New Members, New Benefits
Q and A with Ace Malette
Greater Portland Industrial Hockey League
Goaltender Ace Malette has owned and operated the Greater Portland Industrial Hockey League (GPIHL) for approximately eight years – but this season he decided it was time the league join USA Hockey.
Ace still mans the cage for a 30+ team, but also serves on the board of the local youth hockey association while coaching his son’s Squirt team. USA Hockey sat down with Ace to discuss new member benefits and growing the game.
USAH: So how did you become an adult league operator?
Ace Malette: Upon graduating from college, I moved back to Maine and became involved with the established adult league at the Portland Ice Arena in Portland, Maine. I played and officiated for a number of years and then transitioned into a more hands-on role when the previous operator moved away. At that point I established the Portland Ice Arena Industrial Hockey League (PIAIHL) with 12 teams and one sheet of ice.
USAH: And it’s grown quite a bit since then?
Ace Malette: From that point forward, we continued to pick up teams. We added summer programs and then merged with the Family Ice Center Hockey League (FICHL) to form the GPIHL, which plays out of both the Family Ice Center and Portland Ice Arena with over 35 winter teams and 30 summer teams. In 2012, the GPIHL expanded again. The newly opened Bank of Maine Ice Vault was looking to relinquish control of its adult league, which had been without a home after the collapse of the Kennebec Ice Arena. And they looked to the GPIHL to take over and manage its league in Augusta, Maine. The GPIHL-North was founded and currently runs 12 teams.
USAH: This is your first year as a sanctioned league under USA Hockey. Why did you decide to join?
Ace Malette: The GPIHL decided to join USA Hockey in 2013 mainly due to the growth we have experienced in the past few years. On top of the insurance benefits that are offered for the league as well as its participants, being part of USA Hockey gives us access to many more resources that we previously would have needed to handle internally.
USAH: What benefits are you seeing as a league operator? What benefits do the players get?
Ace Malette: We now have the ability to market our tournaments outside of our market. Being part of USA Hockey allows our players the opportunity to partake in sanctioned tournaments outside our area, including pond hockey tournaments, classics and national championships. On top of these benefits, Maine Amateur Hockey Association (MEAHA) has completely changed its philosophy with adults and has really made a conscious effort to embrace the adult game and its members. MEAHA has realized that to grow the game as a whole in Maine, adult hockey couldn't and shouldn't be overlooked. Most youth hockey players today are the adult players of tomorrow. The more registered adult players there are, the greater the number of eligible coaches there are.
USAH: What are you doing to help your league grow and what are some of the challenges you face? Are you using any USA Hockey resources?
Ace Malette: Adult hockey in general is very cyclical, meaning every year you will have players that leave their high school, junior, college or pro team to join the adult hockey ranks. At the same time, you have adult players that either age out or lose the desire to play late at night or simply can't afford the expense. The true growth of adult hockey really should come from the recreational skater who has never played organized hockey; or someone who has played hockey, but left; or a player’s parent who enjoys the game and thinks it's a way to bond with their kids. This is the true growth potential of adult hockey and USA Hockey's Adult First Goal program is a perfect way to get this demographic hooked on the game. Allowing new players to try before they buy and giving them every opportunity to fall in love with the sport of hockey is ingenious, and as a league operator, it gives us the ability to really grow the game.
USAH: If I’m an adult that’s interested but hesitant to try hockey, how would you persuade me to join?
Ace Malette: The best part of adult hockey – and hockey in general – is being part of a team. It doesn't matter if you are playing for the Stanley Cup or staying up and going out to play with your friends on a Friday night. In the GPIHL, we have everything from former NHL players and current Division I college players to a guy that started skating two years ago. What brings people back year in and year out is the camaraderie that players have with one another, the stories they share in the locker room, the respect the players have for each other and the fact that if you win a division championship in the GPIHL, you get to hoist a full-size replica Stanley Cup. Does anyone need persuading for that?