Mite hockey players tend to fall into one of two categories – sponge or stone wall.
On the coach’s whistle, some skate straight over, take a knee and cock their heads skyward and wait for instruction. Others, bless their little hearts, are off skating around in the corner, fiddling with a puck or at the bench drowning themselves with theirs or somebody else’s water bottle.
Then there’s Jimmy Pare. He’s not only listening to his coach’s instructions, he is busy thinking of his own American Development Model-style practice plans. He has even put pen, or in this case purple marker, to paper to create a set of drills, complete with diagrams and descriptions.
Jimmy’s father and coach, Tim Pare, knew that his son loved the game, but even he was surprised when he entered his St. Albans, Vt., house and saw his 7-year-old son drawing at the table. He figured he was doing his homework. Instead, Jimmy was hatching a plan for the next Mite practice.
“At first, I thought it was just some scribbling, but the more I read it I could see that he thought out every station,” says dad, who coaches the team with Jason Knight, Jon Benoit and Shawn Morin.
“He certainly needs some help with his spelling, but there was a lot of thought behind it.”
Tim was so impressed he decided to share his son’s work with the rest of the St. Albans hockey community.
“I was amazed by the detail and the description,” says John Cioffi, past president of St. Albans Youth Hockey and current webmaster for the association.
“Here’s a 7-year-old who is in tune with what’s going on and has a real love for the game. It’s one of those things that warms your heart when you see that we are making a difference.”
The tiny town of St. Albans, which sits 20 miles south of the Canadian border, is best known in hockey circles as the hometown of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer John LeClair. It’s also the town where legendary American coaches Bill Beaney and Dennis “Red” Gendron got their starts.
For a town of fewer than 8,000 people, the challenge is not only to attract more kids to play hockey, but then to find enough ice time to satisfy the number of kids playing from initiation programs through Midgets. That’s where cross-ice hockey and the ADM have helped.
“What’s great about it is there are a lot more touches of the puck," Tim Pare says. "The kids are in the action all the time."
“If it was a huge surface, it would be just one or two of the best skaters dominating the play. With small areas, everybody is in the game, everybody has the puck on their stick, gets shots on net and has more opportunities to score. And that’s really what it’s all about.”
here’s no doubt that the love of the game has taken root in at least one local Mite player. There’s only one thing missing, his father says with a laugh.
“He is wondering why his plan hasn’t been used in practice yet.”