Far from the red carpet and klieg lights that surrounded the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., site of the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, the stars of tomorrow took center stage in front of a small but distinguished crowd of interested spectators.
Members of the NHL Board of Governors received a first-hand look at their investment in the future of the sport as 85 local youth hockey players ran through a series of fun drills and small area games as part of an American Development Model clinic at the Raleigh RecZone.
Among the coaches who kept the chaos orderly on the ice were Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette, former players Jeremy Roenick and Grant Fuhr, and Brian Burke, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rather than serving as window dressing, the esteemed quartet helped ADM Regional Managers Scott Paluch and Roger Grillo run stations designed to work on various skills during an hourlong practice.
“Keep your eyes up, make some turns, go as fast as you can, but make sure you’re looking at where you’re going,” Roenick shouted as players weaved through a series of cones.
Down in one corner of the rink, Laviolette jumped in to compete against players during a 2-on-2 small game before heading off to lead Team Lidstrom to an 11-10 victory over Team Stall in the All-Star Game.
“When you play in a game like this, 3-on-3, it’s a lot of fun. It’s not so much about the structure of the drills but scoring goals and having fun working with other kids,” said Laviolette, who brought home the Stanley Cup to North Carolina in 2006.
Thanks to NHL expansion, the growth of hockey in places such as North Carolina has sparked unprecedented growth in the number of new players for USA Hockey. To spur that growth to new heights, the NHL has provided the financial muscle to help USA Hockey create programs such as the ADM.
For many of the governors, this was their first chance to see USA Hockey programs in action, and they were impressed with what they saw.
“The ADM will have the effect of increasing player participation, creating a positive environment for children to learn and play hockey, and it will facilitate skill development among young players,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
For Paluch, who works with youth programs in the region, it was gratifying to demonstrate the ADM to those whose generosity and vision led to its creation.
“Receiving the confirmation from the leading hockey authorities in the world will not only help us spread the word about the ADM,” he said. “It also confirms to those people who have already implemented the ADM in their communities that they’re doing the right thing.”