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I.C.E. Program Gets Pittsburgh Kids on the Ice

06/24/2018, 10:00am MDT
By Greg Bates

Inclusion program provides boys and girls with a place to try hockey

Popular Articles & Features

Tournaments scheduled for March and April 2019 in cities nationwide

The final whistle

10/31/2018, 5:00pm MDT
By Brian Hall

Keith Kaval leaves a 30-year officiating career for a new challenge in the NAHL

Keith Kaval took his warmup lap on the ice and the only thing he could think about before officiating one of the biggest games of his career was the illness that had sapped him of energy.

The longtime official skated around HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York, before the start of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship gold-medal game and thought to himself, “This is not good.” Kaval was about to referee the championship game between Canada and Russia.

“I kind of composed myself and I ended up working the game,” Kaval recalled recently. “The game was amazing. We called what we had to call. We weren’t a direct affect in the game and the Russians came back in the third period to beat Canada, which was a crazy, amazing game. Being able to do that game here on our own soil was pretty amazing. That’s something I’ll probably never forget.”

Having the opportunity to officiate the game, and fight through his illness, is one just one of the experiences Kaval is drawing on as he has transitioned from on-ice official to the director of officiating for the North American Hockey League and North American Tier III Hockey League.

Kaval wants to use his nearly 30 years as an on-ice official to develop the next wave of officials and hopefully provide them the same opportunities he had in a career which spanned nearly every rung of the hockey ladder, including the American Hockey League, the Kontinental Hockey League and the NCAA.

“It’s a continuous thing where we’re trying to move guys up and move them on, and give them the experience that they need,” Kaval said of his new position. “They serve our league, obviously, but the end game is to get them prepared for the next level of hockey. It’s no different than our member clubs, a lot of good opportunities for our guys to earn scholarship with the various NCAA teams and no different with us. We’re trying to move our guys up and on as well. It’s pretty much, we co-exist with the teams trying to do the same thing.”

Kaval worked his last game in the AHL on Oct. 13, finally hanging up the skates after a long on-ice career. He hopes to impart some of his knowledge and experience on newer officials who are starting their careers.

While the highlight of his career might have been Canada-Russia in 2011, Kaval worked three straight IIHF World Championships. He also became the first North American official to work in Russia’s professional KHL.

“Every day was a challenge,” Kaval said. “It was a pretty cool experience and there’s another thing that I can share with our guys about being uncomfortable in different situations where pretty much the only normalcy was hockey.”

Having moved full-time into his new role, Kaval is enjoying the new experiences he faces after starting a career at age 13 while just trying to earn some money and extra ice time.

“The biggest thing for me is just learning about each individual official and what makes them tick, and then seeing what they do because they all bring different skill sets,” Kaval said. “It’s not a cookie-cutter system where this is our method or this is what’s going to work for you. Every official’s different and I’d just rather give them some perspective on what may have worked for me and they can take some of that.”

In the early-going, Kaval was traveling constantly to have face-to-face interaction with officials and teams. He’s working through the challenge of increasing numbers of total officials. He wants to train the officials on technique and help deliver tips. He also preaches accountability and communication.

“There are certain things we can control as officials; That’s being professional, that’s being good communicators and being honest and trying to work the best game we can,” Kaval said. “We’re never going to be perfect, but I think the teams are starting to realize in our league that we’re here and we’re a partner to, not only the league, but all of them in that we’re just trying to make the game better and trying to do what’s right to keep the game fair and safe.”

Try hockey for free with USA Hockey this Saturday

11/10/2018, 6:00am MST
By USA Hockey

Hundreds of rinks nationwide to host first-timers

It was a productive hockey season for Pittsburgh I.C.E.

Forty-five kids participated in the program a year ago, and that number ballooned to 117 in mid-February.

A big reason for the rapid growth was the association revamping its goals, changing out its board of directors, bringing in a new executive director and providing transportation for its youth players to and from the rink.

“We hit a lull, but we’re back on pace now,” said Carol Murray, who took over as executive director in September.

Pittsburgh I.C.E. (Inclusion Creates Equality) — formerly known as Hockey in the Hood — was established in 2000 to provide socially and economically disadvantaged boys and girls in the greater Pittsburgh area the opportunity to learn to play hockey. That mission hasn’t wavered.

“I.C.E. is back to where it needs to be,” said Michele Humphreys, the executive director of the Hockey Sticks Together Foundation, the umbrella organization for Pittsburgh I.C.E.

Most of the participants in the program are pulled from Imani Christian Academy. However, Pittsburgh I.C.E. is reaching out to after-school programs and other schools to try and attract more kids who want to play the game.

The program skates at the Island Sports Center at Robert Morris University in Moon, Pennsylvania. Since the rink is just outside of Pittsburgh, transportation has always been a big obstacle. This year, the association provided two buses for the kids.

“The truth is, we don’t have rinks where the underserved are,” Murray said. “Transportation is a huge part of the issue. … We are now getting enough funding so we’re renting buses to go to different locations.”

Along with offering transportation, Pittsburgh I.C.E. has instituted a lunch program for the kids.

“A lot of our kids come from backgrounds where they qualify for free school lunches,” Humphreys said. “They’re at-risk youth, and we give them a lunch on their way back home.”

