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Reader Photos: Len Bruskiewitz

Our next reader photo submission comes from Len Bruskiewitz. Len is a Westford (MA) native, a father of two, and a fellow rinkbuilder. His image and commentary perfectly captures the little things that make backyard rinks such a fascinating and rewarding venture.

Len says:

The attached picture is of my son Kevin (who was 8 at the time) and was taken on 12/19/09 during the first skate of the 2009-2010 season. We filled the rink earlier that week and were blessed with an unbelievably cold few days which caused the ice to freeze fast and clear. Skating on the backyard rink always feels like floating on air but this picture reaffirms that feeling. It looks as if there is nothing between the bottom of the Tuuk blades and the liner.  My other favorite elements of the picture are the hockey stick in the foreground (this is clearly not a figure skater) and the snow-covered pants (from diving for loose pucks). The very next day, about 8 inches of slushy snow fell on the rink and the ice was cloudy for the rest of the season.

I speak from experience when I say that crystal clear ice is a neat, but often fleeting, experience. My first season, I filled my liner in the midst of a snowstorm. The snow chalked up the ice, and it remained white for the rest of the season. This past year, however, the ice was able to freeze completely without precipitation, allowing us to skate on a six-inch-thick sheet of perfectly clear ice. When you looked down past your skates, you could see the small folds in the liner, and, where I used a clear liner, the matted-down blades of grass underneath. Before long, the snow and the skate blade shavings reduce the downward visibility, and your crystal-clear ice is gone.

Thanks for sharing, Len.


To read more about Len and his rink, visit http://rinkrage.wordpress.com. Have an image you’d like to share with the Backyard-Hockey community? Send it, and your narrative, to joe@backyard-hockey.com.

2010-11: The Year Of The Outdoor Hockey Game

“This could be a breakthrough game for the sport of hockey. But it’s also a throwback game for the older people in the crowd. And it’s good for the young guys to experience playing outdoors. This was the best of everything. The crowd. The rink. The competition. The importance of the game. It had all the ingredients of a great game and it was.” -Red Berenson, October 6, 2001

Though the game of hockey was born outdoors, its rapid growth and expansion to warmer climates necessitated the creation of indoor facilities. And as the Pond Hockey documentary grimly remarks, many people who play the game today have never experienced the rush of outdoor play, instead spending hours driving to and standing around within the world’s plethora of indoor facilities. This group includes many players who make their living playing hockey. But a movement is afoot to bring the game back outside. It started with one tiny step in East Lansing, MI, in October 2001. Then the NHL tentatively took a stride in November 2003. A few more hesitant paces followed, the hockey community gaining confidence as the crowds showed, the players smiled, the advertisers inquired. In 2008, a breakthrough: the Winter Classic. A marketer’s dream and a hockey player’s playground. Three Classics later and the initial footsteps have given way to a stampede. Everyone wants to be a part of 2010-2011: THE YEAR OF THE OUTDOOR HOCKEY GAME.

History

Nobody has ever mistaken Red Berenson for Kreskin, the famous mentalist. But it cannot be argued that the game he was speaking of gave credence to the notion of playing hockey outdoors in front of huge crowds. His quote above came on the heels of a wildly exciting 3-3 tie between his Michigan Wolverines and their rival Michigan State Spartans. The game, dubbed “The Cold War,” featured current NHL stars Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek, Adam Hall, Duncan Keith, and Ryan Miller, and was played in Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium, a venue normally reserved for football. Nearly 75,000 fans packed the house, making it the largest live audience for a hockey game in history at the time (see the video here).  What Berenson knew then, and what we know now, is that those 75,000 people had witnessed a very important milestone.

It took two years for the NHL to experiment with its own large-scale outdoor event. On November 22, 2003, the Edmonton Oilers played the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 Heritage Classic. The event took place at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in front of 57,000 fans, and was the first-ever NHL regular season game to be played outdoors. Perhaps the most lasting memory of this game was not Richard Zednik’s two-goal performance, but of Hab goaltender Jose Theodore donning a knit toque atop his mask to combat the sub-zero temperatures. Toque sales exploded; the game took another step forward.

The NCAA followed three years later, showcasing a tilt between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the Ohio State Buckeyes on the frozen tundra of Green Bay’s Lambeau Field in February 2006. The Badgers won 4-2, with Wisconsin players celebrating the victory with a post-game Lambeau Leap. Forty-one thousand fans saw the action live, and the NHL took notes. One step, two steps, three steps. Outdoor hockey was about to go on a run.

