Sometimes all it takes is a small group of people with a big, crazy idea to impact change in a community.
That’s how the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL) came into existence. What began with an idea from a small group of parents has grown from one hockey team at one high school in 2008 to a 14-team league representing 12 schools. Each Saturday during the season, the stands at Anaheim Ice are filled with students and families cheering their school.
“We were approached by some parents who had an idea,” says Art Trottier, vice president of THE RINKS. “We developed the program and introduced our charter team in the league at JSerra Catholic High School [in San Juan Capistrano] on July 1, 2008. The league now has nine varsity teams and five junior varsity teams. It’s incredible to see growth like this in such a short period.”
A part of the Anaheim Ducks G.O.A.L. Hockey Program (Growth, Outreach and Awareness Locally), the league gets from the Ducks the financial support and essentials to get teams started at interested schools, including equipment, coaching staff and team administration. The league’s website features rosters, standings, live-streaming videos of each game and a weekly video recap. Today, the ADHSHL comprises both public and private schools, not only in Orange County but extending beyond the county line, with recent additions such as Long Beach Prep.
“Our goal is to see the addition of three to four new teams to the league each year,” says Trottier. “Most of the interest currently being generated is from public schools, and we have several interested schools in San Diego County as well.”
The boys and girls who play in the ADHSHL have different skill levels and come from different backgrounds. Some got their start in roller hockey, and many play on local club teams as well. But when they suit up each week, they share in the pride of playing for their high school.
For forward Justin Goette, senior and assistant captain for Orange Lutheran High School’s varsity team, the chance to represent the Lancers on the ice has been a positive addition to his high school experience.
“My teammates are my friends, and the camaraderie is great,” says Goette. “It’s like a family to me.”
The support of the Ducks organization has resulted in several league teams being coached by former Ducks players, including Santa Margarita Catholic High School head coach Craig Johnson, Orange Lutheran head coach Jason Marshall, and Los Alamitos High School head coach David Karpa and assistant coach Jeff Freisen.
For former Ducks defenseman Marshall, the chance to impart hockey skills to players at the high school level has been a great extension of life in the sport after a solid 12-season career in the NHL.
“I love hockey,” Marshall says. “And I see how important that school pride is for these kids as they wear their jerseys on campus. Whether they go on to play at the college level or not, they are developing some great friendships and life skills.”
The coaches in the league received training from the Ducks coaching staff, when head coach Bruce Boudreau and his assistants hosted a clinic for coaches in late October at Anaheim Ice.
“The goal at the high school level is to teach, so we review with the coaches the techniques that we use and then discuss how that translates into teaching 14- to 18-year-olds,” says Boudreau.
With his son Brady goaltending for the Orange Lutheran varsity Lancers, Boudreau also gets to see firsthand as a parent how this league is impacting youth hockey in SoCal.
“This is my first time being involved with the league, and it’s fantastic to see the commitment to growing the sport here locally. With the Ducks recent local draft picks in Emerson Etem [Long Beach, 29th overall in 2010] and Nic Kerdiles [Irvine, 36th overall in 2012], it’s no secret that California is becoming a new hotbed for the development of elite hockey players.”