Industry Q&A: Keith Perera – Warrior Hockey

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

For this Q&A we have tabbed Keith Perera from Warrior Hockey. Keith handles the stick business for Warrior and can be found on Twitter @warriorstickguy. His Q&A gives some very cool insight to his role with Warrior, some interesting pro requests and where Warrior’s unique graphics and nicknames come from.

Great Skate:  Your Twitter account says you’re the “Warrior Stick Guy”. More or less that sounds like just about every hockey player’s dream job. Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day work.

Keith Perera: Stick Guy is a moniker I stole from an old colleague at Mission Hockey.  He actually had “Stick Guy” on his business card!  I was the “young skate guy” at the time, so I always remembered it.  My day-to-day in simple terms is planning out the product line for future global releases, working with the development team on future technology, crafting the story behind every technology and informing the sales and marketing groups on our stick product and direction.  PMs also work closely with our dealer base and players to come up with new products or technologies that are not currently met in the market.  Making better products to make players better is our main objective.

 

GS: As a guy born in Montreal, raised in LA and now working in Michigan, what type of hockey background do you have?

 

KP: I have a very unique hockey background.  I was born in Montreal where my passion for hockey developed.  I moved to LA at a young age, a couple years after the Gretzky trade, and experienced the hyper-growth of our game through ice and roller hockey.  I started working in a hockey shop at 16yrs old, managed it through college, and got a job at Mission Hockey’s Warranty Department after college.  Worked my way up the ranks to Skate Product Manager (PureFly) and had a short stint in the golf business before landing at Warrior where I began as PM for Sticks/Protective/Goalie.  It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors along the way.  Our industry is a great one.

GS: Lefty or righty?

KP: Right Handed but I shoot Lefty.

GS: Pattern?

KP: I’m using an old Toews Pro pattern…like if E28 and W03-Kopitar had a baby.  When using retail pattern, I float between Kopitar and Kovalev…I’m not very good, so I always blame my sticks :)

GS: Flex?

KP: 85

GS: Velvet Grip, Nipple Grip or basic finish?

KP: I’ve always been an Innovative guy, from the beginning when we used to sell them in our store …so I love the old Polarfibre grip feel.  But these days I use a Matte clear finish with diamond texture (have I mentioned yet that I love my job?).

GS: Do you work with NHL professionals too? If so, what are some of the crazier requests you’ve gotten from the pros you work with.

KP: I do work with Pros sometimes.  Warrior has an amazing team of Pro Reps that have the relationships and are very skilled at figuring out what a pro player needs for their sticks.  Most of my work is done from the standpoint of guiding the Pro Sales Team on direction for what we showcase in pro to help promote our new retail sticks at any given time during the season.  Craziest request: Without a doubt – Ryan Smyth asking us to make a graphite blade “look like wood”…I call it “flesh blade”- it’s kinda gross.

GS: Who is/was your favorite NHLer to work with? Who was the toughest?

KP: It’s a tie: Best two guys ever… Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne for skates.  Selanne is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met and Lidstrom is purest form of class.  Toughest…no comment.

GS: What struggles, if any, have you dealt with working for a company that – when Warrior first jumped into hockey – may not be considered a “traditional” hockey manufacturer?

KP: Great question.  The biggest challenge for Warrior, is what I call, the “post-launch hangover”.  We blew out the doors with an amazing marketing buzz and on-ice product recognition (bright colors/crazy graphics) and it really helped us become the fastest growing hockey brand in this industry’s history.  After that, Dealers and Consumers wanted more from us and needed a reason to buy Warrior for performance and less for standing out in a crowd.  In the last two years, we have been working very hard to give that reason to the consumer.  Our product line has become very focused, very simple, and very high in performance.  Gone are the Dragons and Kroniks.  I can honestly say that Covert and Dynasty lines of product are the very best Warrior/Innovative have made in relation to performance, game-improvement and durability – ever.

GS: Warrior has two very cool sticks on the market, the Covert and the Dynasty. Which suits your game best, and why?

