A regularly scheduled Annual Voting Member Meeting of the Darien Youth Hockey Association (DYHA) took place on Monday, December 2, 2013 at Darien Library.  Present board members were Todd Halloran, Pete Canelli, Jeff Eccleston, John von Stade, Art Flynn, Dawn Bryson, Dave Kreppein, Larry Paredes, Mary Jo Dyer, David Hill, Lisa McCarthy and Gigi Williams.  Present Team Voting Members were Douglas Adams, Lyle Carter, Mark DiMaio, Jake Elwell, Tom Epes, Paul Fisher, Matt Gifford, Shedd Glassmeyer, Mark Guarini, Eric Hidy, Bryan Jennings, Mike Kadish, Andrew Kurian, Robert McIntire, Susan Massey, Kim Mazzone, Allison McDermott, Sage Minella, Kelly Murphy, Paul Quinn, Margot Krotee, Karin Sharp, Karl Slatoff, Tom Sulger, Valerie Theissan, Corby Hocker, Kate Vitucci, Larry Warble and Susan Williams. With a quorum present, the meeting was called to order at 7.35pm.
President’s Update
Todd Halloran welcomed all present and thanked the voting members for attending, and for taking on the role of ambassador for both their team and the DYHA board, relaying information to and from their team members.
Key Highlights:

  1. The Board of the Association has, as its top priority, the youth hockey players of DYHA.To this end, the Board composition represents all of the association’s charter towns, and both House and Travel players.
  2. This season the Association celebrates its 40th anniversary.The board recognizes its duty to uphold the vision and principles of the 8 founding Board Members.A roll call of these founders was made -Fred Appleton, Ron Ball, Mac Budd, Tom Howell, Robert Kelly, Tom Moseley, Richard Soule and Peter Widmer.To complement the Appleton Awards given to House Players at each house level, in this anniversary year the Founders Award has been introduced to honor the spirit of the founders.It will be awarded to a boy and girl travel player each year.
  3. Friends of DYHA was the beneficiary of the 40th Anniversary Fundraiser held at the Tokeneke Club on October 5, 2013.Supported entirely by privately donated funds, Friends of DYHA primarily provides financial aid for DYHA players, as well as funding the Darien High School Biggs Scholarship and supporting the Big Assist and select community hockey events.It was reiterated that the Financial Aid program, administered by the board, is well-funded by the membership and exists to enable families without financial wherewithal to play, or continue to play.Members should be aware that if need exists, they should consult the website for details of how to apply to Friends of DYHA for assistance.
    Grateful thanks were offered to the DYHA community for their generous support of this program.
  4. The unique, robust House Program, fostering love of the game and recreational play remains the base of DYHA membership with 59% of the Association’s players.
    1. 937 Registered players – overall growth 13% over the past 2 seasons.Girls now comprise almost a quarter of the membership, at 23%.Girls are also the highest growth sector, with a 36% growth rate over 2 years.
    2. 30 House Teams, 19 Travel Teams, 3 Development Teams
    3. Financial Standing – the Association maintains a balanced budget, with a $1.4million Operating Budget.The association is fiscally sound, with the goal of offering a good product while keeping costs down.
    4. The 14 member board is supported by over 100 volunteers and 24 paid coaches.
    5. Background to the association’s “Charter Towns” was given.With the establishment of DYHA in 1973, in addition to local Darien residents, neighboring towns without public rinks (Norwalk and New Canaan) were including in the composition of Darien Youth Hockey Association.Currently 82% of players reside in these “charter towns”.
    6. Player movement within and out of the program was discussed.20 players moved to other programs (2% of membership). 6 players who cleared the waitlist made a travel team and 2 impact players were approved.18 House players made a Travel Team.
  5. Community Service Initiative continues with all teams encouraged to perform an outreach program of some kind during the season.There are also association-wide undertakings planned.
  6. House Program highlights include the investment in full-height, cross-ice boards, with a set being acquired for both Darien Ice Rink and Stamford Twin Rinks.Mites continue to also benefit from the Chelsea Piers Cross-Ice League and the removal of 6am game slots.Skill sessions will continue to develop and expand, along with the continuation of clinic opportunities for House Goalies.House program “travel” games for full house teams are being piloted this season.
  7. Travel Program Highlights include competitive Tier 2 and Tier 3 Co-Ed travel teams, aided by the retention of good coaches and supported the Skill Development Program, comprising Skill Session and Pro-Crease goaltending clinics.The travel program also continued with the cross-ice initiative for Mites, with teams participating in the Chelsea Piers Cross-Ice league.The Ice Cats girls’ program continues to thrive, growing in stature and numbers, including Tier 2 National Finalists at the U14 level.Coaching Education continues in compliance with USA Hockey rules.The Travel Tryout process this season once again consisted of Skills and Scrimmage sessions, with player evaluations and rankings being considered.The board remains committed to refining and improving the tryout process.
  8. The Strategic Initiatives for the future, based on the Association’s founding philosophy are:
    1. Continue to address the needs of the Travel and House membership in light of the competitive landscape.Increased number of rinks, increased offerings and rival structures for Mite-aged players are considerations.
