Phinny Weston in action vs. Chilliwack
Kirkland, WA – The Sno-King 16U AAA team has had to make some changes in preparation for the upcoming season. One of these changes is a rescheduling of their tryouts.
Due to government guidelines and SnoKing's position on player and member safety, it was decided to move the tryout dates to a date more suitable to people, especially it's members.
According to 16U AAA Head Coach, Mike Butters, the delay is merely a reflection of today's social climate and does not affect his overall plan for the upcoming season. "The COVID-19 issue is real and SnoKing took a very proactive position on how to both prepare for the now and for what lies ahead. We have put contingency dates in place for each successive month through the year. Ice has been allocated and preparations have been made for when the time comes to get back to hockey as a part of our regular lives." Butters added, "While businesses like ours have been physically closed, our group had been diligently working on our plan."
Tryout registration for both the 16U AAA and 14U AAA teams have been open on the SnoKing website for some time (16U Registration Link). Players are encouraged to register as the coaching staff would like to further prepare for this event. "In order to give us an idea of both amount and types of players will be trying out, we would like to have an idea of the numbers of players trying out," said Butters. "We put a lot of planning into our tryout format and getting an ongoing idea of the amount of players trying out, helps us implement the format that gives players the maximum opportunity to show their talents."
16U AAA PLANS FOR UPCOMING SEASON ALREADY IN PLACE
The 16U AAA team has already laid out their league and tournament plans for the upcoming season. Those plans include games vs. ECEL Premiere, Tier 1 Elite League, BC Major and Minor Midget League and CSSHL Academy teams. Also included are games vs. Independent 16U Tier 1 teams around the country. The variety of schedule is something that the 16U Head Coach has both pushed for and supported since joining SnoKing. "When we put together our schedule each year, we look to play our games vs. highly ranked opponents in a league (ECEL) that attracts the scouts and recruiters. Instead of locking into just one league, we maximize our budget by playing top ranked opponents in a variety of showcases and tournaments. The end result is the creation of a wide variety of exposure for our players, which is unique to the area." Butters stressed that this type of schedule is vital for players in the Pacific Northwest. "Unfortunately, we live in an area that has limited junior hockey exposure. While the BCHL and WHL are present, the USHL, NAHL, NCDC and all the other Tier Junior A teams are not. It is for this reason that we travel to tournaments that will be scouted by the leagues. Since our players are ineligible to play in Canada until they turn 18, we need to showcase them to the US-based leagues that can recruit them. This model has opened opportunities for our players that previously did not exist."
Players and parents are encouraged to keep checking the SnoKing website for updates on tryout dates.
Any players and parents wishing further detail on both the tryout schedule and the season plan, including costs and travel and training schedule, are encouraged to contact 16U AAA Head Coach, Mike Butters by calling him at (818) 800-9700 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sno-King 16U AAA Head Coach, Mike Butters
Kirkland, WA – While the hockey world has been put on hold, for the time being, many of the people involved in the game have used this time to rest and recharge, while keeping themselves and their families safe. It is a time where many coaches have had time to reflect on their teams and the state of the game in general. One of these individuals is Sno-King's16U AAA Head Coach and Coaching Coordinator, Mike Butters. I had a chance to sit down with Mike, via video chat and ask him a series of questions. This is the highlight of that conversation.
Q: How are you coping with the current COVID-19 issues?
A: Like everyone else, I would imagine. News on this changes by the hour and all you can do is stay informed with the latest developments. Right now, this issue transcends hockey, but I am optimistic it will pass, in time, and we can return to our regular lives and get back the ice soon.
Q: How has this time away from the rink affected you?
A: It has given me time to reflect on this past season and how to improve on the things that need work. I've never been one to dwell on the history of any season, team or player. I use this time to simply learn from it and look forward.
Q: What did you learn from last season?