KP: I know this is a total bail-out move, but I like both for very specific reasons:  The Covert’s low kick is ideal for me since I take mostly wrist shots in my beer league.  I love the feel of the True1 construction.  I like the Dynasty’s AxySym since I can really feel the recoil power on slap shots during our company morning skate.  In a more relaxed environment, I have the time to wind up for a slap shot and it feels amazing.  Again, I’m not a very skilled player, so I need all the time I can get!

GS: Both stick lines are full of groundbreaking features, which stood out to you the most during the development process and now that it has hit the market?

KP: Dagger Taper for me is probably the tech that stands out the most.  It’s a very simple visual and tangible concept that takes advantage of our manufacturing ability to achieve the very best performance gains for a player.  True1 allows Dagger Taper to really flex down in the area where, in the past, fuse joints used to be.  We took that “dead flex area” and made it active and lively which most players need.  Dagger allows flex with very little effort; a true game-improvement feature that we were fortunate enough to get a patented.  The feature that is the most “under the radar” is probably TwinSpar.  Adding those two carbon structures to our blades has made huge improvements on our blade durability and pop-life…it’s a great under the hood feature that most people enjoy the benefits of but rarely actually see.

GS: I personally love my Dynasty AX1, what has been the type of feedback you’ve been getting on both the Covert and Dynasty?

KP: The Covert has been a joy.  The performance benefits to players and the quick-release has been awesome to see, especially for players using DT4 and DT5.  The Dynasty was a huge surprise for me.  I honestly didn’t expect so many people to love the feel of the mid-kick and how smooth the stick is to load and release.  It’s really a great time at Warrior.

GS: I noticed Mikhail Grigorenko of the Buffalo Sabres using a white Covert. Will more colors be available to the retail market, or is that a custom option only?

KP: More colors will be available in our retail line with the intro of our New Covert later this year (more info to come later).  Right now, an all-white stick similar to Grigo is available on the customizer.

GS: Going back to the Dolomite and some of Warrior’s earlier stick models, you guys have always had some cool nicknames and artwork for the features you develop. Who comes up with the taglines and logos for these?

KP: It’s a collaboration between myself and our stick designer, Isaac.  He has been with Innovative/Warrior since the beginning of both companies and has been amazing to work with…he’s a technically and aesthetically creative force.  We are both a little quirky and it certainly shows in some of the graphics we worked on in the past.  Our graphics now have become a little more simplified from far, but if you still look closely we always sneak some unique details in there (mid kick logo is a great example).  We are Warrior, always will be…so we embrace being different and having fun all the while building legitimately high performing product and technology.

GS: Both the Dynasty and Covert unveiled some very cool features to the stick world. What can we expect from Warrior in the coming months and years?

KP: I was just saying this to one of our sales guys…it’s a very very exciting time at Warrior.  We have built an amazing product foundation with Covert and Dynasty.  We have learned a lot along the way for what our consumer expects from us and how we can deliver product that will always challenge that.  Our company was started in a Princeton University dorm room, by a kid from Michigan who thought that the Lacrosse industry was too old and “too set in their ways”.  He made a Titanium shaft that shook the industry and changed the game…that spirit lives in everything we do.

Industry Q&A with Mike Mountain about the new Easton VSeries sticks

Easton V - Series Composite Hockey Sticks

The Easton V – Series Composite Hockey Sticks. coming soon to Greatskate.com

A new feature for the blog, we will be sitting down with professional hockey players and industry professionals for a series of Q&As. For our first Q&A we were granted an exclusive opportunity to as Mike Mountain of Easton Hockey a few questions about their newest stick line, the VSeries.

Great Skate: Easton has always managed to raise the bar with each stick they release. What about the new stick line, that you can share, will raise the bar again?

Mike Mountain: The VSeries is really a product of a couple years working with premier shooting instructors and getting a better understanding of shooting mechanics.  We wanted to understand what makes the best goal scorers and then build a product that works with that technique better than anything out there.  We learned that the best players are loading the blade and shooting the puck off the toe.  Our engineers then created the patent pending Hypertoe construction.  It is a series of tapered ribs in the toe of the blade to create additional stiffness and response.

