Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chicago-area junior hockey teams adopt Blackhawks' playing style

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In June 2010, 9-year-old Javi Ubarri woke several morning at his home in Glenview sleep deprived haze.

Reason? He could turn his attention from running the Chicago Blackhawks' through the playoffs to the Stanley Cup.

"I would sneak my phone in my room and hide under my pillow," said Ubarri. "I'd watch the Super nervously hope of winning."

Six years later, Ubarri 15-year-old Glenbrook South sophomore. He is also a 5-foot-9, 175-pound defender for Team Illinois, elite club hockey team based in Lake Zurich, who plays in West Dundee and Bensenville. A child who anxiously watched heroes like Blackhawks defender Duncan Keith are now trying to emulate the Blackhawks' game style that emphasizes puck possession and tempo.

"In our system, it's more about using your skills instead of gritty or intoxicating," said Ubarri. "You can totally see the impact."

Blackhawks effect 'on Chicago-area junior hockey is extensive. Former Blackhawk and two-time Stanley Cup Daniel Carcillo recently joined the team coaching staff for Illinois under 15 squad. Anders Sorenson's player development coach with the Blackhawks and Woodridge Chicago-based missions, another prominent junior club.

Blackhawks in the first round draft pick Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman missions alum and former Team Illinois forward Anthony Louis was a sixth-round pick Hawks in 2013. Former Hawks goalie and Park Ridge native Craig Anderson played for the Chicago Young Americans, who are based in Libertyville and play home matches in Lincolnwood.

Mission, young Americans, Team Illinois and Chicago Fury are all AAA clubs. AAA hockey's highest level of youth hockey in the United States and Canada.

"The ability level of skills and skating for younger players who come in now is much higher than 10 years ago," said Sorenson. "Part of it is because of the Blackhawks as the children come in younger and have something to strive for. It was a great thing for Chicago hockey."

Youth hockey players spend copious hours honing his craft in rinks in Lincolnwood, Woodridge, Bensenville and West Dundee. Since the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup three of the last seven seasons, the local hockey hopes took notice.

"In our team, a good chunk of our practice is to drill the flow to a better team on the way," Stevenson sophomore-to-be and mission forward Kyle Schroeder said. "The Blackhawks' style. The players in our team tends to play as players on the Blackhawks."

But it is not only the top-tier programs start seeing profits from Blackahwks.

Northbrook Hockey League has a full menu menu of programs, learn-to-play for a 4-year-olds traveling league for teenagers. Hockey Director Rich Blakey said summer instructional leagues are often sold out.

"We get 150 children session," said Blakey, in his 10th year with the Northbrook. "Our numbers are busting at the seams, which is good to have a problem."

Vernon Hills, Glacier Ice Rink hockey is a home for children ranging in age from 5 to 16 years, Vernon Hills Ice Dogs begin at mites and advance through the spray is one of the bantam and midget levels.

Glacier ice hockey director Ken Johnson said the success of the Blackhawks' created a butterfly effect that goes beyond just wins and losses.

"I would say that success and community involvement has helped," he said. "Blackhawks are out there that are in the community and get into different stadiums."

Johnson recalled a Thanksgiving tournament for people with special needs, which takes place on the glacier every year. Blackhawks send their mascot and provide uniforms and equipment for the participants.

Johnson said it is likely to draw the last championships Blackhawks' and community involvement will be strengthened and entered the glacier camps and leagues.

"Growing," Johnson said. "I think most organizations to grow."

Buses also noted the increased capability that mimics the Blackhawks' my player's mental and physical dedication to the sport.

"They are driven by children with above-average hockey sense and high hockey IQ," said Chicago Mission Hockey Director Gino Cavallini. "I understand you have to give your time."

Yet the path from minor hockey NHL is extensive. Schmaltz played two college seasons at North Dakota, while Hartman decided to play in the Ontario Hockey League. Both played in the US National Team Development Program, organized through USA Hockey.

Chicago-area AAA clubs were supplying the US hockey with some of their best players in recent years. USA Hockey Central District is comprised players from Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, but rather the 15- and 16-year-old players from Illinois - including Ubarri and Schroeder - were invited to the summer development camp than the other five States combined.

"Our (hockey club), people are still choosing Team USA and get drafted in the NHL," said Ubarri. "I watch how hard (Keith) works. I hope to be that good one day."

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