A regularly scheduled Annual Voting Member Board Meeting of the Darien Youth Hockey Association (DYHA) took place on Monday, December 3rd, 2012 at Darien Library.  Present board members were Todd Halloran, Frank Cataudo, John Fraser, Pete Canelli, Jeff Eccleston, John von Stade, Art Flynn, Nick Hathaway, Dave Kreppein, Larry Paredes, Dave Johnson, David Hill, Lisa McCarthy, Kevin Cassidy and Gigi Williams.  Present Team Voting Representatives were Christa McNamara, Paul Celotto, Mary Jo Dyer, Bob Lucarelli, Steve Culliton, Asa Beach, Jennifer Seely, Holly Russell, Will Blair, Susan Williams, Thomas Ritchie, Susan Massey, Kate Vitucci, Keith Cataldo, Karl Slatoff, Frank DeVita,  Jennie Hewitt, Adam Pratt, Amy Epes, Real LeClerc, Michael Yusko, Randy Voges, Fouad Onbargi, Kristin Vrooman, Nigel Ekern, Stephen Gabriel, Richard Jardim, Hugh Balloch, Jake Elwell, John Couuts, Rob Weibel, Mark DiMaio, Bill Corcoran, Tom Oh, Glen Moore, Dave Hazelton, Kim Hathaway, Allison McDermott, William Curley, Janet Lane, Chris Mezias, Lisa Cassidy, Whitney McCarthy, Jen Gianunzio and Billy Ferguson. With a quorum present, the meeting was called to order at 7.35pm.
President’s Update
Todd Halloran gave a State of the Association update and shared strategic initiatives and as well as challenges and opportunities existing in youth hockey at this time.
Key Highlights:
  1. The Board of the Association has, as its top priority, the youth hockey players of DYHA.  The full constituents of the association are the players, the coaches, the parents, the Connecticut Hockey Conference, USA Hockey, our Competitors and the local Rinks.
  2. The core of the Association remains the House Team program, with the Travel Program accounting for 35% of the Association’s players.
    1. 837 Registered players - Girls now comprise 21% of the membership, the highest growth sector.
    2. Approximately 85% of players reside in “charter towns” of Darien, New Canaan and Norwalk.
    3. 34 House Teams, 18 Travel Teams, 4 Development Teams
    4. Financial Standing – the Association maintains a balanced budget, with a $1.3million Operating Budget.
    5. The 15 member board is supported by over 100 volunteers and 24 paid coaches.
    6.  Friends of DYHA, funded by member donations and a biennial fundraiser, continues to provide financial aid to qualified applicants.  A new initiative, to provide financial assistance to goalies, is being introduced.  Grateful thanks were offered to donors to this program.
  3. With a history of Community Service, this season DYHA formalized this commitment by encouraging all teams to perform an outreach program of some kind.  Examples of those projects were shared.  In January, there will be an association-wide food drive to replenish the Person-to-Person food pantry. 
  4. House Program highlights include the addition of 2 squirt teams, the division of Mighty Mites into 4 teams, the introduction, for Mites, of the Chelsea Piers Cross-Ice League and the removal of 6am game slots.  Skill sessions have been introduced and will continue to develop and expand, including opportunities for House Goalies.
  5. Travel Program Highlights include the addition, this season, of 3 teams. With these teams (Midget White, U14B and U12B) came the concomitant need for players and investment/funding in coaching and equipment.  Travel players have also benefited from the Skill Development Program implemented this year, 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, in co-operation with the New Canaan Winter Club for U-12 teams upward.  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. 
  6. The Strategic Initiatives for the future, based on the Association’s founding philosophy are:
    1. Ensure a robust house program and competitive travel program through effective coaching, player development and the retention of players and coaches.
    2. 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.
    3. Programmatic Improvements and Skill Development with remain a focus, including Tournament selections, House organization and practice efficacy.
  7. Challenges and concerns faced by the organization include
    1. Costs – rigorous negotiations with rinks will continue
    2. Recruitment and Retention of qualified volunteer and paid coaches
    3. Goalies – their recruitment, development and retention
    4. The “Games” race – balancing practice and game time
    5. Independent Programs – potential to dilute strength of association
    6. Concussions – association will continue to err toward conservatism, increasing awareness amongst coaches, skaters and their families.
  8. Reasons for Optimism
    1. DYHA’s relative standing amongst peer associations remains high
    2. Skills development initiatives and further opportunities in this area exist
    3. Growth of girls’ hockey
    4. Focus on health and safety of athletes
    5. Additional rinks, with geographic proximity and fiscal savings
Question and Answer Session
With the President’s update concluded, the meeting was opened to questions from the floor.  The following questions and/or concerns were raised by Voting Members.
  1. Goalie development at the House Level was raised.  The discussion which followed between the Board and Members covered:
    1. Goaltending Clinics for House Players to be offered
    2. House coaches to recommend players with ability for additional training
    3. Goaltending coaching resources available via DYHA and USA Hockey.
    4. Sportsmanship and “backing off” the goal to be encouraged by coaches in non-critical situations to avoid demoralization of young goalies.
    5. Possibility of inviting local, high-profile goaltenders to encourage young goalies was put forward by a voting member.
  2. The recently introduced Thursday Skills Sessions were well-received from the floor, particularly as a means to gain additional ice time for house players with travel  team aspirations.
  3. Age exceptions in House Teams.  A call out was made regarding girl skaters “playing down” an age level in the house program.  House coordinators explained that this only occurred in exceptional circumstances where the safety of a novice player was at risk were they to participate in their correct age group.  It was emphasized that this only applied to the House Program.
  4. A callout was made as to the geographic makeup of players on Travel Teams, and loyalty to Darien resident players in the program.  The discussion that followed explained the Association’s waitlist and acceptance policies, and the “charter towns” served.  Once a player has been accepted in the program, they have equal opportunities as any skater.  It was highlighted that the association is unusual, among local organizations, in restricting participation by non-registered players.
  5. A comment was made regarding Travel Team practice player supplements.  The recommendation was made that the reduced supplements for practice players should be communicated on the website.
  6. In line with Connecticut Hockey Conference (CHC) and USA Hockey mandates, the future of Mite Travel Hockey moving to cross-ice full-season was raised. Concerns exist over equipping these players adequately for full-ice play at the Squirt level in the future.  The Association is working with the CHC on sanctioned full-ice games for teams comprising solely of 8-year olds, to take place not before January in any given season.  Discussion further covered the board working on the acquisition of higher, curved cross-ice boards, as used by Chelsea Piers, for use at other rinks serving the association.  Smaller 4 ½ “ nets are also being investigated.
  7. Call out was made for junior house referees to be less reticent in calling checks.  Coaches’ cooperation was encouraged in this area.
  8. A enquiry was made as to why the girls teams skate not as the Darien Ice Cats, but as the Connecticut Ice Cats.  It was explained that the name was devised on formation of teams in partnership with New Canaan Winter Club.
  9. The composition and frequency of Select House games was discussed.
The meeting adjourned at 9pm.
Gigi Williams