A: In a word, patience. It was a frustrating season, by many accounts. We were riddled with injuries from the midpoint on and it forced us into both compromising on our plan and adjusting to what we had to do. My expectations were very high going into the season. As a coach, you would love to pick up where you left off from the previous season, but you just can't. We had several players return but with several new players, you find yourself repeating some of the lessons from before. It's not like the pros where you have a core group and you just need to tweak your plan. With players of this age, you have to sometimes start from scratch.
Q: How did you think the season went?
A: Overall, I think this group overachieved in many regards. We limped into the ECEL playoffs with 8 forwards and 4 D and found a way to get to the finals. We limped into the state finals with the same 8 forwards and 4 D and, again, found a way to get to the finals. Several of our guys were not at 100% and played through it. To get as far as we did was astounding. I was disappointed more in myself than the group. I made the choice to keep a small roster and it hurt us. A small roster is great when everyone is healthy but as soon as you run into adversity like injuries it can have an adverse effect on playing time and development. Players can neither perform when they are hurt or tired. We had both. I made the mistake of listening to people on this front. I won't make that mistake again. In retrospect, I compromised on some of my core beliefs as a coach. I learned a valuable lesson about relationships and outside influence as it can affect both what you are trying to accomplish and the enjoyment you have doing it. I am glad I went through that exercise with renewed passion for the new season ahead.
Q: What is a perfect roster size for you?
A: It's all subjective. At 16U, you want these young men to gain experience by playing. That said, if they are tired or behind the level of play, it does them little good. I constantly ask 16U coaches around the country what their magic number is. The majority carry 20 guys. They cite injuries, ability and fatigue as their reasoning. I sort of maintain this philosophy. If we have 20 players who are of the ability to play at the AAA level, then I will take 20. If we only have 16, then it gets tough. Parents and players gauge their development on playing time in games. That's the least of it. If top players are playing tired, they aren't developing as much. If weaker players are forced into situations where they are constantly struggling against more skilled opponents, there is little development there either. If I had to pick a number, I would say 19.
Q: Your team seems to travel more than most. Is that true?
A: It is. It is necessary in order to provide these players with what is needed to progress in the game. It comes down to a philosophy. That philosophy is constantly asking yourself, "Who are we and why are we doing this?" I decided early on that if was to coach at this level it would be with a defined purpose. As I see it, the AAA level is for players who have made this game a priority in their lives. With any priority comes sacrifice. The majortiy of the players who play AAA do it because they want to advance in the game past youth hockey. Those players and their families who support them, gravitate to programs who provide that. If local programs don't provide that, they leave. So many programs like to call themselves AAA but do little to actually provide the infrastructure needed. There is so much criteria that goes into it. Number of practices, duration of practices, number of games, quality of opponents, exposure. These are just a few of things that go into it. The AAA level is not for everyone. It takes a special mindset of both a player and his family to do it. We live by the "FET" way of doing things.
Q: What is FET?
A: FET is an acronym for Family, Education, T-Bird Hockey. It lays out a simple philosophy for our players and families to live by. Family comes first. Without a strong family support system, a player has little chance to succeed. It also means that if a player has a family event that is a one-in-lifetime event, that takes priority over all else. Next comes education. Without a solid education, a player has little chance to succeed. Junior teams want smart hockey players. Colleges want smart hockey players. If you can't think the game, you can't play the game. Moreover, without good grades, colleges won't even look at you. They can't. You won't qualify. That's why education ranks above hockey. The 3rd thing is T-Bird Hockey. Not just hockey, our team. Players at this age have many distractions and other events that can take time away from their endeavor of playing the game. If playing on this team isn't your primary commitment outside of family and school, then it will likely not be a good fit for them. That might sound terse but it is reality. Many parents moan and complain that hockey at this level requires too much time and commitment that takes away from school. That is absolute nonsense. I merely have to point you to every IVY league hockey player. Those student athletes have found the right balance and commitment to both exceed at school and at hockey. This is a deal breaker for me, personally. If a player isn't committed to overall development of himself and his interaction with his team, he should look for another level of hockey. There is no shame in it. It comes down to what a player wants. If they want to advance in the game then they must constantly improve and develop. You can't do that by constantly missing practices and games.
