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Summer Fun And Fundamentals

By Harry Thompson, 10/14/23, 10:45AM EDT


NYSAHA Hosts A Series Of House League Clinics To Get Players Ready For The Season

Summer Clinics

Summer is a great time to kick back, enjoy the beach, the pool and backyard barbecues. It’s also a time to get ready for the new hockey season. 

Throughout the month of August, NYSAHA Secretary and Clinic Director Linda Groff was joined by Assistant Director Emma Guzdek and NYSAHA Goalie Coach in Chief Kelsey Neumann as they traveled around the state to host a series of skills clinics designed specifically for house league players. 

The trio of coaches was helped along the way by volunteers in each section of the state who helped make the NYSAHA House League Clinics a success by doing everything from helping with registration, to equipment fitting and conducting on-ice drills. The results were hundreds of happy kids who improved their skills and had fun at the same time.

North Section
Clifton Park
Aug. 4-6

The first series of clinics kicked off at the Capital Arena in Clifton Park with players ranging in age groups from 8 & Under to 14 & Under. In addition to working on power skating, players in the 8U group had a chance to put on the quick-change pads and try goalie.

The Saturday session was highlighted by more power skating drills with Coach Groff and Coach Guzdek running a station that worked on passing, puckhandling and shooting. While that was going on, Coach Neumann spent a lot of time with the goalies, including several who were trying the position for the first time. There was also a series of fun games that Coach Groff called “scrimmage chaos” that had all the skaters and goalies putting their skills to the test.

The fun continued Sunday with each group playing half ice games for the entire ice session.  For the 8U group, players rotated through trying goalie and for the 10U/12U14U group there were two fully geared goalies. Some from the 8U group wanted to stay and play more hockey. 

An added bonus was a Try Officiating clinic, where a dozen newcomers worked with veteran officials to gain experience in a relaxed and fun environment. North Section Referee in Chief Dan Gosselin also spoke to the group about the benefits of becoming an official. 

Central Section
Aug. 11-13

With one series of clinics under their belts, Coaches Groff and Guzdek headed to the Skaneateles Community Center where they were aided by local coaches who volunteered to be on the ice. 

The 8U session kicked off with 16 skaters and not a goalie in sight.  It was the perfect opportunity to give interested skaters a chance to try the position. 

Like most clinics Friday night was about getting out on the ice and seeing the varying degrees of talent and getting to know the players. The best way to do that is to see them in action, so the kids played a series of games. The coaches came off the first ice session sweating and smiling before returning to the ice with the 10U group. With 19 skaters and two goalies, the emphasis was on puck protection drills as players partnered up and tried to steal the puck from one another. 

The final group of 12U and 14U players featured 17 skaters and two goalies. Coach Groff borrowed a practice plan from one of her Midget practices that kept players moving with plenty of puck battles and passing and shooting drills.

The second day saw goalies receiving plenty of attention and instruction while skaters worked on more power skating dills. Each of the sessions ended with a shootout and trick shots, giving the goalies even more attention. 

Game day was the highlight of the weekend that started with the 8U group playing cross ice games. Players rotated through the goalie position and some made saves that Dominik Hasek would have been proud of. The 10U session featured a half-ice game with players rotating into play every two minutes while the 12U and 14U players competed in a 3 on 3 game that finished with a shootout. 

East Section
Cantiague Park, Long Island
Aug. 18-20

As the coaching caravan headed south to Long Island, a new coach joined the crew with the addition of NYSAHA District Goalie Coach-in-Chief Kevin Kreutzer. With his vast experience as a player and coach, Kevin was a great addition as he worked with 8U kids trying goalie for the first time as well as with more established goalies at older levels.

Assistant Director Guzdek returned for her third and final weekend of the clinics, as she would miss the final session to attend the coach developer program. She brought fresh air to the ice with her warm smile and the way she interacted with each player no matter their skill level.

All the volunteer coaches brought something special to the ice and made the weekend a memorable one. From goalie coaching to power skating, stick handling and flow drills, all the players improved over the course of just three days.

Like the other clinics, the highlight of this weekend was game day. What a great way to finish out the weekend! The 8U group was moving along, zipping up and down the ice, having an absolute blast. Thanks to the quick-change goalie gear they were able to rotate players between the pipes every five to seven minutes. One player even found his passion for the position and didn’t want to leave the crease. 

West Section
Aug. 25-27

The final weekend of the house league clinics took place at the Northtown Center in Amherst with the largest sessions of the summer. There were 35 skaters and four goalies for the 8U session, 15 skaters at 10U, 15 skaters and three goalies for 12U and 12 skaters and two goalies for the 14U group.

That brought the total number of players who participated in the NYSAHA house league clinics over the course of four weekends to 215.

Not only did the final session have the most players, there was an impressive number of coaches who brought their unique experience and knowledge to the ice. There was even a group of high school athletes from St. Joe’s and St. Mary’s who helped demonstrate drills, keep practices flowing and make sure players stayed engaged and focused.

ADM coordinators Jay Kates and Jason Gerhard were on the ice for all four age groups over three days, and former Buffalo Beaut, Emilee Harley came out on Saturday to work with the players.

In addition to wrapping up the weekend with game day, a number of interested officials came out to learn from veteran officials such as Gary Cutler, Pete Morris and Guy Bax. It was a great way to close out the monthlong series of clinics and start the season on a high note. 

“Thank you to the parents who take the time to give their children the extra opportunities when they are available,” Groff said. “It was a pleasure and an honor being on the ice with the kids and to give them little pieces of advice to help them improve a little at a time. I have to say, over the course of three days I saw major improvements in all the players.”