 GS: The Art of Speed is the tagline Easton has been using on the new gear coming out, including the new Mako Skates. Is it safe to say the new stick line will build on the Art of Speed legacy?

MM: Speed is at the core of everything we do.  In sticks we are focused on velocity.  How you achieve it is to create load and release in both the shaft and blade.  Everything that went into the line from patterns and flex’s to coatings and stick lengths are done to create load and release for a maximum velocity.

 GS: Is it correct that the V9E will be the flagship of the new stick line or will there be another model to accompany it?

MM: The V9E and V9 will headline the VSeries.  Both sticks will have the Hypertoe construction in the blade while the V9E will have the elliptical profile and the V9 will have a tapered profile.

GS: It has been cool to see various NHLers using prototype sticks this season without any logos. What can we expect with the V9E color and logo scheme?

MM: You will see those same players transition to the new look in the first round of the playoffs.  We wanted them to truly feel the difference of the new construction and not be swayed by graphics.  The response we got was great in terms of a noticeable performance advantage.

GS: Will the VSeries carry the matte look that the Stealth line has popularized?

MM: They will, we have also added a textured shaft coating that goes along with it.

 GS: In addition to the elliptical profile on the V9E will there also be a model with a traditional taper too?

MM: The VSeries will include a V9E, V5E and V1E with an elliptical profile as well as a V9, V7 and V3 with a tapered profile.

GS: What’s your favorite feature or addition about the new line?

MM: We have added a new pattern to our line, the E36.  It is a lie 5 mid curve with a dual lie and slightly open face.  Like the E28, this pattern forces your hands in the correct position in front of the puck while positioning the heel slightly off the ice in order to load the blade.  The junior version has been engineered specifically for younger players with the curve slightly towards the toe to provide better control.  So far the reception to this pattern has been phenomenal with players.

Round Two Predictions

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

As round two begins I’d like to offer my prognosticating skills up to you all once again for the four series that will set the stage for the Conference Finals. After missing only two series in the first round (ignore that I lost both of my Cup predicted teams) I fully expect to go 0-for-4 with my second round predictions.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

The Penguins sudden issues in goal have made them quite vulnerable. Their six-game triumph over the Islanders only lasted that long thanks to the stumbling play of Marc-Andre Fleury. While Tomas Vokoun provided enough stability to close out the series, he can’t be instill all that much confidence in Penguins fans.

Ottawa rolls in off a five game drubbing of the Canadiens in which they received brilliant goaltending and timely scoring from all over their lineup. They face a scary, deep, talented Penguins team which creates matchup nightmares on both sides of the puck. I don’t expect the Alfredsson line to be nearly as effective as they were against Montreal, nor do I expect the Senators to be able to effectively shutdown Pittsburgh’s scorers. However, Craig Anderson provides a decided advantage in net. Penguins in 6

Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

Fresh off a pair of grueling six-game series, both of these teams will be fighting some major fatigue in the second round. One interesting thing to watch will be the durability of each team’s top defensemen. Zdeno Chara was run well over 60 minutes over the past two games out of necessity while the Rangers trot Dan Girardi (and Ryan McDonagh) out for a million minutes by choice.

This series will be all about who is conditioned better and who is capable of surviving beyond another physically grueling series. Goaltending will play a major role here and I like Henrik Lundqvist better than Tuukka Rask. However, I think the Bruins have more firepower than the Rangers and that might just give them the edge. Bruins in 7

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

The second Original Six showdown of the second round pits a pair of heated rivals against one another. This is a nice treat for hockey purists as the Wings will be heading east next season and severing many of their former divisional rivalries.

