goal, are we getting as many shots on goal as the other team or is it lopsided?  With that being said you can't have parents sending you all that information minute by minute because they are watching their child and game. So you are kept in the dark about that, but thank God are kept up on the score and what period we are in. 

So even though I was being kept updated throughout the  games by hockey mom, Pam Bianchi, and my husband, it was very hard, nerve wracking and at times tear producing, which was not good because I was at work for that one. I would have loved to have gone down and watch my son play at Nationals, but I would not have changed the quality time I spent with my daughter.  It was a whirlwind of emotions not only while they were in Texas, but even before getting them to Texas with States.

You can bet that when we go to Nationals next season, I will be going and will I be nervous? ABSOLUTELY but I will be watching the game sitting where I always sit on our side, right on the blue line without moving.


Suzanne Kozikoski is a Hockey Mom of Liverpool Goalie, Steven Kozikoski from Liverpool, NY

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On Thin Ice? How to Boost Youth Hockey Numbers




     Is your youth hockey program battling to reverse a down-turn in participation? We're here to help. Behind every good fighter, is a good trainer. In your corner, is skilled and seasoned hockey mom, Kristin Fleet Haag, CPA Treasurer, with Rome Youth Hockey Association. Rome's program has seen a remarkable turnaround, thanks to a strategy of working as a team to grow their teams.


How to Grow The Game 
 By Kristin Fleet Haag      

 We are located in Rome, New York, a community that has seen a declining population and a changing demographic over the last 25 years.  We were a huge hockey town, where both high school teams were Section 3 Champs and New York State Champs for both Division 1 and Division 2 High School Hockey.  We now have only one high school in our community. 

Back in 2008-2009 our City completed a $3.0 million renovation on our facility - the Bill Fleet Rink at the John F. Kennedy Civic Arena.  Shortly after that our numbers declined pretty drastically.

Our learn to skate or initiation program numbers decreased from over 100 skaters to just 60 skaters.  Of course, that is the feeder program to our higher levels.  We knew we had to take action.

I joined our board in 2012, when my son who was going to be a second year Pee Wee, was not going to have a travel team to play on.  By the time the season actually rolled around, there was no house team either.  My youngest boy had just started in the learn to skate program as well.  At that point, I knew I needed to do something.  I joined the board.  My dad, who is a lifetime member, also was actively involved.  We held meetings with community members and hockey folks to brain storm how to get our numbers up. 



Keys to Victory

*  Hired a marketing firm and launched a print and media campaign.  It was expensive (around $5,000), but well worth the investment.  Our IP numbers grew back to over 100 that year. We continue to run the campaign each year.  We used our hometown NHL/AHL Stars Tim and Tom Sestito in the commercials for us.  

* Worked with our City to reduce our ice fees.  My first year - I negotiated a temporary reduction.  The second year, I negotiated a permanent reduction.  We went from an average of $105 per hour to $85 per hour.  If our ice fees are lower, we can lower our reg fees, and increase volume....

* We sold ourselves to the community.  We started attending community events (ie.  Honor America Day Parade, Home Show, Dog Show).  Also, we made our ice slots more working parent friendly.  Some teams used to practice at 6:00 am before school.  We rearranged the ice slots so that all practices started after 5:00 pm.  We also sold our great coaching staff!

*  My second year, we wanted a better handle on our numbers, so we offered an early registration discount at 25-30% savings.  My third year, we reduced even further.  We are now arguably the lowest price shop in town...Squirt and up are at $425, Mites at $215, and Learn to Skate at $160.  This year we launched our online registration process.

* Tournaments - we invested time and sweat equity into these.  My first year on there was no Mite Tournament.  Last year we hosted a Mite Tournament with 18 teams, this year we had 26 teams with over 310 kids. 

* We rebranded ourselves.  Changed our colors, logo, and new jerseys (we don't charge our members).  One of our board members wrote a grant.  He secured $22,000 for the purchase of new jerseys.

*  This year we purchased cross-ice dividers, partnering with our City.  Also, we applied for USA Hockey's grow the game grant, which I believe we will secure the funding. 

We are a 501C3 which is pretty important when looking to secure grant funding. 

Best of luck to you and your organization!



Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Show Your Hockey Team Spirit

First Place Spirit Award

        There was a fun twist to our latest tournament in Glens Falls. In addition to the regular competition among teams, we all got a chance to compete for spirit bragging rights, Our girls placed in the Skills Competition and we cheered them on like they were rock stars!
      Check out what a few brainstorming sessions and a little creativity can do.      












Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hockeyville, USA Closer Than You Think


    Being a hockey fan in Syracuse, New York means you're always cheering in the shadow of Orange Nation.  With basketball and football  predominately in the spotlight on the college and high school levels, at times you may feel as if you belong to some sort of secret society.  Rarely do our high school hockey teams make the Friday night sports highlights and sadly teams are contracting.  Soccer, baseball and lacrosse get far more ink and attention than our great sport of hockey. 
    
    But walk into any ice rink in Central New York during a high school game, or on a weekend during a Pee Wee or even a Mite match, and you might think you have just walked into Hockeyville, USA.  There is dedication, commitment and passion that would rival any sports atmosphere you would find on a basketball court or football field. 
         