Just under two years after the Lambeau game, the NHL charged off the bench with an event that is looking like it will change the face of the hockey, not only at the professional ranks, but at the amateur, college, and semi-professional levels as well.  That’s when the NHL held its first Winter Classic, an internationally-televised outdoor hockey game with enough pomp to rival the Super Bowl. With aspirations of becoming an annual New Year’s Day tradition, the first Classic saw the Penguins unveil their powder blues in a shootout win over the Sabres at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium. The event was an instant classic, with a light snow falling over Ryan Miller (of Cold War fame) and a dancing Sidney Crosby as the final shootout goal dented the twine (video here). More than 71,000 people were there to witness it; millions more watched on TV.

Though the earlier outdoor games certainly provided the groundwork, the 2008 Classic crossed hockey boundaries and found itself comfortably nestled into the mainstream. The NHL had broken it wide open. People who wouldn’t normally watch a regular season hockey game were captivated. Surely the massive marketing campaign had something to do with it, as did the decision to televise the game when many New Year’s Eve partygoers were just beginning to nurse their morning-after headaches. But there was another factor at play: the juxtaposition between what kids in every cold-weather neighborhood have done for millennia and the immensely talented professional superstars. For three hours on New Year’s Day 2008, everyone who had ever skated on a pond, backyard rink, or neighborhood park had something in common with multimillionaire professionals.

Writers waxed nostalgic leading up to the event, but perhaps none more gracefully than Brian Falla, son of backyard rink patriarch Jack Falla and every bit the writer his father was. He sums it up perfectly in this NHL.com article:

My father’s voice sang out from the telephone receiver, which was strange given his aversion to phones.

We often joked that my father would probably reach for the garden hose before the phone if the house were ever to catch fire.

But this day was different and I was expecting the call.

“Are you watching this?” he asked.

It was New Year’s Day and the NHL Winter Classic 2008 was unfolding on TV, the Pittsburgh Penguins facing the Buffalo Sabres in snow-kissed Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Sidney Crosby was attempting to scoop the puck off the snow-covered ice and cradle it lacrosse-style between two defenders. That little bit of tom-foolery is what prompted my father to pick up the phone.

Having a skating rink in our backyard in Natick, Mass., for the past 25 years, we already knew all the tricks to playing in snow.

Immediately, we were talking hockey — specifically, outdoor hockey — and wondering aloud whether the pros would resort to the same tricks we often used in our outdoor rink: Pulling a guy’s stocking cap over his eyes in front of the net, or screening the goalie by shooting a pile of snow. We also wondered whether rink rules applied, meaning the losing team was going to be forced to shovel the ice at the end of the game.

I have no doubt that this conversation took place — in some way, shape, or form — in thousands of households that day. And after experimenting with outdoor games sparingly earlier in the decade, the hockey community had finally found a way to broadcast itself to a broader audience and elicit viewers’ purest frozen memories.

Now, with ultra-successful Winter Classics at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park in 2009 and 2010, the NHL is gliding towards a 2010-2011 season that will see not one but two outdoor events. Joining the NHL are several other hockey leagues that will host outdoor games. Below is a listing of every high-level outdoor hockey event taking place in North America this year. After seeing only a handful of outdoor games in the last 10 years, this season promises to usher in a new age of hockey purity. 2010-2011 will indeed be THE YEAR OF THE OUTDOOR HOCKEY GAME, but it is my hope that each successive year rewrites the record. We may be regressing to a time when snow and rain affected the outcome of meaningful games, just as they did at the beginning of the 20th century. But we’re also awakening a hardwired part of our hockey souls, bringing hockey purists together, and helping usher in a new wave of fans to the game.

—–

Event: 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Date: January 1, 2011
Teams: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals

The NHL will showcase itself once again with the fourth annual Winter Classic, slated to take place at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on January 1, 2011. Those of you sick of the “Sid vs Ovie” hype may want to shut off the power to your home leading up to this event, but as much as the NHL does tends to over-promote the matchup, these franchise players are simply two of the most dynamic and marketable faces in the league. As such, it only makes sense to bring them to the forefront of the game and put them in as many homes as possible. And while the talented-but-dry Crosby has been on the outdoor stage before, spotlight-loving Ovechkin will surely relish his unique opportunity.

