On Wednesday, Congress finally got something done. Members of the Congressional Hockey Caucus, including Co-Chair’s Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), and Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA), along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Washington Capitols owner Ted Leonsis, and USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean, hosted a panel discussion on the current state of hockey, including different youth and diversity issues, as well as the early successes of the American Development Model (ADM).
Hockey in Focus on the Hill
In addition to the three Co-Chairs of the Congressional Hockey Caucus, the briefing was also attended by Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), and Mike McIntyre (D-NC). The Congressional briefing helped bring attention to the different youth initiatives across the country, as well as helped educate the different Members of Congress on the development of the game in the United States.
Each Congressman joined the Congressional Hockey Caucus for different reasons, as they explained in their opening remarks, ranging from Rep. Pat Meehan’s previous career as a professional referee to Rep. Lee Terry’s experience as a hockey dad to Rep. Brian Higgins, who grew up playing hockey in the only rink in the Buffalo-area with the fathers of the Hawks Patrick Kane and the Sharks Tim Kennedy.
USA Hockey’s Development Success
The main event of the Congressional Hockey Caucus panel was definitely the successes that USA Hockey has achieved. This includes the American Development Model (ADM), a program created four years ago that provides age-appropriate guidelines and curriculum to hockey associations across the country. Starting with the continuing increase of American-developed hockey players taken in the first-round of the NHL Entry Draft in the last year, six, the panelists used their time to describe the positive effects they have seen in their own districts and experiences.
In addition to the glowing comments by Commissioner Bettman and Ted Leonsis about the growth of youth and inner-city programs across America, USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean detailed the improvement of safety requirements on and off the ice. From the “Heads Up, Don’t Duck” program (seen in the video below), which teaches youth hockey players the correct way to react on the ice to more stringent background checks for all coaches involved in the programs, Ogrean described how USA hockey has taken significant steps forward in helping the development of the youth in their programs.
Commissioner Bettman, Dave Orgean, and Ted Leonsis echoed the importance of the growth of hockey across American cities, even in non-traditional markets, including the increase of Americans in the NHL over the past few years, numbering 161 players this year. Additionally, USA Hockey cited the success of the United States Under-20 team at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship this past year.
In addition to the panel discussion on the state of hockey in America, the Congressional Hockey Caucus, along with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund announced two of the first recipients of the Hockey is For Everyone four-year academic scholarship, which guarantees $6,200 per year for each recipient to attend a four-year college or university. Ricky Lucas, from the Ed Snider Hockey Foundation in Philadelphia and Donald Shaw III of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club in Washington, D.C., who both took part in USA Hockey Youth Programs, were awarded the scholarships at the briefing.
When leaders from Congress, the NHL, and USA Hockey can agree on the importance of USA Hockey Youth Development programs, it’s a great day for hockey in the states.