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Many questions to be answered in short time at women’s training camp

03/26/2013, 9:45am MDT
By Justin A. Rice - Special to USAHockey.com

The 28-players invited to this week’s training camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. for April’s International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship are no doubt on edge.

But so is Reagan Carey.

Carey — who joined USA Hockey’s staff in August 2010 as director of women’s hockey — has to run the camp and help whittle the team down to a 23-player roster (along with coach Katey Stone, of course) that will advance to the final selection camp in June for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

And they have less time than usual to do it all before camp wraps up on Sunday.

“This is a really important camp for us; there is a short window for us to host camp, typically it’s a little longer,” Regan calmly explained during a telephone interview last week. “Just the way the calendar falls, between the NCAA finals and the start of worlds, that’s kind of a short window. So it’s even more important to max the time we have. … This is the one opportunity before that [June] tryout for players to benchmark themselves against each other as well as to demonstrate what they bring to them team. They are competing for spots, so it’s a really important camp in terms of looking ahead and preparing for a World Championships.

“There’s a decent amount of multitasking for everyone leading up to worlds, for sure.”

Typically a camp of this magnitude would be equally split between the time used to pick the final roster and the time used for that final roster to practice together. But given the short stretch Carey said they would work with the entire group for the majority of camp and likely finalize the roster down to 23 players on Saturday.

Once that cut is made, the entire tone of the champ changes, Carey said.

“I think the major difference up until that point the team is made is that players are focused on competing for spots and really competing against who will turn around and be a teammate the next day,” she said. “Being able to navigate that is difficult for athletes. To our team’s credit, they do it well.

“The practice will quickly switch to ‘Here is your role’ and ‘How to fill that role’ and ‘What is expected from you,’ because from team to team it could be different.”

Carey also said there are a few minutes of relief for the players once they make the cut.

“I’m sure certainly there’s a few minutes to enjoy the moment and appreciate you earned the opportunity to represent the U.S., to earn a World Championship,” she said. “That quickly turns to rolling up your sleeves and doing what we came to do.”

The cut is also one of the hardest parts of camp for Carey and Stone. But Carey said she thinks they do a good job of constantly letting players know where they stand throughout the process so that if they do get cut they are able to walk away from camp knowing exactly what they need to do to make the team the next time around.

“In our program, coach Stone and myself, we value communication immensely,” Carey said. “As much as it is difficult during the process of cutting players, certainly it’s the hard part of the process, we also talk to players after camp, right before camp and throughout the year we are always communicating and explaining expectations for players individually, to hold them accountable and give them all the tools they need to fill the roles we’re looking for.”

But there is a wide range of expectations in camp this week given the fact that there are nine players who play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, 14 players in college and one player in high school.

Carey said they look for leadership skills to emerge from the players who have been to camp before. As for the rookies, Carey said she not only watches to see how they compete for spots but also how they learn to manage themselves as a newly minted elite athlete.

Carey — who focuses on the management of the women's national program, including elite development efforts of both players and coaches — is uniquely positioned to manage both the younger players and the veterans.

Prior to joining USA Hockey, she was director of fan development and youth marketing for Atlanta Spirit, LLC, the parent company of the Thrashers and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. She also worked in the role of manager of hockey development for the Thrashers for a time period starting in 2004, helping the Thrashers become the first NHL team to adopt and promote USA Hockey's American Development Model, otherwise known as ADM.

ADM, a relatively new philosophy in age-appropriate athlete development, has been implemented for all U.S. women’s hockey programs for 14- to 17-year-olds since Carey took her current post.

Carey also said that after two years on the job her staff is finally fully in tune with her more professionalized NHL approach and that she has finally boned up on the current college-hockey culture.

“Some of my strategies may have been foreign at the beginning, but everyone has been terrific,” said Carey, who herself played college hockey and volleyball for Colby College before graduating in 2001. “There has been a learning curve for me with college hockey and melding the two together.

“Now we’re really seeing the benefit of those two areas working together.”

This week, however, Carey is ultimately looking to see how the players in training camp meld together on the ice.

“You have opportunity to bring the top 20 or 30 players in the nation together to compete,” she said. “Whether they are veterans or rookies the situation is an opportunity for everyone to demonstrate what they are willing to do to make the team better. That’s a big theme for us, putting the team first and what everyone is willing to do to make sure the team comes out successful.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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