First State Flames Q&A
Will this light travel program structure be your model going forward after the 2020-21 season?
No. We are uniquely positioned to be flexible enough to serve our customers based on market concerns and desires. Assuming the pandemic environment subsides before the 2021-22 season, our plan will be to field teams at the AA, A and B levels, but every aspect of our approach is about player development first and foremost. Our coaches will be some of the best in the state to facilitate this development. Keep in mind that quality use of ice time will frequently surpass quantity of ice time used.
What are the pros and cons of having an independent status? Will FSIH always remain independent?
We believe that in the current environment, we have more control in managing the risks that people are obviously concerned about. We can be significantly more effective in the steps we take to minimize the risks.
There is a definite advantage to playing as an independent team, especially in an uncertain environment. Under our model, we will work with seven other organizations to schedule non-tournament games for our teams. If there is an unforeseen shutdown, we will have the flexibility to shift games to a different location and/or time rather than being locked into a massive league schedule with little flexibility.
As an independent organization, we will not be eligible to compete in the USA Hockey National Championship, however FSIH was never concerned about getting the automatic bid to Nationals. Our main objectives are to develop players, grow the sport, and to facilitate a positive customer experience. The holding of large-scale District and National tournaments will remain highly unpredictable until a proven tested vaccine is developed for COVID-19.
That all said, we are not anticipating that we will remain independent over the long term. We are a customer-centric organization; meeting our customers’ needs and desires is first and foremost in our minds. If our families want us to move in a different direction, we will certainly modify our strategy to suit our customer’s needs.
What happens if I have already registered with another club?
Our interpretation of the guidelines handed down by the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association on May 2, 2020, indicates that a player cannot sign a player agreement with a club until the following dates:
Tier 1 – Monday, June 1
Tier 2 – Thursday, June 11
Independent – Monday, June 22
Clubs have allowed players to pre-register before these dates. Keep in mind that you are not obligated to that club until you sign the player agreement on the dates outlined above.
Once you sign that player agreement, however, you are essentially bound for the 2020-21 season. You may be able to ask for a refund under the COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy if your financial condition changes between signing and July 31. But if you are granted a refund under this policy, your player will not be allowed to roster with another club during the 2020-21 season.
We recommend that you understand the ramifications of what you are signing.
Also, it is important to understand that without formal evaluations or tryouts, team placements are in all likelihood to be more subjective rather than objective.
How does your 2020-21 program integrate with middle school and high school hockey?
We believe that by reducing the number of games and practices for a travel program makes sense for players who participate in school ice hockey programs. Typically, a player playing scholastic high school hockey and travel hockey could wind up playing 65 to 75 games in a season and participate in up to four practices a week. That is a great deal of rink time in a very uncertain environment.
We will attempt to develop a scholastic-friendly schedule that minimizes overlaps, and we plan to work with our partners at the Wilmington Nighthawks to enhance their scholastic program.
Which rink do you intend on playing out of?
We are currently in talks with three rinks in the area. Our season will most likely be played out of those three rinks with a portion of practices and games for each. We are going to be very selective in where we play for the next 12 to 18 months. Once we are confident our rink partners are able to meet our standards, we will move forward with contracts and announcements regarding details.
That said, early preseason (August) practice sessions will in all likelihood will be held at the University of Delaware Ice Arenas.
Please keep in mind that the opening of rinks is contingent upon directives from state governors as they follow established guidelines. Any rink that does not follow safety and health directives will be considered as not meeting our health and safety requirements.
What other developmental activities does First State Ice Hockey plan on offering?
We have added optional monthly skills clinics that will:
• give families the opportunity to pay as you go for financial reasons, and
• allow families to make their own decisions on how often they want their players on the ice around others.
FSIH will offer Accelerated Skills Advancement Program (ASAP) clinics as well as highly specialized skill clinics on a regular basis. This will allow you to invest in player development as your budget allows.
As a parent, you will be in control of what you get out of your investment in youth hockey. If you have paid for two practices a week with a regional league club, but have become aware of a teammate that has become sick, we don’t want you to feel obligated to send your player to practice. This season is about enjoying the sport we love but minimizing the risks associated with it as much as we can. There will be some disruption this year for sure, and safety will be at the forefront for all of us.
How will you maintain safety and adhere to physical distancing guidelines?
Operationally, we will have the obvious policies of no sharing of water bottles, space in the locker room, etc. We will be engaging a medical professional to consult with us as we develop our health and safety protocol. This consultant will help us educate coaches, parents and players during this unprecedented time.
Additionally, we have limited the number of practices for two reasons. The first is cost during these uncertain times. There is no reason to charge up front for practices, when we really don’t know if there will be a second wave of the virus and rink closures. Secondly, scholastic practices and games will supplement development.
Depending on environment and family interest, supplemental practices may be offered at a modest additional cost.
How far will you travel?
We are going to try to remain within a 90-mile radius of Wilmington, Del., for the season. We will make every reasonable effort to avoid high population density locations.