Q: What types of players are you looking for at this level?
A: At this age, players still have time to develop and improve, so skill, while the most important, isn't the only factor in deciding on whether a player is selected. It comes down to an overall attitude and character of the player, himself. My personal goal, at this level, is to train and develop players to give them the best opportunity to succeed. While it is likely the goal of most players to win a national championship, my goal is to help them become the best players they can be on and off the ice. Players cannot succeed on teams I coach on talent alone. A player's desire to succeed, his work ethic to constantly improve and his character to inspire his teammates weigh very heavily on the decisions we make on players. It has to be said, if players vape, drink or do drugs of any kind, they have no place in this environment. I have been fortunate to have players of high character here. I've seen other programs with these types of problems over the years and it is sad. That said, I commend those coaches for both suspending and benching those players for that behavior, which is good to see. Bottom line, I don't know of any coach who wants to put up with players who are late, disruptive, unenthused, lazy, selfish or disrespectful. I'd personally select a player of lesser skill if given the choice, if that lesser skilled guy had the characteristics to become a good player and good person. So to answer it briefly, I'd say skill, attitude, work ethic, commitment and character all play a major role in it.
Q: What about goalies? What do you look for?
A: Same thing. Goalies are tough because many of them gauge their experience by playing time. I'll be the first one to say I don't rotate goalies equally at this level. I rotate them fairly. During the season, goalies will split games at a tournament or showcase if there are an equal amount of games. When there are extra games or a chance to advance, I will usually go with the goalie who has earned the right to get that extra game through his play that weekend. I empathize with goalies and their parents. That said, many have false ideals they place on what they should be looking at as far as their season is concerned. Practice is the most important thing they can receive. Often, what they do in practice, reflects how much game time they earn. Every season, I have goalies who work incredibly hard in practice and other who, quite frankly, dog it. They lack focus and work ethic in practice, yet expect to play equally. It amazes me that this is even a thing. A Goalie's statistics plays a lot heavier on his assessment than that of players. Goalies have one job, to stop the puck. Players can play a variety of roles on a team to earn them ice time. Goalies, fortunately or not, have one job and they are judged heavily on that. Many goalies look at GAA at a gauge. My staff and I look at save percentage, moreover, adjusted save percentage based on where the shots are coming from, etc. It is a more pure way to both assess them and work with them. We are extremely fortunate to have full-time goalie coaches here (Sno-King). They are out at practices. They are watching game film. Most associations don't have a full time guy. We have 3-4. Soupy (Darin Campbell) is out every week and Bloomer (Sam Bloomberg) comes out as well. Sam played NCAA Division 1 and coached there. Their involvement is invaluable. Bottom line, if both goalies exude the characteristics, work ethic and abilities to play, they play. Some years, I have two that play equally. Some years, I only have one. Neither I or my staff chooses who plays, they do.
Q: What about games? How many do you play?
A: The baseline for teams I coach at this level is 60. Last year we played 64. The year before 76, which was more than any other team in AAA. 3 years ago, 58. How many games a coach decides to play is subjective to their philosophy on player development. There are other teams in the state who play 40-45 games. That is there philosophy and I am here to neither endorse or discourage that model. Practice time is the most important thing for me. We practiced 89 times last year. My goal is 90. So long as we get those practices in, I am for playing a minimum of 60 games. My reasoning behind this is to benefit the goalies and the lesser skilled players on your team. With 60 games, both goalies will get ample starts. It also affords us the luxury of placing players in situations a little out of their comfort zone. With a 40-50 game schedule in a league, I could see a great deal of pressure placed on a team to win each game, due to it's importance. I have a different approach. In a 60 game schedule, we may have 10-12 games that are exhibition games. Those games are great opportunities to give players the chance to experience parts of the game they may not always predominantly play in. Some players may be weak at penalty killing. These are great opportunities to get these guys some of that meaningful time that they may get less of on another weekend. I think anything over 70 games is a lot in a season for players at this age. The year we played over 70 was because we reached the finals in the 8 or so tournaments we played in. That meant 10-15 extra games. However, games are also shortened for some tournaments so when you say 70 games, that is really subjective to the actual length of games.