     So, here is our chance, Central New York hockey fans,  to show our pride and passion by sharing our stories and nominating our local rinks to be named the first-ever Kraft Hockeyville USA.  Ten communities will have the chance to win thousands in arena upgrades, while one will win the grand prize – hosting an NHL® Pre-Season game televised live on NBCSN and $150,000 in arena upgrades.
  
      You'll need to nominate your rink before March 18, 2015.  See details below. 

  Sure, we Central New York hockey fans can still bleed Orange, but we've got ice in our veins and hockey in our hearts! 




THE PUCK DROPS TODAY: KRAFT, NHL®, NHLPA, NBC SPORTS GROUP AND USA HOCKEY SEARCH FOR AMERICA’S MOST PASSIONATE HOCKEY COMMUNITIES TO FIND KRAFT HOCKEYVILLETM USA
One U.S. Community Will Win Opportunity to Host NHL® Pre-Season Game Televised on NBCSN, $150,000 in Arena Upgrades and Coveted Title as First-Ever “Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA”

NORTHFIELD, Ill. – January 1, 2015 – Announced today, at the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® featuring the Chicago Blackhawks® and Washington Capitals® broadcast on NBC, the puck officially dropped for Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA – the search for America’s most passionate hockey community. Uniting an all-star roster of partners including the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), National Hockey League (NHL®), NBC Sports Group, and USA Hockey, Kraft’s award-winning, Canadian-born HockeyvilleTM program has expanded into the U.S. for the first time to help build better hockey communities across the country. Beginning today, hockey communities across the U.S. can vie for the esteemed title of “Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA” and enter for a chance to win the grand prize of hosting an NHL® Pre-Season game televised live on NBCSN and $150,000 in arena upgrades.

“Seeing all these passionate hockey fans cheering on their team in the brisk winter air reminds me of the way so many of us fell in love with the sport,” said Dino Bianco, Executive Vice President and President, Kraft Beverages. “Fans like this coming together for their shared love of hockey is what inspired us to launch Kraft Hockeyville in the U.S. and celebrate the unity that hockey brings to communities across the country.”

Kraft also drafted a friend – NHL® legend and NBC Sports analyst, Jeremy Roenick – to help spread the word across the country. “Growing up in Boston, hockey was a way of life for children and families, and it brought together my community in a way that nothing else could. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the lessons I learned and the experiences I gained at Pilgrim Arena from coaches like my dad, Wally Roenick, Paul Kramer, and Arthur Valicenti. Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA will help communities keep these traditions alive, and that is something I am excited to be a part of working with Kraft.”

How Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA Works
Like a hockey game, Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA has three periods. In the first period, communities across the country are encouraged to enter by sharing unique stories about their local rink, teams, hockey spirit and passion and submitting their nominations now through March 18, 2015, at www.KraftHockeyville.com, where complete contest rules and nomination applications are available.

Ten community finalists will be chosen to kick off the second action-packed period, which includes three rounds of public voting:

·         Round 1 (April 14-16, 2015) – Top four communities chosen to move on to the next round; remaining six each receive $20,000 toward arena upgrades.
  • Round 2 (April 21-22, 2015) – Top two finalists selected; remaining two each receive $40,000 toward arena upgrades.
  • Round 3 (April 27-29, 2015) – One community will emerge as the first-ever “Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA”; runner-up will receive $75,000 toward arena upgrades.

In the final period, the winning community will be announced – on May 2, 2015 – and receive the grand prize of the chance to host an NHL® Pre-Season game televised on NBCSN and receive $150,000 in arena upgrades from Kraft.

Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA is meant to not only ignite a passion for hockey in America, but also bring a renewed sense of pride to communities. Since launching in Canada in 2006, Kraft HockeyvilleTM has positively impacted 43 communities with more than $1.6 million donated in arena upgrades. Kraft also hopes that its diverse portfolio of products will help unite hockey fans in their celebrations of the sport and their communities. The campaign will celebrate consumers’ excitement around a variety of iconic Kraft brands, including A1, Bulls-Eye BBQ Sauce, Cracker Barrel, Jell-O, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Kraft Mayo, Kraft Natural Cheese, Kraft Salad Dressings, Kraft Singles, Maxwell House, Miracle Whip, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Planters, Stove Top and Velveeta.

For contest rules, information on nominating your community and complete program details, visit www.KraftHockeyville.comwww.KraftHockeyville.com. Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA can also be found at Facebook.com/KraftHockeyvilleUSA and on Twitter (@HockeyvilleUSA). You can join the conversation using #HockeyvilleUSA.




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Episode 081: Christie Casciano – The Puck Hog

Episode 081: Christie Casciano – The Puck Hog



Today’s guest is a news anchor from Syracuse, New York, and is alsoEpisode 081the author of The Puck Hog.
Christie got her first introduction to the game of hockey after her seven year old son decided that he wanted to be a hockey player.
Christie’s daughter took up the game of hockey as well, and The Puck Hog series chronicles  her children’s hockey journey. 


Christie has relished the opportunity of being a “Hockey mom,” and even writes a column for “Hockey moms” for USA Hockey.