Thursday, November 20, 2008

Coming in to work the other day the sun and clouds combined to create some eerie lighting effects that I thought would look good in monochrome.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Vacaville Jets Squirt B starts off regular season 3-0

By CEAN BURGESON (For Rubber Magazine and Youth Hockey Report)

Vacaville, Calif. -- This season the Vacaville Jets continue to grow their program, fielding travel teams at the Mite, Squirt, Pee Wee, Bantam, Midget 18A and a tier team at the Midget 16AA level. After pre-season play was completed in October, all of the travel teams were designated to play in the A division with the exception of the Squirts who will play as a B team.

Despite being placed in the lower division, the Squirts, led by Captain Reidar Burgeson (18 goals, 5 assists), Assistant Captains Hunter Hansen (11 goals, 5 assists) and Sam Morton (7 goals, 7 assists) have won their first three regular season games and are in first place in the NorCal youth hockey league, beating the Santa Rosa Flyers (6-3), Lake Tahoe Grizzlies (14-1), and Tri-Valley Blue Devils (5-1). Their perfect season so far is in part due to goalie Kristian Rogers, who is backing up the team this year with a .828 save percentage to date.

The Jets were also honored to have been chosen to play a two minute exhibition scrimmage between periods of the Nov. 22 San Jose Sharks game when they faced off against the Washington Capitals at HP Pavilion.

“We’re happy with the start this team has had so far after a rough pre-season and we expect that they will enjoy great success during the regular season,” said Assistant Coach Cean Burgeson. “There are still a lot of games left for the Squirts to prove themselves and we expect they will turn a few heads in tournament play this year.”

Moving your child up a level – does it help or hurt?

By CEAN BURGESON (For California Rubber magazine)

It’s a question heard each fall at hockey rinks: “Should we move Billy up a level this year?”

Many parents contemplate moving their child up early in order to “give him more of a challenge.” The levels of USA Hockey are bracketed by age in such a way that players of similar skills will usually play together, but no matter what, there will always be players who excel more than others. I agree that moving a player up will allow him to play with and against better players who will force him to work harder and improve his skills, but he’d do that by moving up at the proper time anyway.

Some parents fear that their child may be bored at their current level. As a coach, I can tell you that most young hockey players aren’t bored with being able to skate around the other players and score time and again. Why not let your child be a star for a year or two? As his career progresses he may not have another 70-goal season again. Let him enjoy it while he can.

It’s also important to question the emotional readiness of the athlete. I’ve seen plenty of good players who excel at skating, passing, and shooting but don’t have the maturity to play at the next level yet. The damage that could be done to a player’s confidence by putting him in a more demanding playing environment before he’s ready could follow him for the rest of his playing career.

Also important to this discussion is the fairness factor. If a star player abandons his team, what effect will that have? Will it give them a weaker bench? Will the team still be able to field enough players to be competitive? How will his former teammates and their parents feel about him leaving?

By moving a child up early in a travel program, a properly aged child might have to be cut in order to make room. At a rink without a house team to fall back on this could force a child out of hockey completely. All things considered, the goal of any good youth hockey program should be to encourage participation from everyone regardless of his or her skill level. Leave no hockey player behind, so to speak.

With all of these factors taken into consideration, youth hockey players are usually better off playing with their same-aged teammates.

Cean Burgeson is a hockey writer, player, and has been a youth coach in Michigan and California.

Rink shopping: Do it for the right reasons

Parental Guidance with Cean Burgeson (For California Rubber magazine)

Now that preseason play has ended and the regular youth hockey season is underway, there’s been some shifting of players amongst teams in California. This happens every year and can be attributed to several factors such as a player’s skill level suitability for a particular team or the amount of ice time he may get.

I have mixed feelings about moving a child to another program at a young age, especially the Mite or Squirt level. In most cases, players should roster with the rink that is closest to their home. It only makes sense when considering the amount of time spent either at the rink or driving to and from the rink during the season. With gas prices constantly fluctuating, this can turn into a serious cost consideration as well.