Q: What are you looking forward to this year?
A: Every year presents new challenges and this one is no different. We have the ability to bring back 4 players from last years group. That means, most of the team will be new. I have always relied on a good core of guys returning to help the new guys coming to learn the way we do things. This year, there is a greater emphasis on them to lead, which is good. I also anticipate less out of town players due to COVID-19. This will give many of our area's players who may not have had a chance in year's past, a good opportunity. We also will be looking for 2 new goalies as well as both from last year aged out. I will also have 2 new assistants this year, which will be challenging for me, in a positive way. I have learned a lot in my 3 shirt years coaching 16U. Some of the things I did while coaching in juniors or the pros don't really work at 16U. I've learned a lot through various coaching symposiums and meetings with my contemporaries and have learned new concepts I will be introducing. All of these things are what keep me going and looking forward to the season.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the safety of the players and their families. They, like myself, are so eager to get things rolling and get back onto the ice. There is so much to be excited for. We have two new ice sheets going in. We are hosting a league showcase this year and things will get back to normalcy at some point. I am just thankful to have a supportive organization and players and families that believe in what we are doing.
Boston, MA 11/18/18
The Sno-King 16U Jr. Thunderbirds returned from the Islanders USPHL Showcase this past weekend with much to celebrate about. The team enjoyed some on ice success, got to see some of the best competition on the east coast, and met an NHL Hall of Famer all in the same weekend.
The T-Birds entered the showcase on a roll, winning 10 of their last 12 games and were hoping to compete against some of the USPHL's best. They did just that.
The team arrived Thursday afternoon and after a long day of travel, got settled in to their hotel where they watched game footage of their upcoming opponents to prepare for the 5 games that lay ahead. Their first match up was against the Connecticut Rangers. The 'Birds came out hustling and scored just :31 seconds in when Phinny Weston banged home a rebound from a Ty Waram shot to lead 1-0. It was all Sno-King as they added 3 more goals, including an empty net, short handed goal from Weston to give him two for the afternoon and Sno-King a 4-0 victory. Sno-King outshot the Rangers 40-13 and goaltender, Andy Vlaha, went the distance to earn the shutout.
The team had just enough time to refuel and grab a little rest as they then played at 7:00pm vs. the Jersey Hitmen. Sno-King again scored first on a laser from Trevor Childears to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Jersey answered back before Sno-King scored 2 more times in the first period to gain a 3-1 lead. The second period saw Jersey draw within one after a goal with just 6:18 remaining in the period. However, it was all Sno-King after that as the Jr. T-Birds scored 4 straight times, cruising to a 7-2 win. Childears and led the way with 2 goals, with singles going to Klenk, Alonzo, Loucks, Schleusner, Weston and McCarragher. Bailey Bradford 6 of the 8 Hitmen shots he faced. Sno-King launched 38 shots at the Jersey netminder.
Game 3 was an early affair. The 8:;00am game Saturday was against Philly Hockey Club, who entered the game with impressive stats. Sno-King again started their scoring early to lead 3-0 after one period. The teams traded 2nd period goals and did it again in the 3rd before Sno-King scored one last time to cap a 6-2 victory. Stirling Nash led the way with 3 goals and 2 assists for the Big Blue. Others scoring goals were Waram, Ojala, & McCarragher. Andy Vlaha stopped 13 of 15 shots and the 'Birds outshot Philly 33-15.
After a quick bite to eat at Boston Market, the team returned to face the NY Aviators AAA team who were were coming off an upset victory of a top 10 ranked opponent. As was consistent with the previous games, Sno-King scored first. Chase Ojala converted on a nice cross crease feed from Nash to give Sno-King a 1-0 lead. NY pushed back by tying the game up but it was the boys in Blue and Green that kept pouring on the goals as they skated to a 5-2 win. Ojala, McCarragher, Geddes, Klenk and Waram all scored for Sno-King and the 'Birds outshot NY by a narrow 26-24 margin. Bailey Bradford went the distance for Sno-King, stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced.