To be Frank, the Blackhawks are nearly impossible to matchup against and they’ve been getting steady goaltending along the way. While the Wings have been riding a nice wave of positive momentum, the Blackhawks are a much different beast than the Ducks were. While Jimmy Howard has been sensational, I’m not sure the Wings will be able to insulate him the way they did against Anaheim. Blackhawks in 6

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

A nice little regional matchup that pits a perennial playoff disappointment against last year’s Cup champs. The Sharks have flown under the radar this year but have opened plenty of eyes after sweeping the Canucks. While they have plenty of question marks around them, San Jose has two solid scoring lines and have gotten great goaltending from Antti Niemi.

The Kings scrapped their way through the first round and will need to find some more offense if they hope to get back to the Conference Finals. Jonathan Quick has been stellar yet again and Los Angeles did a great job stifling the Blues. I wonder how they’ll deal with an impressive offensive lineup like the Sharks boast, however. Sharks in seven

Composite Mini Sticks

Bauer Vapor APX Mini Stick

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

 

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

Knee hockey is one of the numerous things that makes hockey what it is. Not many sports have a portable, miniature version that can be played just about anywhere.

Just think back to travel tournaments and the countless hotel hallways you were expelled from when playing knee hockey. Knee hockey just happens to be a portion of hockey culture that makes our sport so incredibly unique.

Not unlike the full size version of the sport, knee hockey has seen a number of advances in recent years. Manufacturers now make miniature nets (not necessarily a new development) which inevitably saves desks, tables, chairs and hallway radiators from the beating that comes along with the game. In addition, the days of dipping your straight-blade plastic stick in boiling water to create a curve are over. Now you can choose a mini stick from a plethora of choices that are near mirror images to the full size sticks made by hockey’s biggest manufacturers.

Warrior, Bauer, CCM, Reebok and Sher-Wood all have created their own composite mini sticks complete with curves and identical design patterns to that of the full size retail sticks you use on the ice. What these sticks do is add a little style and extra performance to a rec-room or travel tournament classic.

Reebok not only has a mini composite version of their new 20K stick, they also introduced a composite goal stick that is patterned after the 11K composite goal stick that is being used throughout the NHL – this follows previous miniature versions of the O-Stick and A.I.9. CCM also produced a mini composite of their premier stick with a mini RBZ. Like the 20K, the mini RBZ also sports the same markings and art that the top model does – although it doesn’t provide some of the technological advances that the full size stick does.

Both CCM and Reebok have their own net models as well which can be set up in your basement or rec room to add even more of an ice element to each knee game.

Bauer actually has a Vapor APX and TotalOne NXG for you to choose from while Sher-Wood’s collection spans the entire NHL. So, for those of you who are nostalgic for the straight plastic, team-branded sticks of the past, perhaps the Sher-Wood team models would provide a nice transition.

While I can’t attest if the composite mini sticks can add performance to your knee hockey game as their full-size cousins do for ice hockey, I can say they bring a cool wrinkle to a game that you should never need an excuse to play.

I, for one, am seriously considering setting up a knee hockey rink as part of my man cave in the very near future.

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

If you were one of many hockey fans across North America glued to a TV set or phone waiting for trades
to break, today might have dragged. A flurry of action over the past five days dried up a significant
amount of the presumed trade targets entering the deadline. However, a few GMs managed to not
disappoint.

A handful of minor trades in the early afternoon did little to set the market before Tampa Bay sent Cory
Conacher and a draft pick to Ottawa in exchange for Ben Bishop. While this wouldn’t end up as one of
the day’s biggest trades it was significant enough to get the ball rolling.

The flurry of trades that came down prior to the 3:00 deadline were punctuated by deals that saw
established scorers Marian Gaborik and Jason Pominville moved along with a list of role and depth
acquisitions. What was most surprising was seeing the surging Columbus Blue Jackets come away as the
day’s most active team.

Columbus made four separate moves that included the day’s biggest blockbuster in which they acquired
sniper Marian Gaborik. The Jackets sent a handful of pieces to the Rangers in exchange for Gaborik in a
move that gives them a lethal weapon on the wing less than a year removed from trading Rick Nash to
the Rangers.