Cost of the rink’s programs is also a huge factor. Should a player be moved to another rink because the cost of hockey is cheaper there? If it means keeping the player in the sport when otherwise the cost would prohibit him or her from playing, then the answer is “yes.”

Moving because a player has a conflict with a coach is a tricky issue. Let’s face it, there are some coaches out there who are screamers and not all kids respond to this coaching method. There are also coaches who emphasize winning more than equal ice time. If a parent or player feels these situations are causing barriers to their child’s development, then a move to another hockey program might be in order.

It should be noted, however, that later in life players won’t be able to choose their coaches. They’ll have to learn to live with the ones they get. It’s a lesson that some youth players may as well learn now.

I have to admit one big problem I have with switching programs, though. I have a hard time watching a talented player leave simply for what they perceive as a “better” hockey program. As I’m reminded by my son who is a squirt: “you should play for the logo on the front and not the name on the back.”

Sure, he stole that quote from a television commercial, but the sentiment is incredibly accurate. The most important factor to consider when looking for a rink to start off a young player’s career is that of commitment. In any good hockey program there should be a level of commitment to the player’s growth and skill development. Transversely, there should be a commitment on the part of the parents and player to the rink and the growth of that local hockey program. Both are essential to the success of the sport here in California.

Let’s not forget that youth sports are supposed to be about fun. Younger hockey players should be instilled with the idea that it’s more important to enjoy playing than it is to enjoy winning. If winning becomes more important, they’re playing for the wrong reasons.

Roller hockey players can experience success transitioning to ice hockey

By CEAN BURGESON (For California Rubber magazine)

For those of us who grew up in the Midwest, Canada, or on the East Coast, playing ice hockey was as easy as shoveling off a lake or pond and lacing up the skates. In Northern California, transplants from these cold weather regions of the U.S. have a different option when introducing their own children to the sport of ice hockey – roller hockey.

“Roller hockey may be the best forum in starting to play the game of hockey,” says Jerry Orlando, who is the manager of Vacaville Ice Sports, home of the Vacaville Jets hockey program.

One of the barriers to starting ice hockey for younger players in California as opposed to playing out east is the premium price paid for ice time. “Ice hockey is very expensive in California because of the cost of making and keeping ice,” says Orlando. “Roller hockey obviously doesn’t have these costs. This makes it affordable to the average family.”

Making the move from roller to ice hockey is a relatively easy process for players, says Orlando. “The skill set developed in roller hockey transitions very easily to ice hockey. In fact roller hockey players usually are better stick handlers and shoot the puck better than ice hockey players because the puck does not move as well on a sport court as it does on ice. The only draw back is skating, but if taught properly the roller hockey stride can be the same as an ice hockey stride.”

For kids wanting to move up to ice hockey it’s better to do it sooner rather than later, though, as Vacaville Jets Squirt Travel Assistant Coach Matt Morton advises. Both of his sons, 9-year-old Sam and 11-year-old Timmy played roller before ice hockey. “It’s best to get them moved over by around 8 or 9-years-old,” he says. “After that age there are some ingrained habits that players have from roller hockey that are harder to break for ice hockey, such as using a foot-drag stopping method rather than a proper hockey stop.”

Mark Longshore, whose 8-year-old son Gabe switched from roller to ice hockey as a Mite this year says that the transition has been pretty smooth. “The skating transfers over well, but for the stopping and tight corners there’s a bit of a learning curve. Passing and shooting is the same. There wasn’t off sides where he played roller hockey, either, so he’s still learning that.”

Parents should be encouraged to know that youth players who start out playing on dry land before making the move to the ice can still be as successful as those who have played ice hockey exclusively for their entire careers. “My kids both started in roller hockey,” says Orlando. “It taught them the basic fundamentals of the game and gave them skill sets that they took from the court to the ice. It certainly didn’t hurt my daughter Elena, who goes to the top hockey prep school in the U.S., Shattuck-St.Mary's, and is currently on their twice national championship prep team – so I’m a proponent of starting at roller and transitioning to ice.”