Pick Six With Dan Jablonic

Newest ADM Regional Manager Has A Lifetime Of Experience
Jason Kates


In early February, USA Hockey announced the hiring of Dan Jablonic as the newest American Development Model regional manager. Most recently the hockey director at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Virginia, a USA Hockey Model Club, Jablonic brings experience as a USA Hockey Level 4-certified coach and longtime contributor at USA Hockey National Player Development Camps. The St. Cloud, Minn., native attended the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he played for the Bulldogs from 1993-97. While working as a coach in Sweden, Jablonic helped develop seven first-round picks in the NHL Draft. USA Hockey Magazine recently caught up with Jablonic to talk about joining the USA Hockey team.


What do you see as your new role entailing? What areas of the country will you cover?

My main focus as an ADM Manager is going to be on Illinois, making sure associations are aware of and take advantage of the extensive resources that USA Hockey can provide and support their efforts to deliver age appropriate training. It’s kind of neat, obviously,that after seven years as the hockey director at Kettler that I now get to work with and support other associations and share the experiences that I’ve had and the many business and development benefits of the ADM.


Speaking of your experience, how do you think your work with a grassroots youth hockey organization will help you in your new role?

We were essentially an instructional program at Kettler so we were building from the ground up. In the beginning, we took the approach of ‘We’re going to implement the ADM and these are the principles behind it and it’s athlete-centered.’ We had to deal with the objections from those parents who really didn’t understand that the ‘old way’ is not really the best way, especially when we’re talking about 8 and under players. We had to prove it to them by having them see their kids being active on the ice and then walking around the rink with smiles on their faces and sweaty heads. Those are the cool benefits I can share from my experiences of how we implemented the ADM in a similar market. 


You were an earlier supporter of the ADM. What was it about the program that appealed to you?

Number one, this isn’t just one person’s philosophy. This is years and years of research. I was fortunate enough to coach in Sweden prior to my time at Kettler. The other ADM managers came over and they studied the Swedish model, studied the Finnish model and I was part of some of those discussions when they were in Sweden, which was pretty cool. I know that there’s a lot of work behind it. Technical Director Kenny Martel and my boss, Kevin McLaughlin, have put a lot of time into this, along with having the backing of the NHL. It’s human nature to resist change, it’s natural. People put up a red flag and say, ‘Why do we want to change?” Then  all of a sudden, they see the long-term benefits for their child. This isn’t just for the 8U player, this is a program designed from the first steps your child takes on the ice all the way through Hockey for Life. That’s what makes it so special.


How have your experiences from Sweden shaped your view on youth hockey and player development?

It all comes back to the athlete. They don’t let the external pressures of a 10U or 12U coach getting medals around his neck for having a winning team drive them. They’re all about what’s best for that player in the long run. That’s the thing that’s so attractive, learning that patience. In Sweden, they use a word called ‘tålamod’ and you hear them say that from the youngest kids starting out to when I coached in the Swedish Elite League. It means that when the game is on the line and you’re really getting back to your fundamentals, everyone on the bench is saying ‘have the patience, believe in your training.’ That’s the great thing about the ADM, it’s very specific for each age group to really show ‘hey, here’s the training windows and what you should be looking for.’ You can be coaching an 8U team and still be a world-class coach.


The ADM has been around for almost 10 years. Do you think it’s gained acceptance around the country? How have you seen the ADM grow and improve in that time?

What’s great about USA Hockey when it comes to the ADM is that nobody is willing to rest on the laurels. They’re constantly evolving, just like as a coach or a player. Our game changes so quickly that we have to make sure we’re doing the right techniques and the skills progressions for the kids as the game changes. It’s important that we stay ahead of what’s best for those players, be it body contact, body checking, or what have you. During my time at Kettler, I saw that there were not a lot of clubs on the east coast following the  ADM. I was shocked by that, especially coming from Sweden because they use a lot of the same principles. There were some clubs that were using it, but there’s a lot of other clubs that just kind of said ‘oh we’ve been doing it this way’ and they kind of stuck to that. We were fortunate enough to be a model association and that’s when we took our instructional program to new heights. That’s when parents saw that we were developing a lot of good players who were having fun and really understanding. The overall important thing from a coaching perspective is having that retention, that player as a 7-year-old is coming back as an 8-year-old. As a coach, that’s your number one goal. You want to make sure these kids are playing and having fun and getting better.


What do you envision for the next 10 years? What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the ADM?


You look at our game and how exciting it is to watch. You see a guy like Connor McDavid, who can skate like the wind, he’s such a dynamic skater. You have such a skilled player like Auston Matthews, I think that’s one of the coolest stories you hear about him and all the small games that he did and they relate that back to the ADM, which is fantastic. As an ADM Manager and part of the staff, I think that we have to make sure we’re staying ahead of the curve the right way and keeping that focus on what’s best for the athlete. How do we do that? By providing the proper training, talking and working with other ice hockey federations and coaches. The strength of any group is the actual group, so the more that we can share ideas, it’s only going to make the game that much better.

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