The string of 4 victories set up a meeting with the Hartford Wolfpack on Sunday morning. Many would summate that fatigue would play a big factor on the Sno-King team as they played a total of 5 games in less than 3 days. It turned out that that wasn't to be the case as Sno-King as they outshot the Wolfpack 34-9, cruising to an impressive 8-1 win, tops amongst all teams at the showcase. Stirling Nash earned his 2nd hat trick of the showcase and chipped in an assist, good enough for tops in scoring for the showcase. Also scoring for the T-Birds were McCarragher, Geddes, Klenk and Ojala (2). Andy Vlaha 8 of 9 Hartford shots.
With 6 hours to kill before their flight, the team went to downtown Boston to take in the Freedom Trail, where they were educated on some rich US History such as the Paul Revere House and the site of the Boston Tea Party among other landmarks. Just when the team thought the weekend was over, they were treated to an encounter at the airport with Willie O'Ree. O'Ree was recently in Boston, fresh off his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The team got their fill of photos and were each given a signed Hall of Fame card by O'Ree and were treated to several stories along the way.
Next up for the T-Birds is a couple of days of practice before Thanksgiving. They then head to BC this Friday for 4 games over the weekend.
Kirkland, WA 4-3-20: The Sno-King Jr. Thunderbirds 16U AAA Coaching Staff has released their off-season training program.
The training program incorporates weight training, plyometrics, dynamic warm-up and warm downs, jump rope bike and road training, all designed to enhance and maintain a player's strength, cardio-vascular, aerobic, anaerobic, quickness and explosiveness.
The program is available to any player who registers for the 16U AAA tryouts. Players can receive the program, simply by registering for tryouts and contacting 16U Head Coach, Mike Butters.
The off-season workout program is being maintained by 16U AAA strength and conditioning coach, Jacob Alberts. "Jake" is certified in the field of fitness and has consulted with NHL and NCAA teams in the development of this off-season program. "This program is simple. It is designed to prepare players for the upcoming tryouts and season, in general. It incorporates the latest training techniques and, if implemented into a players daily regime, will yield positive results."
"The tie-breaker in many decisions on a player, comes down to their overall fitness level," says 16U Head Coach, Mike Butters. While working in the NHL, I quickly discovered why these players made it to this level. Sure, their skill was superior, but it was their attention to fitness and nutrition that separated them from much of their competition."
While the hard dates for the 2020 tryouts have been not been set, players are encouraged to register now by clicking here:
Kirkland, WA 9/29/19
The 16U AAA team opened their 2019 Home campaign with a bang as they won their host tournament for the second year in a row.
Sno-King opened the first day of the tournament with convincing wins over the West Coast Renegades 5-1 and the Cloverdale Colts 6-3. They dropped their final game of the round robin portion of the tournament 3-1 to Wenatchee.
In the semi final, it took overtime to launch the 'Birds into the final. Despite out shooting the Cloverdale Colts 52-17, it took the overtime heroics of assistant captain, Danny McCarragher to put Sno-King through to the big dance where they would face the West Coast Renegades. West Coast upset Wenatchee in the other semi-final by a 5-4 score.
The final was all Sno-King as they scored early and often, en route to a 8-1 win.
Registration will open July 1st at 5PM for returning '19-'20 Sno-King Players (including graduating hockey 2 players). Non Sno-King players may register for tryouts now or the entire '20-'21 season on August 1st.
For more information about registration visit here.
It is an exciting time to be involved in Sno-King hockey with the new Snoqualmie arena opening, and the NHL coming. We are expecting record numbers so don’t delay registering! Sno-King '20-'21 season registration closes August 15th unless we are full before the date.
If you have any questions during the registration process please contact Andrew at Andrew.Birnbrich@snokinghockey.com.
We are looking forward to another great season at Sno-King Hockey!
Sno-King Hockey Staff