No NHL, Hockey is Still Alive and Well
There is no doubt that you live hockey during the months between September and June. The NHL usually starts up training camps in mid September and the league thrills fans through the end of the Stanley Cup Finals in June.
This year a lockout will delay the start of the season. While that hurts those who love to watch the best hockey league in the world, there is no shortage of great hockey you can go and watch.
Locally the New York Apple Core of the Empire Junior Hockey League plays right here at City of Long Beach Arena and the quality of play is very good. Their schedule can be found at www.applecorejunior.com
Next up is the NCAA and there are three good Division I programs within 2 hours drive of Long Beach. Yale University has become a national title contender under Head Coach Keith Allain and they play just north of New Haven in one of the great rustic arenas in college hockey. The atmosphere is great and Allain plays an up tempo and aggressive style that is entertaining to watch. They play in the ECAC against teams like Harvard, Cornell, Clarkson, Colgate and other quality programs.
Their neighbors in town are the Quinnipiac University Bobcats coached by Rand Pecknold. Rand is an old buddy of mine and has run a quality program for many years there. His steady influence there and the success of his program enabled him to get a beautiful new arena built near campus about a mile or two from Yale. The two have become a nice rivalry and when they play each other the atmosphere in either arena is just awesome.
Just to the south in an area you might be in for games is Princeton. They play on campus at Hobey Baker Rink and are a program that has made appearances in the ECAC title game and national tourney in recent years. Once again, a great atmosphere in a really neat building that bears the name of the award given annually to the nation’s top college hockey player.
On that note kids, check out www.hobeybaker.com
to read up on the namesake of this prestigious award. It is an interesting part of the history of college hockey and you’d be amazed to see some of the names that have won this award. Make it part of a history project for school.
Many of you will be in Boston this season and the four Boston area schools make up what I like to call the Hub Of Hockey in the USA. Boston College is a fun team to watch and their success recently is almost dynasty like. They are the defending National Champs and have won the national title three of the past five seasons.
It is almost impossible to find an NHL roster without a BC player on it. Here in NY, Brian Boyle and Chris Krieder of the Rangers join Peter Harrold and Steven Gionta of the Devils as BC alum. Great Neck native Danny Linell plays at BC and was a part of that championship group last year. Many LI natives have played at BC including two time Stanley Cup champ Rob Scuderi of the Kings. Another pair of defensemen from LI, Mike Brennan and Tim Filangieri were part of the 2008 National Champs. Forward Ales Dolinar was on the 2001 team. I remember coaching him as a pee wee Islander on the team we took to the Quebec Pee Wee tourney in 1993.
The other three all have great histories especially Boston University. Playing at Jack Parker Rink on Commonwealth Ave, just three miles from BC, the Terriers are the big rival for BC and they are also the 2009 National Champs. That was the year Long Island native Matt Gilroy won the Hobey Baker Award and was a huge part of that BU team.
Harvard and Northeastern round out the big four and many LI natives have played at those schools including Anthony Bitetto and Steven Birnstill at NE and Apple Core alums Jon Pelle, Bill Keenan, and Kenny Turano among others played for Harvard.
The AHL is the best development league in the world and continues to grow in quality and popularity. If the Hershey Bears were still playing at the legendary Hershey Park Arena I’d say that is a must road trip. The stories I have from that place are among my favorite from my days in the AHL. Closer to home are the Bridgeport Sound Tigers who are the top affiliate of the New York Islanders. Just up the road from Bridgeport, in Hartford, are the Connecticut Whale who house the top prospects of the Rangers.
You can find out info on the AHL at www.theahl.com
. College hockey info and team schedules are at www.uscho.com
Lastly, the USA U18 team makes annual visits to the East to play various NCAA teams at the D1 and D3 level. Log onto www.usahockey.com
and follow the links to the NDTP area (that is for National Team Development Program) to get the schedule for the U18’s. A good chunk of that team finds its way into the first and second round of the NHL draft.