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Daily Dish: Port Huron Move to PA, Daily Report Junior Hockey News

Published: Wednesday, 7 May 2014  
By: Stephen Heisler,

DAILY DISH: Fighting Falcons on way to Connellsville, PA to become Keystone Ice Miners

Maribeth Hayes has had more than her fair share of obstacles to overcome as the owner of the North American Hockey League's Port Huron Fighting Falcons. Now the team has received conditional approval from the North American Hockey League to relocate to Connellsville, Pennsylvania to become the Keystone Ice Miners.

The Ice Miners will play at the Ice Mine of Connellsville, a 4,000 seat facility, is a 70 miles ride from Pittsburgh International Airport. More importantly, the Ice Mine is only 85 miles from the home of division rival Johnstown Tomahawks.

The club got a late start back in 2010-2011 while under the direction of National Hockey League veteran Ernie Hicke and his son Shane. The relationship between the Hicke family and Hayes quickly soured, forcing the owner into an operational change that introduced Bill Warren as the Head Coach and Marty Haddad as the General Manager  in December of 2010.

Warren's eighteen month tenure included a complete turnaround in 2011-12 that resulted in a Division Championship and berth at the Robertson Cup. Warren's work was honored by his peers as the NAHL's Coach of the Year for that season.

Despite the team's 2011-2012 successes on the ice, Hayes was less than impressed with what was going on at the box office. She was convinced that former minor professional hockey coach Steve Shannon would be the key hire as the General Manager to turn the financially drained club around. That hire proved to be disastrous with one exception; somebody had the forethought to bring current Head Coach Mike Gershon on as the assistant.

With Shannon calling the shots, Bill Warren quickly resigned as the head coach making way for Shannon to name himself to the position. His time on the bench was brief; Hayes relieved Shannon of his duties in October and Gershon was named the club's third head coach in seven months and the fourth in three seasons.

Gershon has proved himself to be a gem of a hire and has brought amazing stability to an otherwise unsteady situation. Despite turmoil and drama, Gershon has been able to direct an exceptional on-ice product, capturing a regular season division championship this season.

The conditional approval by the league does come with a number of strings that forces Hayes into full compliance with USA Hockey standards, an issue the team has struggled with in the past.

The Connelsville community is getting a very solid hockey team but the success of the organization will be up to local supporters and businesses. Without that support, the team will continue to face the same type of economical shortcomings that were seen in Port Huron.

With that said, the region has proven ability to support this level of play in Johnstown and I have no reason to doubt the long-term viability of the Ice Miners in this market.

NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld should be able to put another notch on his belt as well. Frankenfeld has seen a number of teams move from poor economic situations to stronger and stable markets. Alpena to Corpus Christi, Albert Lea to Amarillo, Owantonna to Odessa and Alaska to Johnstown are a few of our favorites.

For what it's worth, is excited to add Keystone hockey fans to the level of play.

Now let's play.



Daily Report teams were asked this question. How are your training camps operated? What is the typical schedule?

Detroit Fighting Irish,  Midwest Junior Hockey League - "We operate our training camps with a combination off ice, on ice  training and testing.  Each day we set a camp goal and each team and we set up a set of measurable that serve as a point system promoting a competition within the competitive environment," Dan Vasquez replied. "All of our players will also attend several lecture session in which we will bring speakers in from other sports as well as an academic related lecture as well.  We want every player whom attends our camp to walk away with some type of value.  We hold our camps during the week  Mon- Friday in the evening typical is 4 hours with check in  , off ice, lecture , on ice, post skate meal."

Soo Firehawks, Midwest Junior Hockey League - "We run our training camps pretty basic with nothing fancy. Usually two games Friday then two Saturday and one final skate on Sunday," Matt Parker replied.  Then talk with some new players and cement plans with some of the guys you have been working on throughout the summer."

