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AYHL President Sees Youth Hockey Grow

by Anthony Smith / New Jersey Devils

The North Jersey Avalanche Squirt Minor team, member of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League, recently became champions of their division at the Bauer World Hockey Invite Tournament in Chicago (Photo/AYHL).
In New Jersey, the increasing abundance of youth hockey leagues has made one thing clear: hockey is rapidly becoming one of the most played sports in the state.

The number of options available to kids has made the sport more popular, according to Atlantic Youth Hockey League President Gene Palecco. The AYHL fields 100 teams located between Connecticut and Maryland, and range in age from the Squirt Minor division through the Midget 18 division, Palecco says. Of those 100 teams, 46 of them call New Jersey home.

With more children becoming involved in ice hockey, the AYHL teams that represent New Jersey have seen consistent success, Palecco explains.

“Teams from the AYHL and New Jersey tend to fare well on the National stage, generally making it out of the round robins and into the quarter, semi and final games,” he states.

Palecco also thinks that having the Devils involved with certain youth programs helps the league prosper, and provide growth to youth hockey in this area.

AYHL President Gene Palecco (Photo/Gene Palecco).
Having [the Devils] in our footprint [who] are willing to work with our youth programs, the growth of inline hockey as a prelude to on ice participation. Success of our national teams in the international competition and construction of new skating facilities are some of the reasons for this growth in our area,” Palecco believes.

When it comes to being a league president, it is a challenge that sometimes interferes with the aspects of everyday life.

“There are no days off. You’re literally on call 24/7/365, whether it’s a coach, official, player or Organization President, you’re on call as needed,” Palecco says, adding, “Often times, your personal “family time” can suffer, not to mention the conflicts with your “real” job.”
The life skills that I see our youth athletes developing are strong people skills, the ability to work with others towards a common goal to achieve success. - Gene Palecco
Because of the time that he devotes to the game, Palecco sees youth developing strong time management skills from devoting so much time to playing hockey, and being a part of that goes into the drive that keeps him so involved.

“Excellent time management skills are a byproduct of today’s athlete,” Palecco says, adding that “Juggling demanding academic schedules with their travel hockey commitments, while finding balance is no easy task.”

While hockey may keep Palecco, and others, away from quality family time or working at their primary job, seeing a child succeed is the ultimate thrill for him.

“Knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of children, challenging them to be athletes and develop skills that will shape them in their future careers. Seeing the young mite player grow up to be a competitive Tier I hockey player competing at the highest level all starts at the local level, it starts here in the AYHL.”

For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.

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