Event: 2011 Heritage Classic
Location: McMahon Field, Calgary, AB
Date: February 20, 2011
Teams: Calgary Flames vs Montreal Canadiens

After unsuccessfully lobbying the NHL to host a second outdoor game opposite Boston’s Winter Classic last season, Calgary was given the go-ahead from the league to host the second Heritage Classic this year. Played in the home stadium of the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders and the University of Calgary, the venue will add even more seats to its 35,650 just for the Heritage. The game will be the first outdoor game for Calgary and second for Montreal, who played Edmonton in the first Heritage Classic in 2003.

Event: The Big Chill at the Big House
Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: December 11, 2010
Teams: University of Michigan vs Michigan State University

Call it The Big Chill at the Big House, call it Cold War II, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that this game will destroy any and all currently standing hockey attendance records. Michigan Stadium, appropriately known as the Big House, has a seating capacity of 109,901. Think they couldn’t possibly find that many people willing to sit on frozen seats to watch an outdoor hockey game? You don’t know Michigan. More than 100,000 tickets were sold when the University stopped selling to the public back in May. The remaining tickets will be doled out to Michigan students this month. Even without those additional tickets, the current sales will surpass the current hockey attendance record, set at the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, back in May. A crowd of 77,803 watched Germany upset the US in the first game of the 2010 IIHF World Championships. The Michigan game could see that record broken by nearly 40 percent. Could this mean more football stadium games for the NCAA? How about it, Minnesota?

Event: Whalers Hockey Fest
Location: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
Date: February 13-20, 2011

Howard Baldwin, CEO of Whalers Sports & Entertainment, and the man who brought professional hockey to CT three decades ago, is at it again. Baldwin will be hosting a 10-day outdoor hockey festival called the Whalers Hockey Fest, with up to 20 games played on an outdoor surface at the University of Connecticut’s Rentschler Stadium. The rink, whose red line will sit atop the football field’s 50-yard line, and in full view of its 40,000 seats, will see action from teams at various levels of play. The newly-rebranded Connecticut Whale will face off against the Providence Bruins on February 19th in only the AHL’s second outdoor game. The NCAA will be represented by two games, with a UConn vs Sacred Heart men’s game followed by a UConn vs Providence College women’s game, both on February 13, 2011. There will also be dozens of local high school and youth games.

Event: Rockstar Outdoor Hockey Classic
Location: Avista Stadium, Spokane, WA
Date: January 15, 2011
Teams: Spokane Chiefs vs Kootenay Ice

In what will be the Western Hockey League’s first outdoor game, the Spokane Chiefs will welcome the Kootenay Ice to Avista Stadium, home field for the Class A Spokane Indians baseball team. Junior hockey has seen an increase in popularity in recent years (and was even included as part of EA Sports’ NHL ’11, released yesterday), so it only makes sense for at least one of the leagues to step outside.

Event: As Yet Unnamed
Location: McMahon Field, Calgary, AB
Date: February 21, 2011
Teams: Calgary Hitmen vs Regina Pats

If you miss your chance to attend the WHL’s first-ever outdoor game in Spokane, you’ll only have to wait about five weeks and drive 400 miles northeast to try again. A day after the NHL’s Heritage Classic, the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen will host the Regina Pats at McMahon Field. The event marks the second outdoor event in the WHL (although it was announced before the Spokane game), and the success of both events may open the door for more junior teams to experiment with outdoor games in the future.

Event: The Northern Classic
Location: MacDonald Island Park, Wood Buffalo, AB
Date: November 26, 2010
Teams: Fort McMurray Oil Barons vs Drayton Valley Thunder

In what feels like the space race between NASA and the Russians, the Alberta Junior Hockey League will host North America’s first outdoor hockey game on November 26th of this year. Strategically scheduled on the Friday of the CFL’s Grey Cup festivities, the Northern Classic expects to sell upwards of 5,000 tickets in an attempt to break the Alberty Junior Hockey League attendance record of 4,400.

—–

So there it is. Seven major outdoor events, with rumors swirling of more forthcoming. Seven ways for you to get bundled up, get outside, and watch grown men (and women!) play the game the way their grandfathers did.

Was Red Berenson right? Was the first Cold War game a breakthrough for the game of hockey? Perhaps not right away. But it showed that outdoor games could work and that people are willing to sit outside en masse to watch our wonderful sport. It took a while for the NHL to catch on, but now that they have, it has opened the eyes of a number of other leagues. And that, my friends, is a great, great thing.


I’ll continue to update this list as more events are added. If you attend one of these games, I’d love to hear from you! Email me using the ‘Contact Us‘ page.

