Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On Thin Ice? How to Boost Youth Hockey Numbers

     Is your youth hockey program battling to reverse a down-turn in participation? We're here to help. Behind every good fighter, is a good trainer. In your corner, is skilled and seasoned hockey mom, Kristin Fleet Haag, CPA Treasurer, with Rome Youth Hockey Association. Rome's program has seen a remarkable turnaround, thanks to a strategy of working as a team to grow their teams.

How to Grow The Game 
 By Kristin Fleet Haag      

 We are located in Rome, New York, a community that has seen a declining population and a changing demographic over the last 25 years.  We were a huge hockey town, where both high school teams were Section 3 Champs and New York State Champs for both Division 1 and Division 2 High School Hockey.  We now have only one high school in our community. 

Back in 2008-2009 our City completed a $3.0 million renovation on our facility - the Bill Fleet Rink at the John F. Kennedy Civic Arena.  Shortly after that our numbers declined pretty drastically.

Our learn to skate or initiation program numbers decreased from over 100 skaters to just 60 skaters.  Of course, that is the feeder program to our higher levels.  We knew we had to take action.

I joined our board in 2012, when my son who was going to be a second year Pee Wee, was not going to have a travel team to play on.  By the time the season actually rolled around, there was no house team either.  My youngest boy had just started in the learn to skate program as well.  At that point, I knew I needed to do something.  I joined the board.  My dad, who is a lifetime member, also was actively involved.  We held meetings with community members and hockey folks to brain storm how to get our numbers up. 

Keys to Victory

*  Hired a marketing firm and launched a print and media campaign.  It was expensive (around $5,000), but well worth the investment.  Our IP numbers grew back to over 100 that year. We continue to run the campaign each year.  We used our hometown NHL/AHL Stars Tim and Tom Sestito in the commercials for us.  

* Worked with our City to reduce our ice fees.  My first year - I negotiated a temporary reduction.  The second year, I negotiated a permanent reduction.  We went from an average of $105 per hour to $85 per hour.  If our ice fees are lower, we can lower our reg fees, and increase volume....

* We sold ourselves to the community.  We started attending community events (ie.  Honor America Day Parade, Home Show, Dog Show).  Also, we made our ice slots more working parent friendly.  Some teams used to practice at 6:00 am before school.  We rearranged the ice slots so that all practices started after 5:00 pm.  We also sold our great coaching staff!

*  My second year, we wanted a better handle on our numbers, so we offered an early registration discount at 25-30% savings.  My third year, we reduced even further.  We are now arguably the lowest price shop in town...Squirt and up are at $425, Mites at $215, and Learn to Skate at $160.  This year we launched our online registration process.

* Tournaments - we invested time and sweat equity into these.  My first year on there was no Mite Tournament.  Last year we hosted a Mite Tournament with 18 teams, this year we had 26 teams with over 310 kids. 

* We rebranded ourselves.  Changed our colors, logo, and new jerseys (we don't charge our members).  One of our board members wrote a grant.  He secured $22,000 for the purchase of new jerseys.

*  This year we purchased cross-ice dividers, partnering with our City.  Also, we applied for USA Hockey's grow the game grant, which I believe we will secure the funding. 

We are a 501C3 which is pretty important when looking to secure grant funding. 

Best of luck to you and your organization!

Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Show Your Hockey Team Spirit

First Place Spirit Award

        There was a fun twist to our latest tournament in Glens Falls. In addition to the regular competition among teams, we all got a chance to compete for spirit bragging rights, Our girls placed in the Skills Competition and we cheered them on like they were rock stars!
      Check out what a few brainstorming sessions and a little creativity can do.      

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hockeyville, USA Closer Than You Think

    Being a hockey fan in Syracuse, New York means you're always cheering in the shadow of Orange Nation.  With basketball and football  predominately in the spotlight on the college and high school levels, at times you may feel as if you belong to some sort of secret society.  Rarely do our high school hockey teams make the Friday night sports highlights and sadly teams are contracting.  Soccer, baseball and lacrosse get far more ink and attention than our great sport of hockey. 
    But walk into any ice rink in Central New York during a high school game, or on a weekend during a Pee Wee or even a Mite match, and you might think you have just walked into Hockeyville, USA.  There is dedication, commitment and passion that would rival any sports atmosphere you would find on a basketball court or football field. 
     So, here is our chance, Central New York hockey fans,  to show our pride and passion by sharing our stories and nominating our local rinks to be named the first-ever Kraft Hockeyville USA.  Ten communities will have the chance to win thousands in arena upgrades, while one will win the grand prize – hosting an NHL® Pre-Season game televised live on NBCSN and $150,000 in arena upgrades.
      You'll need to nominate your rink before March 18, 2015.  See details below. 

  Sure, we Central New York hockey fans can still bleed Orange, but we've got ice in our veins and hockey in our hearts! 

