A two-time Olympian. An NHL coach who helped create the National Team Development Program. A pair of highly respected Div. I college coaches. And a decorated Air Force officer with hockey experience at the highest levels.
If Ken Martel has proven anything during his years as the recruiting coordinator for the National Team Development Program, it’s that he knows talent when he sees it.
Martel, the director of the American Development Model, has put together a staff that will carry the word of USA Hockey’s revolutionary program designed to improve the quality and quantity of American players involved in the game from Mites to Midgets.
“You win with the quality of people you have, and we have tremendous people with great backgrounds in hockey,” said Martel, who was one of the main architects of the program. “By the time we’re done, we’ll have 150 years of hockey experience working for the ADM.”
To date, Martel has hired five of the six regional managers who will serve as mentors for associations around the country. He is hoping to bring in the final member of his team in the coming weeks. Each member of the team not only brings an impressive resume to the position but also the passion to usher this groundbreaking program into the upcoming season and beyond.
Roger Grillo, who spent the last 12 seasons as the head coach at Brown University, will serve as the ADM regional manager for New England and Massachusetts.
Scott Paluch, who coached his alma mater at Bowling Green State University for the past seven seasons, will work the Mid-Am and Southeast Districts.
“It was a difficult decision only because I spent the last 20 years as a college coach,” said Paluch. “It was an easy decision because of the merits of the ADM and the ability to make an impact on youth hockey.”
Joe Doyle, a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force with more than 35 years of experience with USA Hockey as a player, coach, evaluator and volunteer, will oversee the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Districts.
Bob Mancini, who spent the past two seasons as a development coach for the Edmonton Oilers and has extensive coaching experience in the collegiate ranks and with USA Hockey, will oversee Michigan and parts of the Central and Mid-Am Districts.
“I’m thrilled to be back,” said Mancini, one of the original coaches with the NTDP. “As much as I love the NHL and the Edmonton Oilers, this was too good an opportunity to be involved with.
“I believe in USA Hockey, and the ADM. I believe in making kids better and improving their environment. I really believe that this is a position where we can really make a difference.”
Guy Gosselin, a member of the 1988 and 1992 U.S. Olympic Teams, will lend his considerable expertise to coaches in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin. He has extensive experience working at both the youth hockey and collegiate levels, and has worked in the rink industry in suburban Milwaukee.
The final regional manager is slated to work with the New York and Atlantic Districts. While no timetable has been set, Martel is working hard to narrow down a list of candidates in hopes of filling the position as quickly as possible.
“There’s still so much that needs to be done,” said Martel. “We could’ve used this program in place 10 years ago. Think of how far we’d be as a hockey-playing nation if this were put in place 10 years ago. We feel like we’re taking baby steps, but getting things done takes time.”
The ADM is a nationwide initiative designed to provide local associations across the country with a blueprint for optimal athlete development that focuses on age-appropriate training using time-tested long-term athlete development principles.
In the early stages, the ADM will focus its attention at the youngest players, stressing more cross-ice hockey practices and games that will help develop their skills and make the game more fun, while cutting down on the competitive side of the sport that has made hockey more expensive and time consuming.
“Developmentally, we found that what’s good for the pocketbook is also good for the players. It’s cross-ice hockey, which means more kids on the same sheet of ice and less travel,” said Martel.
“As people start to understand what this program is all about, it not only hits home with them from the developmental aspect, but economically as well. This program is not sacrificing their child’s development, it’s actually enhancing it. They’re getting the best of both worlds.”
The regional managers will help deliver information to grass-roots programs in their area as well as provide assistance to coaches and administrators within local associations that will help them run practices and generally act as mentors for coaches in their area.
“I see my job as a support role, an educational role,” said Mancini. “I’m hoping to lend my expertise to help coach the coaches and educate the parents. I’m here to do whatever the people in the field need.”
“Our goals are to reach as many associations as quickly as possible and to spread the word of the ADM and get them to understand the merits of the ADM and implement it so kids can start benefitting from it,” added Paluch.
With the start of a new season quickly approaching, the ADM team has a lot to do to win over the hearts and minds of skeptics, while providing support to those programs enthusiastically embracing what has been hailed as a revolutionary way of developing more skilled players at all age levels.
“There will be people within the business of youth hockey who don’t buy in, no matter what we do,” said Martel. “If we can start off affecting 10 percent in a positive way, that’ll be 10 percent of our hockey playing population that will be better off, and become better players.”