Pittsburgh I.C.E. is also looking to add an educational component. Teaching the kids life skills lessons would add another valuable aspect to the program.

The participants, who range in age from 6-18, have ice time on Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. The program, which runs from October to March at the outdoor covered rink, generally has two sessions and segments the players by age and skill level. There are 12 coaches who work with the players along with 10 high school on-ice volunteers.

Pittsburgh I.C.E. is strictly a learn-to-skate program, but Murray and the board members want to give the participants a chance to play games.

“Once you watch what happens in hockey, you’re going to have those kids that want to do more than [learn to play],” Murray said. “That’s going to be part of our board’s mission. We want to start migrating toward hosting a tournament; if not this year, we want to do one next year.”

It’s crucial for the young players to learn the basic skills of hockey, but moving to the next step is critical for their development.

“These kids want to play,” Humphreys said. “They don’t just want to go out and do skills, they want to go out and compete. We’re doing little 3-on-3 scrimmages during practice, but next year we are having a big push on having our own little tournaments.”

Pittsburgh I.C.E. is also looking at getting inner-city kids involved in a variation of street hockey called dek hockey. The Pittsburgh Penguins built 12 dek hockey rinks around the Pittsburgh area to get people more active. Dek hockey is a good alternative for kids because they can play during the summer when ice isn’t as readily available.

Pittsburgh I.C.E. has lofty goals for the future, which include getting its numbers up to 250 kids by the end of this year.

There has been plenty of positive feedback already shared by parents and kids about how the program has gotten better in less than one year. Pittsburgh I.C.E. is just scratching the surface.

“When you go and you see these kids and you watch them one week and they can’t even stand up and the next week there is joy and the excitement, it’s awesome,” Murray said. “Our goal is to say, ‘Hey, you want to keep going. We’re going to try to figure out a way to make that happen.’”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Popular Articles & Features

Tournaments scheduled for March and April 2019 in cities nationwide

The final whistle

10/31/2018, 5:00pm MDT
By Brian Hall

Keith Kaval leaves a 30-year officiating career for a new challenge in the NAHL

Keith Kaval took his warmup lap on the ice and the only thing he could think about before officiating one of the biggest games of his career was the illness that had sapped him of energy.

The longtime official skated around HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York, before the start of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship gold-medal game and thought to himself, “This is not good.” Kaval was about to referee the championship game between Canada and Russia.

“I kind of composed myself and I ended up working the game,” Kaval recalled recently. “The game was amazing. We called what we had to call. We weren’t a direct affect in the game and the Russians came back in the third period to beat Canada, which was a crazy, amazing game. Being able to do that game here on our own soil was pretty amazing. That’s something I’ll probably never forget.”

Having the opportunity to officiate the game, and fight through his illness, is one just one of the experiences Kaval is drawing on as he has transitioned from on-ice official to the director of officiating for the North American Hockey League and North American Tier III Hockey League.

Kaval wants to use his nearly 30 years as an on-ice official to develop the next wave of officials and hopefully provide them the same opportunities he had in a career which spanned nearly every rung of the hockey ladder, including the American Hockey League, the Kontinental Hockey League and the NCAA.

“It’s a continuous thing where we’re trying to move guys up and move them on, and give them the experience that they need,” Kaval said of his new position. “They serve our league, obviously, but the end game is to get them prepared for the next level of hockey. It’s no different than our member clubs, a lot of good opportunities for our guys to earn scholarship with the various NCAA teams and no different with us. We’re trying to move our guys up and on as well. It’s pretty much, we co-exist with the teams trying to do the same thing.”

Kaval worked his last game in the AHL on Oct. 13, finally hanging up the skates after a long on-ice career. He hopes to impart some of his knowledge and experience on newer officials who are starting their careers.

While the highlight of his career might have been Canada-Russia in 2011, Kaval worked three straight IIHF World Championships. He also became the first North American official to work in Russia’s professional KHL.

“Every day was a challenge,” Kaval said. “It was a pretty cool experience and there’s another thing that I can share with our guys about being uncomfortable in different situations where pretty much the only normalcy was hockey.”

Having moved full-time into his new role, Kaval is enjoying the new experiences he faces after starting a career at age 13 while just trying to earn some money and extra ice time.

“The biggest thing for me is just learning about each individual official and what makes them tick, and then seeing what they do because they all bring different skill sets,” Kaval said. “It’s not a cookie-cutter system where this is our method or this is what’s going to work for you. Every official’s different and I’d just rather give them some perspective on what may have worked for me and they can take some of that.”

In the early-going, Kaval was traveling constantly to have face-to-face interaction with officials and teams. He’s working through the challenge of increasing numbers of total officials. He wants to train the officials on technique and help deliver tips. He also preaches accountability and communication.

“There are certain things we can control as officials; That’s being professional, that’s being good communicators and being honest and trying to work the best game we can,” Kaval said. “We’re never going to be perfect, but I think the teams are starting to realize in our league that we’re here and we’re a partner to, not only the league, but all of them in that we’re just trying to make the game better and trying to do what’s right to keep the game fair and safe.”

Try hockey for free with USA Hockey this Saturday

11/10/2018, 6:00am MST
By USA Hockey

Hundreds of rinks nationwide to host first-timers

Tag(s): Grant Stories