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American model growing game at youth level

by Mike G. Morreale /
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. can't wait for the day when General Manager Jim Rutherford can step to the podium at the NHL Entry Draft and announce the name of a player born and trained from within the state.
The thing is, that day is quickly approaching due in large part to the increased support and widespread implementation of the American Developmental Model (ADM), a new philosophy in age-appropriate athlete development launched by USA Hockey in January 2009.
Within the last year, athletes from Carolina Youth Hockey programs have earned scholarships to the University of North Dakota men's program and the women's program at Boston College.
As part of this year's NHL All-Star Weekend, an ADM conference and clinic was held at the Raleigh RecZone on Saturday afternoon, marking the second time ADM regional manager Scott Paluch has helped conduct a clinic in the area.
"We want to get more kids on the ice to play, teach them how to play better and get them to love the game and play it longer," USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said. "Hockey in America is growing and getting better. We're interested in having more Americans in the NHL; 80 percent of the clubs in the NHL are from the U.S. Our relationship with the League is better than it's ever been. The growth has been great."
Along with Karmanos Jr., Paluch and Ogrean, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke also spoke to the crowd inside the lobby area of the RecZone.
"Everything an athlete in another sport is asked to do, we ask our athletes to do on a piece of steel about an eighth-of-an-inch wide," Burke said. "This is the way forward; this is not a shot in the dark. This is not something a bunch of people who never played hockey sat around and thought about. We studied how they developed players in Europe, in Sweden and Finland, and put this program together. We believe it's the right way forward. A ton a research went into this and the goal is to get as many kids on the ice and have them enjoy the game."
With USA Hockey's Red, White and Blue initiative, coaches can promote creativity among players, increase player involvement and create a positive environment to learn and play.
"We view this as a revolutionary model," Commissioner Bettman said. "USA Hockey developed a proven system for developing young athletes. The ADM will have the effect of increasing player participation, creating a positive environment for children to learn and play hockey, and it will facilitate skill development among young players. Thanks to the hard work of NHL member clubs, coaches and players and alumni, ADM clinics and demos around the NHL have been an on-going and important role to validate this model and increase youth participation."
The model includes shrinking the ice surface during practices that now see players split up and rotate throughout six different stations to hone a specific set of skills. Now, less time is wasted during practice and all players touch the puck more. USA Hockey believes that dynamic will foster a greater passion for the sport among young players.
The smaller-ice philosophy is especially important in teaching players skill without worrying about the technical aspects of the game, such as positioning, staying in lanes or skating offside.
"We think it's an exciting development for hockey in this country," Bettman continued. "We view the relationship with USA Hockey to not only be important, but vital. The more we do at the grass-roots level, the more players develop into NHL players."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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