Columbus’ deal is the most earth shattering for a few reasons. First, Gaborik had been mentioned here
and there in rumors but wasn’t truly expected to move, especially compared to a player like Ryane
Clowe (who also ended up in New York). The second reason this is so surprising is that the Blue Jackets
entered the year with a new makeup after trading Nash and with every expectation to continue their
rebuild, their recent success turned them to a buyer and they went out and bought one of the most
expensive options on the market.

What shouldn’t be ignored with this deal is what the Rangers got in return. After not re-signing Brandon
Prust and trading two key depth forwards to Columbus in the Nash deal (Dubinsky and Anisimov) the
Blueshirts managed to gain a skilled depth forward (Derick Brassard) and a gritty winger (Derek Dorsett)
to go along with a late draft pick and a highly touted defensive prospect (John Moore). Add those three
to Clowe and the Rangers managed to get a little tougher despite losing a major offensive weapon.
While they gave up the most talent, they may not have lost the trade.

The next biggest deal of the day came out of Minnesota, where the Wild brought in a skilled scoring
winger in Jason Pominville. A solid two-way player, Pominville is effective in all situations (including the
PK) and is signed through next season at a relatively affordable $5.3M cap hit. Going back to Buffalo was
a plethora of pieces that includes two draft picks and two prospects.

The Wild get a lot more skill for their top six and Pominville should offer plenty of support to at roster
that already boasts Parise, Heatley, Koivu and PM Bouchard. The added bonus that Pominville doesn’t
hit free agency until next summer means that they can hopefully stretch this talent beyond this year’s

playoff push. Despite mortgaging quite a bit of talent, this was a strong move for the Wild as they look
to win now.

Buffalo is going all-in with their rebuilding mode, acquiring Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett with
Minnesota’s first round pick this year and a second round pick next year. The picks will be extremely
valuable for Darcy Regier as he holds 11 total picks in the first two rounds of the 2013, 2014 and 2015
drafts combined. Whether or not he uses those picks remains to be seen, but that is plenty of currency
for a GM who will most certainly be looking to wheel and deal in the offseason.

One interesting trade was the Bishop for Conacher deal. The Lightning spent a few assets to acquire
Anders Lindback over the summer before realizing that he may not be the answer long-term. All the
while, they went and gave the Senators an even better return for Bishop than what Ottawa paid for
him at least year’s deadline. While Steve Yzerman did good work to address his troubled goaltending
situation, he gave up quite a bit for two different pieces at the same position.

Meanwhile, Bryan Murray is probably laughing his way to the bank as he effectively traded a second
round pick for Cory Conacher and an additional fourth round pick. Conacher is going to have an impact
on the Senators roster for the foreseeable future (unless he regresses from this hot rookie year) all while
not costing Murray much of anything – as he still has Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner to protect the
net.

The majority of the major moves at this deadline came in the days prior to April 3. The acquistions of
Iginla, Morrow and Murray makes the Penguins the immediate winners based on their return and the
fact that they sacrificed very little to acquire those three players. Of course, if the Pens don’t hoist the
Cup, they won’t be the long-term winners of this deadline.

Still, Ray Shero put his team in the best position to succeed by acquiring the three players he did. While
his top defensive prospect and a first round pick went out the door, not all that much went along with it.
Credit is due to Shero for the way he maneuvered prior to the deadline and for the roster the Penguins
will enter the playoffs with.

Overall I’d have to say the Penguins come away as the big winner while the Rangers (surprised?) aren’t
far behind. If New York can get Clowe re-signed with the money they saved from Gaborik they will have
a bevvy of talented players to fill out the lines below the Nash-Richards power line.

I’m not sure if I can count the Bruins as winners for snagging Jaromir Jagr, but 68 should give Boston
a nice boost entering the playoffs. That type of savvy veteran can’t be overlooked on a team that is
already so incredibly talented.

