Michael Ford didn’t see the need to be affiliated with USA Hockey. As the general manager of Sherwood Ice Arena, which houses the largest adult hockey league in Oregon, he felt change was unnecessary. One meeting and some “Myth Busters” changed all that.
Ford sat down with USA Hockey to talk about his previous misperceptions and why he made the decision to become a member.
USA Hockey: Tell us about the Sherwood Ice Arena Adult Hockey League …
Michael Ford: I have roughly 800 men and women registered in our league. We have nine divisions. Eight of those divisions are based on level of play. Our ninth league is the over-35 league. Our only requirement is that you play hockey and you’re over 35. We have eight player reps that are hand-chosen by the rink that will be captains. Once we sell out the league with 120 names, those eight captains get in a room and draft their teams, just like a fantasy draft. The customers never see when they were drafted, but in the end, the captain will call up the player and tell them they’re on that team. That one sells out the most. I love to tout that one.
USA Hockey: You didn’t want to be a member of USA Hockey for a long time … why?
Michael Ford: Perception, I guess. My first perception was this: It’s just insurance. In this rink, I have to have annual insurance from somebody just to play. I didn’t have any experience as a rink manager when I was hired. I was as green as green could be. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know any worse and didn’t know any better.
USA Hockey: What convinced you to join?
Michael Ford: We met in February 2013. They had a presentation for us. One of the slides that we ended each chapter with during our meeting, there was a section called “Myth Busters.” And I would go, ‘Yeah, I had that myth. Oh, I had that myth, too. I believed that.’ Those were incredibly helpful.
USA Hockey: What are some myths that needed busting?
Michael Ford: You can keep your own refs and you can keep control. They just have to be USA Hockey-certified. So that was good. I was always afraid that if I went with USA Hockey, I’d have to go to the association. Check – they got rid of that myth in my head. So I started feeling more and more comfortable.
USA Hockey: Did you have any worries about rule changes?
Michael Ford: We were also concerned that they would dictate certain rules. I was told they won’t. You cannot minimize a USA Hockey rule, but you can definitely enhance them. I was worried that we were going to change a lot of rules, and we didn’t have to. So I went ‘OK, myth buster gone. I like that.’
USA Hockey: Sounds like your whole perception has changed.
Michael Ford: The biggest key for me was these “Myth Busters.” I had a lot of misconceptions. I was sucked into these myths. I’m not sure how or why, but I was. But Ashley Bevan (senior director of adult hockey at USA Hockey) did an incredible job of speaking to those issues. The presentation changed our minds by educating us.
USA Hockey: Any other benefits to being part of the USA Hockey family?
Michael Ford: By having our organization sign up with the largest body that manages adult and youth, our players our giving back to a larger hockey family. Is that a value my customer takes away? I don’t know. But by me making that decision, that is one of the values that we support. And I want my customers to know that they’re supporting the overall growth of hockey, starting with the kids.
USA Hockey: But there are benefits for your adult players as well, right?
Michael Ford: We have the ability to host some USA Hockey skills camps. I want to start working on those. USA Hockey on a national level will come out and support us at little to no cost. When I was in the meeting in February, I went, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ That’s a benefit for me and my rink and my hockey players. We have some players that went away to play in USA Hockey-sanctioned tournaments. If you go to those tournaments, your fee is somewhat already covered because you’re part of the family. That was a benefit I had never thought of before. The Adult First Goal program and Try Hockey for Free events – now that we’re members, we can partake in these. That was another benefit that showed me this wasn’t just about insurance.
USA Hockey: So it’s not “just insurance” after all …
Michael Ford: It’s more of a membership. The membership provides benefits. We’re now part of a larger family. We’re not just living in our own little world.