Island League Cross-ice Hockey at MV Ice Arena

If you want to see kids and their parents having a good time, come to the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena on a Sunday morning to watch two simultaneous fast-paced hockey games of 3-on-3 being played cross-ice.

The Martha’s Vineyard Youth Hockey (MVYH) continues its long-standing encouragement of hockey and the skills needed to be a good hockey player. The MVYH Island League (the “IL”) offers players the opportunity to enjoy competitive hockey from November to March without the travel. The IL is dedicated to cultivating and developing players in the sport of ice hockey, but unlike other non-travel leagues, MVYH focuses on improving the hockey skills of its players while training coaches all in an atmosphere that promotes good sportsmanship and the improvement of the player’s skillset, with an emphasis on having FUN.

The IL creates an opportunity for different age levels to combine and play as one team. The coaches are careful to match up lines of the same age bracket so that there are no mismatches. The IL follows the mantra that the only way to become a better hockey player is to practice, practice, practice and play in as many games as possible! This league is an affordable way for kids to be introduced to the great sport of hockey, play on a team, learn skills and become better hockey players.

The IL has doubled the number of teams playing in the league from last season. There are eight teams comprising the IL with over 60 players that join together for practices and games throughout the season. The IL game is divided into two 25-minute running time halves as opposed to the traditional 3 periods. The players get a one-minute ice shift and the buzzer goes off for a line change. The referee will toss the puck into the far corner as the two teams’ race off the bench to the puck. There are at least two lines and in a few cases, three lines per team that rotate every one-minute shift and a goalie. If a player scores a goal, there is no time for the traditional celebrating as the puck is again dumped into the corner to immediately restart the game. Fast past and a great cardiovascular workout for the players. The traditional coaching of players positioning is left for the next level of play as the IL is all about developing individual skills with some passing between the more skilled players. Hopefully by the end of the season, all players will have honed their skills to be able to pass the puck to a teammate. As a retired hockey parent and coach, the one thing that is very noticeable during the games is the lack of disgruntled parents watching the game. Disgruntlement usually is due to a perceived or real lack of ice time for a son or daughter. This is an equal-ice opportunity for all players and by the end of the game, especially early in the season, all players are all exhausted when the game ends.

The teams play using cross-ice, meaning that there are two games running concurrently. The rink is divided in half by installing a Rink Divider system, which is a temporary wall, during the Zamboni ice cut. Why cross-ice hockey? Cross-ice hockey is a far superior training and developmental method of working on skating, stickhandling, shooting and goaltending.  The traditional ice hockey game provides little benefit from an improvement standpoint for a large percentage of the novice hockey players. Usually there are five or six talented skaters who dominate a full ice game at this age. Cross-ice is a 50-minute game, which provides each player with approximately 25 minutes of skating time. A cross-ice game (the game is compressed) of 3-on-3 gives the players exponentially more “touches” of the puck, more shots on net, more goals, more passes and because there is no stoppage of play, significantly more skating.  Think of the experience a goaltender gets in cross-ice hockey. The players need to condition themselves to skate, stickhandle and shoot much quicker.  It is a form of “over-speed” training!  Even more important, this “over-speed” training is not just physical, but mental!  The players must think, react, and make their decisions much quicker than in a traditional game. The mind and body must work together to create optimal performance. You can compare this concept to half-court basketball or young baseball players learning their skills on a Little League field as opposed to a major league field. Think of a 12-year old running to first base, which is only 60 feet away on a Little League field as opposed to 90 feet away in a major league baseball field for a 12 year-old.  Having to play on a smaller sheet of ice promotes more “touches” of the puck and allows more players to be involved in the game. It also forces the kids to constantly move because their space is limited.  More shots are taken on goal during cross-ice, which allows the goaltender to hone his or her skillset as well.

The IL teams play a total of 15 games each using cross-ice so that the players get many more touches with the puck. Additionally, there are 15 skill sessions. The age brackets run from Squirt, Pee Wee and Bantam players. Players are distributed amongst the IL teams to ensure fair and competitive teams in each division. Again, if you want to see a quick pace game with parents cheering their kids on, then come on up to the Ice Arena on a Sunday morning (check for times on the website www.mvarena.com under Youth Hockey, Island League for times).

A donation was made in 2012 by Geoghan Coogan, who devotes an enormous amount of his time on the ice teaching hockey to various groups, and the BC College Hockey Camp administered by Pete Gillis, which is run during the summer, to purchase the “Rink Divider” system that divides the full sheet of ice into two smaller playing surfaces. The Divider itself is made of the same material as the boards that surround the rink; just a bit thinner.  The system comes in approximately 15 pieces and locks together piece by piece.  Once the divider is up, the IL can set up two games on the two smaller ice surfaces. The Rink Divider is setup with precision by coaches and volunteers as the Zamboni cuts the ice prior to the start of the two games and is taken apart while the Zamboni cuts the ice for the next group of skaters; as stated previously there are two 25-minute halves, time for the construction and dismantlement of the Rink Divider system and the traditional 10-minute ice cut, which all take place within 60-minutes.

Jerry Murphy

Arena Director

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What events are happening at your ice arena over the Thanksgiving weekend?

  • Public Skating on Tuesday (12:00 PM till 2:00 PM), Friday (11:00 AM till 2:00 PM) and Saturday and Sunday (2:00 PM till 5:00 PM)
  • Girls Hockey (the Ospreys) skate Tuesday @ 7:00 PM…ages 9 – 14 are welcomed!
  • Adult Learn to Skate Sunday @ 5:00 PM
  • Instructionals (Learn to Play Hockey) for Mites Saturday in November @10:30 PM.
  • Island League games on Sunday 10:30 AM and 11:30 AM
  • Open Stick-handling takes place Monday & Tuesday @ 4:00 PM, Friday @ 3:00 PM, and Saturday & Sunday @ 12:30 PM . Bring your helmet, stick and a puck.
  • The Pro Shop (Sports Haven) hours are posted on the home page of the Martha’s Vineyard Arena each week.

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