If there are any losers at this deadline I’d be so bold to say that it is the Blues. While St. Louis did a great
job bringing in two solid veteran defensemen, they didn’t address their questionable goaltending (even
though they only allow 20 shots per game). While Leopold and Bouwmeester are great talents, the Blues
already boasted an impressive defensive corps. I wonder if these two trades will be enough to vault the
Blues into a playoff spot.

The one thing that does need to be remembered with the deadline is that you can’t truly declare a
winner until the Stanley Cup has been raised. In addition, many of these trades full value won’t be
realized until the draft picks have been used. When you take that into account, some of these moves
won’t have full value for at least two years. However, the Kings made some waves last year and went on
to win the Cup, with that in mind be sure to look back at what moves this year’s Cup winner made at the
deadline.

Goalie Equipment Topic

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

CCM GP500 Goalie Pads

With some interesting topics being discussed at the GM meeting (coach’s challenge) there have also been a number of no brainer topics floated by the league’s general managers. One in particular, goalie equipment, is something they should seriously consider.

Based on reports, adjusting the size of goaltending equipment appears to be the second most likely topic to move forward beyond cocktail napkins and off-hand conversations. Compared to the debate over grandfathering visors, the rules behind adjusting goalie equipment would be more difficult to fight.

Although there isn’t much room for sweeping change, I think adjustments to what goaltenders can wear could be made. More importantly, these changes can be made without sacrificing the safety of those in net.

After the last lockout, goaltender’s pads were reduced from 12 to 11 inches in length to go along with restrictions to the size of the glove and blocker. Additional restrictions cover internal portions of the pads (knee and calf wings) along with chest protectors. One recent development with chest protectors addressed the build of certain units. The rule states that the chest guard must be anatomically proportional to the goaltender wearing it.

Anatomical restrictions are where I think the league has some room to work when considering new rules to enact.

As it stands now, the league has a rule that stipulates a Limiting Distance Size for each goaltender based on specific measurements that determine the size of goal pads. This requirement ultimately determines the specific height that determines what size pad a goaltender can wear. This basically prevents goaltenders from wearing the largest pad manufactured to maximize blocking area.

While you can’t get much more anatomically correct than that, the rule doesn’t necessarily prevent goaltenders from adding length to the top of their pads. Ironically that is the specific area Kay Whitmore said they could target.

Not all humans are made equal. One 6’1” individual may be top tall and have shorter legs than another person of the same height. Because of this, different goalies wear different sized pads. For example, I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’ and 6’1” and I fit quite well into a 36 inch pad.

Specifically, the pads I wear now are 36+2 – an extra two inches on the standard thigh rise – and they fit quite well. However, that actually makes my pad 38 inches in total. If I tried to wear a traditional 38 inch pad I would swim in it. However, the advent of the thigh rise extension allows my pad to fit me perfectly while still offering the coverage of a longer piece of equipment.

Without getting into the tangled history of goal pad design, the thigh rise extension began picking up steam in the professional and retail world about seven or eight years ago. Adding length to the thigh rise of a pad adds additional five-hole coverage without affecting the overall performance of the goaltender. If the NHL were to limit the size of a goaltender’s thigh rise, I think you would see a number of goalies with significantly different equipment next season.

A couple of goalies who immediately come to mind are Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury. Both are phenomenal goaltenders who also happen to use a fairly significant thigh rise on their pads. While the rise they use on their respective Bauer and Reebok pads wouldn’t completely disappear, it could be limited by a new rule. This wouldn’t affect how their pads fit in anyway, it would only alter the amount of net the pads cover when each goaltender is in the butterfly.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either would see their play altered by this change, but if they were reliant on the coverage provided by the thigh rise on their pad, there could be a slight adjustment period.

Luckily this isn’t a change that will be felt by amateurs playing travel or in local adult leagues. Unlike the sweeping change to 11 inch wide pads, there will be little change (if any) to the pads you will be purchasing. Retail models of pads would never be affected by such a rule (even if it is reflected in lower levels) which means that the only difference you will see is from the masked men you watch each night in the NHL.

