By Jean DePlacido
---- — In an effort to better themselves in any way possible, the Salem/Swampscott BYouth Hockey League has decided that making a few key changes will be better for the players — and the league itself.
The league’s Board of Directors recently approved several changes for the upcoming year. The purpose is to lay a new foundation for the program and find ways to make it more affordable for all youngsters to skate for the Blades.
The Board also wants to attract older players by having a program suited for their needs, and came up with a way to welcome club players back to their town program on a part time basis.
They’ve also started dry land training for all full-time Blades players two nights a week at the Clark Elementary School in Swampscott.
“Our two biggest changes are reinstituting a weekly Bingo event to help defray costs, and bringing club players who want additional ice time into our program,” said board member Gerrit Bradley of Swampscott, the league’s marketing and communications chair.
“We haven’t had Bingo for 4-5 years, and it’s a great way to raise funds (the first such event will be held next Monday, Aug. 12). We also want to get club players back in the fold. We’re making an effort to create a friendly atmosphere, bring more players back to the league and get newer members involved.”
Club hockey players can participate in the alternative player program for a fee of $700 (pro-rated for those joining later). It includes two practices per week and a minimum of 10 games during the season. Scheduling will be worked out by the team’s head coach, the player and his parents. Additional games are included at the discretion of the coach, and participating in 10 games earns a place on the playoff roster.
“I’m a firm believer in town hockey programs, and most of these kids will be together on middle school or high school teams,” said Bradley. “The alternative player program gives them a chance to play hockey with their buddies, get some extra coaching and more ice time.”
The Blades ‘Leave No Skater Behind’ philosophy is designed to make sure no youngster who begins skating later than his friends will be left out. They’ll be able to catch up to their peers who’ve been playing hockey since a very young age.
“Some kids feel they can’t get started in hockey at age nine or 10, but we’ll make it work through extra coaching for those that want to jump in when they’re older,” said Bradley. “Waivers from the league will allow those kids to stay at a younger level until their skills improve enough to move up.
“Our goal is to bring more players back into their town league and get some new members out for hockey. We also want to build a deeper partnership with the middle school and high school programs (in Salem and Swampscott). We’ll also have equipment swaps to help with the costs and make youth hockey affordable.”
Naturally, the Blades are hoping these innovative programs that have been put in will breathe new life into the program.
“My daughter Willa is the only girl playing on the Squirts, and she loves the dry land program,” said Bradley, who has also helped out as an assistant hockey coach at the younger levels. “We all know ice time is very expensive, and our idea is to get the kids in shape before they get on the ice. They love to play street hockey, and it’s a great way to improve both fitness and hockey skills.”
The Blades have rolling registration that has already started. People can learn more about the alternate player program online at bladeshockey.pucksystems2.com.