By Matt Mackinder, NA3HL.com
There is nowhere to go but up for the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution. A winless 2010-2011 season in the North American 3 Hockey League pretty much makes anything positive next year a success. “Yeah, even if we win one game, that’s 100 percent improvement, right?” asked new head coach Richard Keyes.
Hired in early July, Keyes has been in the Battle Creek area having started the Kalamazoo Institute of Ice Hockey in 2006 after his nine-year pro career came to a conclusion. He said he had been contacted in the past about coaching the Jr. Revolution, but the timing wasn’t right. Now, it is.
“Right now is the right opportunity,” said Keyes, who also played collegiately at Michigan State in the mid-1990s. “It’s no secret about the 0-44 season last year and that we need to re-structure the organization and turn it into a world class situation. To be honest, I enjoy projects like this. I think I have a good reputation as a development coach and I believe taking over the Revolution is right up my alley.”
While no players have been signed yet by Battle Creek, Keyes sees that as a chance for an every-man-for-himself mentality when it comes to tryout camps later this summer. “We’ve opened up our roster and are looking for disciplined and dedicated players,” Keyes said. “These players also need to have an exceptional commitment level. We need players who are willing to make the sacrifices needed to play at this level.”
The past couple years have had the Revolution pro team in the All American Hockey League, but with that league ceasing operations last spring, the Jr. Revolution is the lone team in town. Keyes thinks that’s a good thing. “This is a great hockey community,” said Keyes. “I believe people who supported the pro team will also come out and support the junior team. They need to know they’ll be watching kids who will be advancing to higher levels of hockey.”
While hockey has always been a part of Keyes’ life, the NA3HL presents a new endeavor. And while he admits he didn’t know too much about the league prior to taking the job in Battle Creek, from what he’s seen and learned since then has been very encouraging.
“Once I got involved, I made some calls and asked some people what they knew about the 3HL and everyone I talked to was very excited,” said Keyes. “This league is gaining prestige and that’s what I want to be a part of. I didn’t want to join a destination league where kids come and play after high school and that’s it. I want to be part of a league where kids come here, develop and move up to the North American Hockey League, United States Hockey League and college. I want to see kids that want to get to the next level. I believe the 3HL can offer that.”
Keyes also has plans to run the Jr. Revolution in a professional and consistent manner.
“When I played juniors, we were on the ice four or five days a week and for two hours each day,” explained Keyes. “To me, that was a great selling point and that’s what we will be offering here in Battle Creek. We want to set ourselves apart from other teams in the league and think we can offer something that not many teams can offer. By being on the ice and me teaching and the players learning, I’m hoping that will create opportunities for these kids like the ones I had that led me to play in the NAHL and then D-I college. We want to teach the lifestyle of a student-athlete.”
Still, Keyes knows that turning around a program that has won just a handful of games over the past few seasons (including time in Grand Rapids as the Jr. Owls) is more than a snap of the fingers and wishful thinking. “This next season will be a process, a challenge,” said Keyes. “Once we start this year, my hope is that we can get right in there and let people know we’re not the same team of the past. We want everyone to know that Battle Creek will be in the mix.”
FLINT ALUM CHOOSES ATLANTIC HOCKEY SCHOOL
Former Flint Jr. Generals forward Mark Rivera has committed to American International College for this fall. Rivera played 20 games in Flint during the 2009-2010 season, posting 16 goals among 30 points. “I am looking forward to attending American International College and greatly appreciate the Division I opportunity they have presented me with,” said Rivera of the Atlantic Hockey school. Prior to Flint, Rivera played four games at Division III Stonehill College in 2008-2009.
ST. LOUIS TO HONOR JOST FAMILY
For over 30 years, the family of Jim and Ginny Jost has donated time, money and sweat to give St. Louis-area players a low-cost opportunity to continue and grow their hockey careers.
In that time, many of their own children and grandchildren have played for the Jr. Blues and hundreds of players have made their way through the program and moved on to higher levels of junior hockey, the NCAA ranks and even the NHL.
To honor the family that has given so much to the St. Louis hockey community, the Jr. Blues and Affton Youth Hockey are going to retire the No. 7 that was worn by most of the Jost hockey players in a ceremony will take place before the Jr. Blues’ home opener on Friday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the game will be donated to the Jim and Ginny Jost CBC Scholarship Fund.
SPOSIT NAMED TO CLEVELAND PR POST
Tony Sposit has been promoted to head up the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks public relations, promotions and game-day operations. Over the past four years, Sposit has served as the Jacks’ public address announcer, FASTHockey producer, music and lighting director and play-by-play announcer. “We already have a great broadcast and we need to even it up with great PR,” stated Cleveland coach-GM Bob Jacobson.
BULLS SIGN PAIR FOR 2011-2012
The expansion North Iowa Bulls have signed their first two players for next season as forward Reed Gregory and defenseman Noah Anderson will suit up for head coach Todd Sanden this fall.
“I have heard a lot of great things about the fan support in North Iowa and excited to play for Coach Sanden,” said the 16-year-old Gregory, the Bulls’ first signee. “It is going to be a completely different atmosphere than what I am used to with the current team I play for (Colorado Rampage U16 AAA).”
Gregory went to the Bismarck Bobcats’ NAHL camp earlier this summer. Bismarck head coach Layne Sedevie commented that Gregory was the most skilled and hardest working young player in the camp and sees the NAHL as an option in the future.
Anderson, a Groveland, N.Y., native has lived in Michigan the past three years while playing Bantam AAA for Little Caesars, Midget Minor AAA for Belle Tire and Midget Major AAA for Victory Honda.
“Noah was referred to the North Iowa Bulls from the Soo Eagles of the (Tier II) Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League,” Sanden said. “Tom Farnquist, a Soo scout, suggested that Noah might be a good fit after partaking in an open camp for the Eagles and doing well. I also watched some video of Noah at the Green Bay Gamblers USHL tryout and liked what I saw. Noah made it all the way through the camp to play in the All-Star game. Noah looks to be a strong skating defenseman with very good ice vision.”
Sanden also said this is the tip of the iceberg for what will be the on-ice product come September.
“It is my goal as coach of the Bulls to utilize my contacts in order to build a team that allows players to come here and gain valuable playing time in order to continue their development towards the NAHL and USHL,” explained Sanden.
JR. PENGUINS LOOK TO BE FITTEST TEAM IN NA3HL
The Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins have formed a partnership with Fit FX at Alpha Tennis & Fitness of Pittsburgh to improve the player’s overall health, strength, quickness, speed and core mental focus. “The goal is to provide a structured program by strength and conditioning professionals to enhance the player’s on-ice performance,” Pittsburgh head coach Brian Cersosimo said. “The club hopes that the program will also offer other benefits, including injury prevention and rehabilitation, by improving their hockey-specific movement patterns.”
Fit FX will evaluate a player’s endurance, speed, agility, strength and power, flexibility and reaction time and all will now be part of the player evaluation process prior to the team’s final cuts. “Because the players range in age, size and strength, they will be placed in groups according to age and ability,” said Fit FX head trainer and fitness manager Josh Berthold. “Fit FX will prepare a structured and scientifically-organized program that builds the athlete from the foundation up through proven physiological principles and exercise methodology designed specifically for developing athletes.
“The long-term outlook for the program is to run throughout the season using an integrated-periodization model that allows improvements all year round, with primary emphasis during the postseason to peak, based on game and practice schedules.”