What needs to be determined is if this will actually result in any sort of change in goals scored. I doubt there will end up being any sort of significant change. There will be a few more pucks that find a way through the five hole, but ultimately you’re still talking about the exact same butterfly goalie getting his pads on the ice.

Ultimately I very much doubt that this change would bring about a change in goal scoring, which would be the prime motivation for enacting such a rule. However, when you talk about providing goalies with even a little less room to stop the puck, some change could come about.

Fighting the NHL Lockout Blues

With the NHL lockout continuing to drone along, many hockey fans have been without an entertainment staple for more than a number of months. While the NHL and NHLPA continue to dance around an agreement on the CBA, there are still a number of outlets where fans can get their hockey fix.

Although your weekly pickup or local league games might not do the trick, there is still plenty of hockey being shown across a number of different television networks. In addition, there is probably a good chance that some form of hockey is played at a high level somewhere near your hometown.

Between leagues like the AHL, ECHL and other minor professional leagues, a number of young NHL stars and up-and-coming prospects have been dispersed across the continent during the current work stoppage. While many NHL cities aren’t as lucky as Toronto – in which the AHL and NHL franchises are located down the street – there are plenty of opportunities to catch the action of your particular team’s farm club.

For those lucky enough to have a minor league team in their city, be sure to catch a game. The atmosphere at the games is always family friendly and the hockey is extremely entertaining.

The Canadian Hockey League – comprised of the QMJHL, OHL and WHL – is the most well known form of major junior hockey and has been regularly televised on the NHL Network. Not only are there plenty of teams to root for (68 in all) but there is a good chance that your favorite NHL team is represented in each league by a number of different prospects. Keeping track of the progress of these young players won’t only give you a window towards their NHL potential, but will certainly add new hockey knowledge to your repertoire.

Other junior leagues worth seeking out include but are not limited to the USHL and NAHL. Both leagues serve as the top two junior leagues in the United States and typically produce NCAA talent on a yearly basis. For those who are prospect nuts, the leagues are also great talent pools to monitor for upcoming NHL draft boards. The USHL had 13 players selected in last year’s draft and the league has quickly become a well-stocked pond for NHL talent.

The NCAA also offers a peek at upcoming NHL talent as the American collegiate body has become a tremendous breeding ground for talent. Although there are few Division I programs in the US, there is an impressive number of schools with varsity programs at the men’s and women’s level between DI and DIII. Since the majority of DI programs reside in the Northeast and Midwest, networks like NBC Sports, MSG, Big Ten and others regularly televise season games that bring the sport directly to you. The NBC Sports broadcasts have even pulled familiar faces from regular NHL broadcasts for this season and offer a high production value while often showcasing the nation’s best teams.

Most cable networks carry the channels that will not only bring NCAA hockey to your television, but various CHL games as well. Depending on how desperate you are to see hockey on your TV, there are readily available options on a weekly basis to view some of hockey’s best talent right from your own home.

Depending on where you live and how adventurous you are, exploring hockey in your own backyard will put your butt in the seat at an arena. Should you have a minor league professional team nearby (AHL, ECHL etc.) or a junior franchise, go check out a game. After all, live hockey is always best.

Should minor professional, junior or NCAA hockey not be an option there still should be some options nearby. Outside of scheduling a road trip with friends to catch a game out of town, there is certainly a good chance that an ACHA club resides in your area.

The ACHA is the governing body for club hockey in the United States and boasts over 400 member schools across five division (three men’s and two women’s) and are represented at some of the nation’s largest schools (Arizona State, Oklahoma, Illinois etc.). While the club level is still battling for respect on a national level, many of the power players are competing for talent right alongside NCAA programs. In fact, Penn State was the most recent school to make the jump from the ACHA to the NCAA. Finding out if your local state school has a club team would provide yet another source to quench your hockey craving.

Now that the holiday season has passed, take some time to fit hockey into your New Year’s resolution and maybe the NHL and PA will take the time to fit a CBA into theirs.