Images couresy of }{enry and Falling Heavens.

Reader Photos: Mary Haas

Earlier this week I put out a call to send in your favorite grassroots hockey images along with a narrative that helps understand why the photo is so important to you. Within hours, I was looking at the photos you see below. They come from Mary Haas, a Chicago-area hockey mom and owner of a great-looking backyard rink.

Mary says:

We live in the Chicago area, and this will be the 3rd year we’ve put up our back yard rink.  The first year we did it, our son and daughter could barely stand on skates.  Each winter the amount of time we all spend on the rink has grown by leaps and bounds.  It’s the place to be in the neighborhood, and we love it.

The pictures below are from a shinny game from January 1, 2010.  The neighborhood gang decided to do their own “Winter Classic” before the televised version came on.  Turns out we all ditched the TV and stayed out all afternoon playing.  The best part was that we got a few youngsters that were previously afraid to go and skate to give it a try.  At the end of the day one boy was a converted hockey enthusiast and started lessons right away!

Can’t wait to put it up again this year.

Mary also sent in a video of her backyard stars celebrating the inaugural skate of the 09-10 season. There is nothing like watching kids tool around on an outdoor rink without a care in the world. My favorite part is the little one working on his one-legged balance towards the end.

Thanks for sharing, Mary. Your children may look at the rink as a little winter playground now, but when they get older they’ll realize how important it was in bringing family, friends, and neighbors together. And that’s what it’s all about.


Have an image you’d like to share with the Backyard-Hockey community? Send it, and your narrative, to joe@backyard-hockey.com.

Wanted: Your Grassroots Hockey Pictures

——- ——-

I use Flickr as a source for many of the images you see on this site. Every so often I browse the Creative Commons in search of beautiful, inspiring, breathtaking, or just plain strange hockey-centric images to use in future posts. I haven’t looked in months, yet still have nearly 100 images marked as ‘favorites’ on my Flickr account.

The problem with these images, however, is that many of them are nearly anonymous. Some Flickr users will include a quick blurb about the location or the scene, but it’s much easier to upload photos en masse, skipping the optional step of telling the photograph’s story. Sadly, many of the photos I’ve marked as favorites have absolutely no information at all.

I’m calling on the readers of Backyard-Hockey.com to help rectify this. Hockey pictures may be stunning, but the back stories that accompany these images need a home as well. I’m asking each of you to think about your best hockey images, whether they were on your backyard, at the pond, in the driveway, or at the World Pond Hockey Championships. Wherever it is, and whether you’re the shooter or the subject, there are stories behind your hockey photos. I’m offering a platform to tell those stories.

Take a stroll through your hard drive (or your shoeboxes), and look back at your hockey images. What stories might accompany those pictures? Why did you lift the camera and press the shutter? What were your thoughts, feelings, or emotions when the flash went off? Who is the subject, how are they important to you, and how do they experience the game of hockey? I want to know.

I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to talk about the rough, testosterone-fueled game of hockey in such raw emotional terms. But whether we admit it or not, everyone who experiences the game feels a similar attachment to it. The images that accompany our game have the ability to tap into a reservoir of memories and emotions that all hockey people share. Let’s tell your story.

——

Send your images and stories to me at joe@backyard-hockey.com. Please include your name, hometown, and whatever information you’d like to share about the image. I’ll compile the entries for a future post.

Photos at top courtesy of North60, borevagan, and woodleywonderworks.

World Hockey Summit Talks Youth Game, Roots, And Growth Of The Sport

Last Friday afternoon saw the final day of the World Hockey Summit in Toronto come to a close.  Per its website, the Summit was “an event designed to dissect the current state of hockey and collaboratively identify and address key concerns and issues facing the game today.” In other words, it was a four-day “conversation” between the international power brokers in today’s professional and amateur ranks: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, IIHF President René Fasel, Hockey Canada president & CEO Bob Nicholson, Executive Director of USA Hockey Dave Ogrean, and literally hundreds of other ‘who’s who’ faces in the game today.

Much of the conversation revolved around the professional game. Bettman talked about the Kovalchuk situation and the CBA, Fasel stressed the importance of NHL players playing in the Olympics and World Championships, and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly discussed tweaking the NHL All-Star game to make it more interesting. All of these conversations are important to the growth, expansion, and coexistence of the various international bodies, but the Summit touched on several points that are close to my heart as well. Among them were the growth of the youth game, the role parents have in that growth, and how the power brokers for the sport can help drive passion for hockey within their young fans.