    2. Ensure a robust house program and competitive travel program through offering a “good product” - effective coaching, player development and the retention of players and coaches.
    3. Improve communication between the Association and the Membership by means of information on the website, board representatives on travel teams, and voting members on house teams.Non-voting members who attended the meeting were welcomed as part of this initiative.
    4. Safety is an ongoing initiative – going beyond focus on concussions and first aid, to Locker Room behavior, Social Media activities, mixed genders, bullying and hazing, and other coach and player conduct.With that in mind, the association has adopted SafeSport practices with Larry Paredes as the SafeSport Administrator for DYHA.
  9. Challenges and concerns faced by the organization include
    1. Costs – rigorous negotiations with rinks will continue.Financial Aid available.
    2. Recruitment and Retention of qualified volunteer and paid coaches (this hybrid relieves cost)
    3. Goalies – their recruitment, development and retention
    4. Independent Programs – potential to dilute strength of association
    5. Concussions / Safety – association will continue to err toward conservatism, increasing awareness amongst coaches, skaters and their families.
  10. Reasons for Optimism
    1. DYHA’s relative standing amongst peer associations remains high, with the Connecticut Hockey Conference (CHC) complimentary on DYHA’s efforts.
    2. Positive results of Skills development initiatives for Goalies and Skaters
    3. Growth of girls’ hockey
    4. Focus on health and safety of athletes
    5. Additional rinks, with geographic proximity and fiscal savings
    6. Winter Olympics in 2014 – a proven driver of increased interest in the game of Hockey.
Question and Answer Session
The following questions and/or concerns were raised by Voting Members.
  1. The concern was raised, on behalf of long-time DYHA families of U-10 girls, that when girls age up to U-12, they could be left without a spot on a girls team.At that point, despite having survived the 6am starts, they are left without a viable playing option in house as the Senior
  2. A call out was made about making a full-time U-10 travel team in the girls program.Discussion that followed highlighted the opinion that participation in the Squirt House program in addition to the U-10 developmental team offered a consistently higher level of play than might be available to a full-time U-10 girls team.
  3. Tryout timing – Spring vs Fall – was raised.The travel directors commented that this topic was debated at least twice every season by the board. In general, the board believes tryouts for all ages are more beneficial in the fall, but this is most highly prevalent in the younger age groups (Mite, Squirts, Pee Wees) as players grow and develop skills.Fall tryouts also benefit House players committed to making the transition to travel.Spring tryouts have become more prevalent in other programs as they fill teams prior to committing to ice purchases.The CHC attempted to mandate fall tryouts but motion was defeated in a vote. A further negative to spring tryouts is that it extends the hockey season and encroaches on short spring sport seasons.There is a 10-year history of Girls’ tryouts taking place in Spring.For Bantams and Midgets, the view was expressed that player growth in the off season is a reduced factor, whilst competition for players by programs increases.
  4. Player Evaluations and whether a player moves between seasons with a “clean slate” was raised.The association has an intense approach to evaluations. House coaches do “promising player” evaluations which are forwarded to Travel Directors in advance of tryouts, along with previous season coaches’ evaluations of all travel players.In addition to independent evaluation of drills and scrimmages at tryouts, paid coaches review evaluations when making final team selections.Message to share with players: They look to build the best team, referring in large part to the intangibles – is the player coachable, are they a good teammate, do they exhibit decent behavior in the Locker Room.
  5. Comment from the floor congratulated the association on the success and strength of its B teams, and recognized the challenges faced in scheduling competitive games for Tier 4/ Open division teams. It was discussed that whilst this is in indicator of the depth of the program, it is also an indicator of the dilution of programs as number increases.
  6. Off-Ice training was raised from the floor, in light of recent exposure to Canadian teams in Lake Placid with dedicated trainers.The discussion which followed highlighted:
    1. Increased financial and time commitment
    2. Possible coach mandated training at home
    3. Potential coach led training 15 minutes before each practice
    4. Age Group-modules that are part of USA Hockey CEP training cover appropriate training.Travel directors to work with coaches on incorporation.
  7. Select Teams at Mites and Squirts – question raised about evolution this season.Pete Canelli, Scheduler, said association always looking for opportunities.This season, opportunity has arisen for entire house teams to play other local programs, which, along with Mite teams rotating through the Chelsea Piers Cross-Ice league, gives each Squirt and Senior Minor player the opportunity to play outside competition.
  8. The cost of Lake Placid for Travel families was raised, and the question asked whether cost and quality reviewed.Quality of competition remains unpredictable at any tournament.Cost effectively reviewed during annual survey.At present, 80% remain in favor of attending, though levels curtailed to limit number of trips each player family makes (no Mites, no Bantam A).
  9. A question of hosting State and other Tournaments was raised.Discussion followed, covering the results of investigations that had proved hosting to be cost prohibitive.
  10. Conditions at Darien Ice Rink raised from the floor.The association continues to work with all rinks in terms of membership experience.It was mentioned out that according to member surveys, Darien Ice Rink and Stamford Twin Rinks remain most highly ranked venues.
    The meeting adjourned at 8:54pm.
    Gigi Williams