Earlier this month my daughter attended the USA Hockey Pacific District Camp for the third and final time (she’s aging out of the U18 events). Now that the results have been posted, I am posting my thoughts on this year’s event. Feel free to read my previous summaries from the 2021 camp and 2022 camp to understand the three year experience.
Overall, operationally speaking, this was clearly the best run district camp of the three she attended.
Just like previous years, there were three practice/skills sessions and three games. The practice/skills sessions were well organized and structured – and in my opinion, allowed the evaluators to see how players performed both offensively and defensively beyond just the games.
There were some significant changes from previous years. First, the number of teams for the 16/17 age group was increased from 4 teams to 6 teams (the 15’s age group had 4 teams similar to last year). There are arguments to be made on both sides about the pros and cons of increasing the number of players invited to attend. However, on-balance, as we try to grow the girls game on the west coast, I think it worked out just fine. The overall level of play may have been a little diluted, but the goodwill from attending the event works for me. Plus, the extra money it generated allowed more USA Hockey staff to attend from all over the country.
Unlike the last couple of years where it seemed to be only 2-4 coaches watching from the stands while another 2 coached from the bench. There seemed to always be at least ~6-8 coaches scouting from the roped-off coaches section in the stand. Another big change, as referenced above, was not only the number of participating coaches, but also the list of coaches and their role during the weekend was shared with all attendees via email. In the past, I had to work hard to identify who all the coaches were and decipher the role they played. The day after camp ended, we were emailed the full list of coaches, where they were from and what role they played (evaluator, volunteer, USA Hockey Staff) – which was awesome. No more guessing.
The only complaint I heard via several parents (from their daughters) was that it seemed that some of the coaches were over-coaching on the ice. There were lots of times coaches would stop drills and call everyone over or a coach would give detailed feedback to a specific player. Feedback is good – I love player feedback – but at an event like Districts, players don’t want to get drill-related feedback from every coach they interact with. What players really want is feedback on how to improve their overall game.
Same Number of National Camp Spots
I am not sure what players and parents expected in terms of realistically making the USA Hockey National Camps, but the odds aren’t good for most players. Here are the numbers of National invites (based on % of registrations of girls in the Pacific District):
- Only 1 2008 forward was selected to go straight to the 18s Camp (last year 1F and 1 D went straight to 18s)
- Goalies are selected at the national level and not dependent on the proportion of district registrations
So hopefully, most players, especially those who were invited from the alternate lists (or not even originally selected) understood they were long shots to make it National Camp and were just happy to go to Las Vegas.
Another positive from the event was when I talked to the goalie coaches for the district and she explained how they evaluate goalies, the process of providing goalies feedback and tracking their development from year-to-year. I wish they would have done something similar for skaters – because in the 3 years we’ve gone, there has been no pro-active mechanism to receive feedback from the event for skaters.
A few other points:
- Games were two 32 minute running-time halves – which was 2 minutes more than last year
- The refs were less noticeable this year compared to last year. Which is a good thing.
- The jerseys were 100 times nicer than previous years (not embarrassing to have mismatched jerseys and socks like last year) – with a number scheme which made it clear who were 2006s and 2007s.
- It would have been nice to also have the jersey #s included in the roster lists that were sent out so parents didn’t need to try to figure who the players were by themselves
- Everyone had to travel to Vegas for the weekend, with many coming from out-of-district. I hope parents and players felt that the total cost of the weekend was worth it. Unless you were driving from California, the weekend had to be super-expensive.