As I was stuck at the real job during the Summit, my WHS updates came from the same source where I get most of my breaking news: Twitter. The brilliant minds at Molson had the foresight to allow four hockey fanatics-slash-writers to attend the event and co-tweet under the username @WldHockeySummit. Over the four-day Summit they tweeted 698 times, and I read every single one. Below I’ll paste some of the more pertinent ones and discuss the issue at hand. Want in on this discussion? Post in the comments.

@WldHockeySummit: Kelleher: need to engage parents and win them over so they pick hockey over other sports in which to put their kids in.

@WldHockeySummit: Kelleher: Cost, Commitment and Culture are barriers to hockey in the US.

During Thursday’s session, USA Hockey Assistant Executive Director of Membership Development Pat Kelleher discussed the high financial and cultural boundaries of the game and how we might overcome them. It’s no secret that hockey is an expensive sport. The equipment is pricey, the team fees aren’t cheap, and the travel to facilities can be outrageous. Some have suggested that the key to growth is the creation of new facilities. In certain locations where there isn’t enough icetime to support everyone who wants in on it, that might be true. But in the US, the issue is less about a lack of facilities and more a lack of participation in the sport to begin with. Personally, I feel that the single biggest driver in the growth of the game and the feasibility of new rinks is a passion for the game. In areas with little hockey presence, simply building a new rink will not spark the passion required to sustain it. We’re all hockey people, so we get it. But imagine if your town built a fabulous new badminton facility. If we can imagine that badminton was expensive, would you immediately buy your eight-year-old $1,500 worth of equipment, sign them up for a badminton league that was $2,000 a season, then drive to the facility three times a week for practices and to matches two hours away on the weekends? Doubtful.

When I was growing up, I played a large majority of my hockey in one of two city-owned rinks. Twenty-five years later, there are a half dozen or more local rinks, with just as many new youth programs to choose from. The success of these facilities and programs are driven entirely by need  and demand, and this demand will not simply show up, skates in hand, the day you open the doors to a new rink. Rather, the love for the game must be developed first, and on a more grassroots level.

The good news is that there are inexpensive ways to showcase the sport and help seed that passion, and they don’t need to involve the latest equipment or sparkling multi-rink facilities. It starts early, and it starts with volunteerism and grassroots hockey campaigns. Things like pond hockey tournaments, street hockey events, learn-to-play camps. Things like Redline Hockey, Bob DeGemmis’s school (story/website) that not only offers on-ice training, but introduces DC-area kids to the game through an inexpensive street hockey program. Organizations like The Hockey Foundation (website/Twitter), which travels to non-hockey-centric countries and introduces the children there to our amazing sport. Or the Herb Brooks Foundation (website/Twitter), whose goal is to make “hockey fun for kids, letting them learn to love the game the way we did.” If every community had people and organizations like this, who spread the game in a way that doesn’t force a huge initial investment for kids or their parents, you would see the sport grow organically. Parents’ financial decisions are driven by their children’s passions. We will never be able to erase the high costs involved in youth hockey. But if we can ignite a fire and love for the game in the next generation and show their parents how fun, exciting, and important the game can be to their development, they may begin to see the price tag as a hurdle and not an impediment.

@WldHockeySummit: Yzerman making references to successes in growing grass roots hockey in Dallas.

‘Yzerman’, of course, is legendary Detroit Red Wings captain and current Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. Stevie Y spoke during the Summit about the growth of hockey in less traditional markets, and how important professional teams are in helping non-hockey landscapes learn to love the game. Much like Wayne Gretzky introduced Southern California to the game in the early 90’s, the move from Minnesota to Dallas gave the Stars a chance to show the state of Texas what hockey was all about. And in the 17 years since that move, the hockey landscape in Texas has changed dramatically. The AHL currently has three franchises in the Lone Star State (the Houston Aeros, the Texas Stars, and the San Antonio Rampage), and also fields a Junior A Tier II team in the NAHL known as the Texas Tornado.