One U.S. Community Will Win Opportunity to Host NHL® Pre-Season Game Televised on NBCSN, $150,000 in Arena Upgrades and Coveted Title as First-Ever “Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA”

NORTHFIELD, Ill. – January 1, 2015 – Announced today, at the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® featuring the Chicago Blackhawks® and Washington Capitals® broadcast on NBC, the puck officially dropped for Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA – the search for America’s most passionate hockey community. Uniting an all-star roster of partners including the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), National Hockey League (NHL®), NBC Sports Group, and USA Hockey, Kraft’s award-winning, Canadian-born HockeyvilleTM program has expanded into the U.S. for the first time to help build better hockey communities across the country. Beginning today, hockey communities across the U.S. can vie for the esteemed title of “Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA” and enter for a chance to win the grand prize of hosting an NHL® Pre-Season game televised live on NBCSN and $150,000 in arena upgrades.

“Seeing all these passionate hockey fans cheering on their team in the brisk winter air reminds me of the way so many of us fell in love with the sport,” said Dino Bianco, Executive Vice President and President, Kraft Beverages. “Fans like this coming together for their shared love of hockey is what inspired us to launch Kraft Hockeyville in the U.S. and celebrate the unity that hockey brings to communities across the country.”

Kraft also drafted a friend – NHL® legend and NBC Sports analyst, Jeremy Roenick – to help spread the word across the country. “Growing up in Boston, hockey was a way of life for children and families, and it brought together my community in a way that nothing else could. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the lessons I learned and the experiences I gained at Pilgrim Arena from coaches like my dad, Wally Roenick, Paul Kramer, and Arthur Valicenti. Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA will help communities keep these traditions alive, and that is something I am excited to be a part of working with Kraft.”

How Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA Works
Like a hockey game, Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA has three periods. In the first period, communities across the country are encouraged to enter by sharing unique stories about their local rink, teams, hockey spirit and passion and submitting their nominations now through March 18, 2015, at, where complete contest rules and nomination applications are available.

Ten community finalists will be chosen to kick off the second action-packed period, which includes three rounds of public voting:

·         Round 1 (April 14-16, 2015) – Top four communities chosen to move on to the next round; remaining six each receive $20,000 toward arena upgrades.
  • Round 2 (April 21-22, 2015) – Top two finalists selected; remaining two each receive $40,000 toward arena upgrades.
  • Round 3 (April 27-29, 2015) – One community will emerge as the first-ever “Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA”; runner-up will receive $75,000 toward arena upgrades.

In the final period, the winning community will be announced – on May 2, 2015 – and receive the grand prize of the chance to host an NHL® Pre-Season game televised on NBCSN and receive $150,000 in arena upgrades from Kraft.

Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA is meant to not only ignite a passion for hockey in America, but also bring a renewed sense of pride to communities. Since launching in Canada in 2006, Kraft HockeyvilleTM has positively impacted 43 communities with more than $1.6 million donated in arena upgrades. Kraft also hopes that its diverse portfolio of products will help unite hockey fans in their celebrations of the sport and their communities. The campaign will celebrate consumers’ excitement around a variety of iconic Kraft brands, including A1, Bulls-Eye BBQ Sauce, Cracker Barrel, Jell-O, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Kraft Mayo, Kraft Natural Cheese, Kraft Salad Dressings, Kraft Singles, Maxwell House, Miracle Whip, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Planters, Stove Top and Velveeta.

For contest rules, information on nominating your community and complete program details, visit Kraft HockeyvilleTM USA can also be found at and on Twitter (@HockeyvilleUSA). You can join the conversation using #HockeyvilleUSA.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Episode 081: Christie Casciano – The Puck Hog

Episode 081: Christie Casciano – The Puck Hog

Today’s guest is a news anchor from Syracuse, New York, and is alsoEpisode 081the author of The Puck Hog.
Christie got her first introduction to the game of hockey after her seven year old son decided that he wanted to be a hockey player.
Christie’s daughter took up the game of hockey as well, and The Puck Hog series chronicles  her children’s hockey journey. 

Christie has relished the opportunity of being a “Hockey mom,” and even writes a column for “Hockey moms” for USA Hockey.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hockey Mom Snack Bar Queen


By Caroline Stanistreet

Dedicated to all the Hockey Rink Snack Bar Parents out there

(To be sung to the tune “Dancing Queen,” by Abba – yes, you ALL know it!)

Friday night and the grill is hot
Lookin’ at all the coffee pots
Ooooh-Whippin up the Slushees
Poppin up some ‘corn

You’re in the mood for snacks

Anybody could be that girl
Night is young and her hair will curl
Due to heat from the heat lamps
Keeping it all hot

You’re in the mood for snacks

And when you get the chance
You are the Snack Bar Queen
Rarely seen
By your hockey teen
Snack Bar Queen
Feel the cold
From that ice machine, oh yeah!!

You make change
But you can’t add
Oh – having some trouble with math
Ooooh…be that kid
Who will help
With The Snack Bar Queen

Teams are done and off the ice
Pizza’s warm, let’s have a slice
How ‘bout a drink then?
Powerade? Soda?
Or just an orange juice?

Chocolate and Skittles dominate
Push pops you really…… HAAATE
Way too sticky for your taste
You would rather have

A frappucino right about now!

But you are The Snack Bar Queen
Where’s that Zamboni machine?
Snack Bar Queen
Time to Clean
Off the grill so mean, oh yeah!

Nacho sauce
Must get tossed
Hav-ing-the-goo-on-your hands
See that soap
Don’t you mope

You are The Snack Bar Queen