THEY SAY the toughest job is being the mom of a goalie, says Ashley Bevan, senior director of adult hockey for USA Hockey in Colorado Springs, the governing body for organized amateur ice hockey in America.
Watching your daughter or son on the ice, you know theyre the last man to save the puck from going into the net, so parents become pretty stressed watching the games.
Hockey teaches responsibility, work ethic, determination and courage.
Its also a great way to build friendships and learn to be part of a team which has unique challenges, says Bevan.
I believe in what we do. We work for something bigger than ourselves and have the opportunity to represent our country in national and international events.
Recognized by the International Olympic Committee and the US Olympic Committee, USA Hockey is also a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The Colorado Springs-based organization was founded in 1937 in New York, and now has a membership exceeding one million. Its mission is to promote hockey in America.
Our focus is to train young people for hockey, Bevan says. We prepare athletes to reach the highest level of their ability, including the Olympics. There are many steps in the ladder of development from youth hockey to non-college hockey, from minor pro hockey to the National Hockey League.
BEVAN OVERSEES the daily operations for adult players in the US. Starting at the age of 18, men and women can participate in programs developed by USA Hockey, which now totals approximately 174,000 players.
Bevans work includes overseeing non-varsity college hockey.
Although many people are familiar with the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. (NCAA) programs, there are thousands of players there who arent at that level. Many male and female hockey players really enjoy the game during college.
Hockey continues to grow in the US, including in states with warm weather where ice hockey is not a prominent sport. Bevan says, Weve had 12 consecutive seasons of membership growth at the adult hockey level so were thrilled about that.
Bevan attributes this growth to the building of more ice rinks, which provide opportunity and recruitment into the USA Hockey programs.
A significant building block has been the First Goal Program, designed to provide free equipment to players interested in learning hockey.
Research identified three barriers to youth hockey: high cost, time commitment and lack of coaching.
We gave young players a bag of starter equipment, including a hockey stick, helmet, gloves, knee and shin pads, elbow pads and an equipment bag, he says. They need to rent or buy their own skates but everything else was provided.
When the Anaheim Ducks used USA Hockeys First Goal program, approximately 500 players showed up to try the game. This resulted in the formation of ten new teams.
While this creates a revenue stream, the important thing is that more people fall in love with the game. Were about growing the game of hockey in the US.
A typical adult participant in these teams is a parent whose children play hockey and live in the sunbelt states of California, Texas and Florida, where there are few hockey teams for kids yet high profile NHL teams.
Bevan and his family moved from Florida to Colorado Springs in 1998 to work for USA Hockey. Previously, he worked for the National Assn. of Police Athletic Leagues in Palm Beach, Fla., which focuses on after-school programming for kids.
The National PAL program helps keep kids off the streets after school, helps them stay out of trouble and participate in a sport.
Before that, Began graduated from the University of Florida with a BS and a major in exercise and sports sciences.
As a child growing up in Florida, Bevan played roller hockey since there werent any ice rinks nearby. I fell in love with ice hockey when I volunteered for the Florida Panthers during the 1996-97 season.
That year, the team went to the Stanley Cup finals where they lost to the Colorado Avalanche. Some people may remember that it was called the year of the rat because fans threw rats on the ice during the game.
On the horizon for Bevan is 2018, as the organization prepares for the US Olympic mens and womens teams, which will play in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
In the winter of 2017, Bevan will travel to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where approximately 3,000 participants will gather from 52 countries over 11 days. Over 3,000 volunteers assist at these events.
Ive been fortunate to oversee the US Mens and Womens National University Teams, he says. Comprised of the best non-varsity players, they compete in the Winter World University Games. This involvement has taken me to Italy, Spain, China and Austria.
My goal is to make sure they are setup for success on the ice. The womens team won bronze in 2013, which was a significant accomplishment for the US.
LIVING IN Colorado Springs has provided the Bevan family with new opportunities. Ashley and his wife Nikki have two children, 10 and 12, who started playing hockey at age four. They continue to play hockey and are currently in the fourth and seventh grades.
We love the Jewish community here in Colorado Springs partly because its close-knit, says Bevan.
In recent years, Nikki served as Temple Shaloms Sisterhood president and is secretary of the Hadassah chapter of Colorado Springs.
She is also a Pain Ambassador for the US Pain Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for pain management as well as continuing education for physicians in pain management.
This year, the Bevan family will celebrate their daughters Bat Mitzvah as members of Temple Shalom.
Colorado is a great place to live and to raise kids who can learn to bike, fish, ski and camp. The active outdoor culture here is fantastic, he says.
Working in the hockey profession, I have found that hockey people are warm, good-hearted folks who work hard and play hard. Some people call us lifers, but Im happy to have that term here at USA Hockey.
We have hockey players who are still playing at 70 and 80 years old. For me, I just couldnt ask for anything more, Bevan says.
Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News