Ben Ellis, a writer at Big D Hockey, talks about the influence these teams have had on Texas youth hockey in this article on AOL Fanhouse:

“The high school hockey programs around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex have really flourished since the Stars, and then the Tornado, came to town,” said Ellis. “Before the Stars came to Dallas you would have been hard-pressed to find a hockey team in the area. Now, there are about a dozen. These kids started watching hockey when it came to Dallas, or their parents did and wanted to get their kids involved, and it went from there. The parents got the kids involved in learning to skate, and then learning to play hockey. The Dallas Junior Hockey Association started in the early 1970s, but really flourished by having a successful NHL team in the area. DJHA has gone on to become Texas’ largest junior hockey program, and develops players for an “Elite” program, also supported by the Stars, the Dallas Stars Elite. They have three levels of play before the kids are ready to play in a program like the Tornado, or a similar league like the USHL.”

It may not make sense to the layperson why the NHL stresses the importance of franchises in non-traditional hockey markets. But to the throngs of Dallas-area youth lacing them up this winter, it’s made all the difference.

@WldHockeySummit: Great to see teams like the Sens actively engaging in fostering minor hockey. Rehabbing outdoor rinks is the best idea I’ve heard so far.

While the Dallas Stars’ entrance into the Texas landscape has done much to bring the game to the attention of the locals, much of that has to do with how little penetration hockey had in the Texan mindset before their arrival. Contrast that to Ottawa, where babies sleep on Senators crib sheets and kids spend their free time skating on the Rideau. Hockey is as ingrained in Ottawa culture as beaver tails and poutine. So when the Senators want to help grow the game in their backyard, the objective is less about education and more about engagement. Cyril Leeder, President of the Senators and self-described as “bullish on hockey”, certainly does his part with several youth-focused organizational initiatives. The Senators:

  • Use their ‘Sens@School’ program to reach out to local students, helping motivate them toward their academic goals.
  • Host the ‘Faceoff Fieldtrip’, a free educational Senators practice for students that combines the sport with science (think ‘reaction time of a goalie’ for a math class).
  • Are helping to rebuild and rehab some of the city’s 236 city-approved outdoor rinks, then promoting them with appearances by players.

In Canada, where boys’ hockey participation has leveled in recent years, this type of engagement is especially important. Sure, everyone in Canada knows about hockey. But when the Senators are in their schools helping students read or talking to them about academic goals, or when they’re donating time, money, and supplies to help get kids back onto their local outdoor slab, they’re making personal investments in the lives of their neighbors. And this type of engagement can only help the game grow with the next generation.

@WldHockeySummit: Here is link for @NHLShanny talking about playing shinny and learning the game that way. http://youtu.be/HWtd9wbef24

Here is the video:

How can you not love Brendan Shanahan?  After 1,500 games played in the NHL, he recently accepted a job in the NHL’s front office. His official title is ‘Vice President of Hockey and Business Development’, which loosely translates to ‘Vice President of Making People Realize That Hockey Is Awesome’.  He’s still new to the role, but anyone who heard him talk at the Summit (or follows his tweets, @NHLShanny) knows that this guy has a serious love for the game and a motivation to get more kids involved. It’s guys like him at the top levels of our sport who can really help the game grow.

—–

The Summit lasted four full days, and there are literally hundreds of quotes from it that I could have expanded on here. It’s comforting to know that game’s brightest minds and biggest movers still take the time to think about, talk about, and work towards bringing the game back to its humble beginnings in an effort to make it more appealing to the masses. Obviously they have a vested financial interest. But within each one of them is a bit of the hockey fire, burning just as it did when they were introduced to the sport as a youngster.

Who knows where the game of hockey will go in the future. USA Hockey is reporting a decline in boys’ hockey enrollment, while the girls’ game is trending up here and around the world. The NHL is enjoying some mainstream relevance with the Winter Classic and Olympics, but contractual issues may force another work stoppage in 2012. There’s little any of us can do to affect these worldwide issues, but we can all do our part in our own neighborhoods. If you’re reading this, the best way you can affect change in your area is by spreading the word and allowing easy inroads for others to experience it. Send people to this website. Take them to a game. Organize a street hockey event, or build a backyard rink and invite the neighbors. I grew up infused with hockey blood, so it’s easy for me to be passionate about it. But each of us has a role as ambassadors for the game, and each one of us can do our part to help it continue to grow. None of the issues raised at the Summit have simple, universal answers. But if every league, commissioner, team, parent, and Backyard Hockey reader does their part in spreading the game, we will continue to watch it flourish.


Thank you to everyone on the @WldHockeySummit Twitter squad:

Richard Loat (@mozy19)
Justin Kendrick (@hockeycardshow)
Darrin Reynolds (@dink9966)
Angela MacIsaac (@that_angela)

…as well as Ben at Big D Hockey.