Glacier Nationals, North American 3 Hockey League -  "Our training camps are set up for the maximum benefit to the player and parent. We want all skaters to be challenged and feel they have received in depth training regardless of the outcome or where they play. Our staff has extensive experience and knowledge that we all try and pass on to any skater in attendance," General Manager Butch Kowalka responded. "We also have staff off ice available to answer any team or junior hockey related questions the parents might have. With our detailed evaluations, we pass on to the player his strengths and make solid suggestions of areas he could improve. Most importantly we work with players to help them in finding the most compatible home for their upcoming season. Whether with the Nationals or higher groups, we are well connected and can help put the player where they need to be. 

Typical schedule depending on numbers

Friday evening: Skill Drills / Small Area games

Saturday morning: Skill Drills / Small Area games 

Saturday evening: Scrimmage

Sunday morning: Scrimmage   

Michigan Main Camp: August 15-17 Suburban Ice-Macomb

Pre-season Open Camp and Tournament Septembet 1-7 Havre, Montana

Arizona Redhawks, Western States Hockey League -  "I generally don't scrimmage all the time," Head Coach Robert Powell replied. "I like to run drills and situation drills to see how each player responds and I also like to run them through a typical practice and see how they respond to the drills."

Cheyenne Stampede, Western States Hockey League - "I am new with the Stampede so we are still working through the logistics at this time.  Usually my training camp is a week long and we have both on and off ice training along with numerous team building exercises," Eric Ballard answered.  "Typical is ice in the morning, dry-land after ice and then lunch and chalk talk.  Then again a ice session in the early afternoon. That will go for 6-7 days with an inner-squad game at the conclusion."

Long Beach Bombers, Western States Hockey League -  "We usually have various training camps, throughout the off-season.  Aside from some off ice height/weight measurements, and player interviews, we play three full competitive games," Head Coach Chris White answered.  "These games are scouted by multiple staff members, as well as some u18 coaches.  This gives us the opportunity to see players in a situation similar to our typical three-game weekend."  

Southern Oregon Spartans, Western States Hockey League - "Training Camp is always an exciting time of year.  Traditionally by training camp the player selection process is complete and players, coaches, management and ownership are now looking forward to prepare for the upcoming season," David Cole explained. "In some cases a couple decisions need to be made and a couple extra players may still be in camp. A typical day at training camp would operate on a structured basis."

We start each day with a morning meeting to review the schedule for the day and to get an understanding of the goals and objectives for the day's activity.

Pre practice stretch prior to ice session #1
Session #1 generally related to player related drills, player development / skills activities
30 minute window after first ice session
Off ice training
Team Building or off ice activity
Meeting to review Session #2 ice session (understanding of goals and objectives for session)
Pre ice time stretch
Session #2 generally related to understanding / implementing team game systems etc.
Possible controlled scrimmage 15 minutes
60 minutes window after second session
Team recreational activity for the evening

"Training Camp is an excellent chance for the team to begin the process of preparation and a time to start the process of coming together as a team," the coach concluded.

Whitefish Wolverines, Western States Hockey League - "I only run when chased, so if I were to put on a run training camp in beautiful northwestern Montana, I would platoon my guys into smaller groups and check the bear status reports. I would then spray the guys down with some ode de bacon and drop them off at certain select (based on aforementioned status reports) trail heads. It is an approach I learned from the Patches O'houlihan school of coaching ("If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball")," General Manager Josh Steel joked after reading my mistake of a question. "The real beauty of the lesson here is that you need not outrun the bear, you need only outrun the slowest guy in your platoon, but if you don't stay in a reasonably tight group you lose the benefit of the strategy. In that first little part is the zen goalie's lesson on training camp... Great you need not be, more better than the slob next to you, be you must. Sorry for the late answer, I blame Heisler. We all know it's ALL HIS FAULT."


Daily Report - Want to have your team added to this Daily Report? Contact me directly at or call 281-973-2050.



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Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Now semi-retired, he splits time with family in Texas and at their beach property in Mexico.

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with the Heisler Group. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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