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Published: Friday, August 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Silvertips move to grow area hockey

Partnership created between the team and the Everett Youth Hockey progam.

EVERETT -- The Everett Silvertips want to see the sport of hockey grow in Snohomish County. Therefore, they're diving in at the grass-roots level.
The Tips are getting directly involved with the local hockey scene by partnering with the Everett Youth Hockey program. The partnership will see the Tips take over most of the administrative duties for the organization.
"The whole idea is to grow the game," said Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson, who in the reorganization will oversee Everett Youth Hockey. "Grow more fans, grow more players, grow more referees, just every aspect of the game. One thing led to another, and we came up with this partnership."
"It's very exciting because the main difference is it's a true partnership," said Jerry Weir, who was hired to serve as Everett Youth Hockey's general manager. "Now working under the umbrella of the Silvertips, we've got everything from the administrative help to the coaching help to access to the players, as well as a facility that in my opinion can't be beat in North America."
The Everett Youth Hockey program began in 2004 in the wake of the Silvertips joining the Western Hockey League in 2003. The program is based out of the Comcast Community Ice Rink, which is part of the same facility as the Tips' home rink, Comcast Arena. The program serves players from the Mite (8-and-under) to the Midget (18-and-under) levels. It was previously run by Global Spectrum, the company that operates Comcast Arena.
However, Everett Youth Hockey has seen declining participation in recent years. Part of that is due to competition from Team Seattle, the Seattle Junior Hockey Association and the Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association. Part is due to issues within the organization. The goal of the partnership with the Tips is to reverse that trend and increase the amount of participation in local youth hockey.
"Sitting on the outside looking in the past 18 months, there's certain things I looked at and was struggling with," Davidson said. "We have such a good facility here and a youth program that in my opinion was kind of flat-lining. When Jeff (Schumacher, Global Spectrum's new general manager) came on board as GM we talked about different things and we started talking about the youth hockey program. He was really struggling with it because he isn't a hockey guy and he wasn't sure what to do with it. I said, 'Well, we're the hockey people, maybe we have to sit down and talk about this and come up with some sort of partnership that makes sense.'"
The Tips' first action in charge was to hire Weir, who as Everett Youth Hockey's general manager will handle the day-to-day operations. Weir, an Everett native, has long been active in the local youth hockey community as a coach and instructor, and he's served in multiple director positions with the Seattle Junior Hockey Association.
The enthusiastic Weir envisions a dramatic increase in the number of kids playing with Everett Youth Hockey.
"I think we're looking at tripling or quadrupling our numbers over the next 18 months to three years," Weir said. "Our job is to teach kids, and to do that you have to do it well and do it right. We're not going to grow so fast we can't do that, but I believe with this partnership we're going to be able to grow the volunteers, the coaches, the process to the point where we can reach those type of numbers. I've personally had that kind of success growing the game at the youth level. Given all the tools we have here, I'm pretty sure I can do that here.
"We're going to have programs for everyone who wants to play this sport," Weir added. "If you want to play recreationally and just have fun, we've got that program. If you want to challenge yourself and play at a higher level, we can do that. At the end of the day, each group is going to have a focused plan for them to get better and make sure they're having fun. We can grow the game with that mentality."
But the goal isn't just about numbers, the Tips also want local youths to have a better opportunity to develop as players. The Tips drafted Snohomish County players in each of the past two bantam drafts, Mill Creek defenseman Daniel Woolfenden in 2012, and Stanwood defenseman Connor Nobach this year. Both have had to leave the area to find programs that fit their abilities -- Woolfenden attended Culver Academies in Culver, Ind., last season, Nobach is headed to Anaheim, Calif., this season to play for the LA Jr. Kings. The Tips want Everett Youth Hockey to reach the point where players such as Woolfenden and Nobach no longer feel compelled to leave.
To further encourage local youth players, the Tips plan on assigning one of their players to each team in Everett Youth Hockey to serve as a mentor and help assist with the team.
"We're not just going to flip a switch and change everything overnight," Davidson said. "But I really think over the next two or three years we're going to head down a path that develops a program that's exciting to be a part of, something that people in other parts of the country look at and say, 'Hey, these people are going a good job with the game.'"
Check out Nick Patterson's Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.
Story tags » Silvertips

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