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Mites invade Albany ice

by Kevin Zalaznik || AHL On The Beat Archive

Let’s do some math. Five skaters and a goaltender on the ice per team. There are two teams, so 12 players are on the ice at once.

Those are the standards for a typical hockey game and have been for decades. On Jan. 29, that conventional thinking was tossed into the penalty box.

The Times Union Center was the site for the Albany Devils “Mite Jamboree” which harbored three cross-ice games at once. To calculate, five skaters and one goaltender times six teams per session equals 36 mites on the ice at once. With two sessions, more than 120 local hockey players ages eight and younger took to the ice between 2 and 5 p.m. Afterwards, the kids witnessed the Devils take on the Rochester Americans.

Assisting in the Devils’ efforts to host such an event was local youth hockey guru and Director of Siena College’s Center for Counseling and Student Development, Dr. Wally Bzdell.

“The first question when the kids found out they were playing here was if they were playing against the Devils,” Bzdell said. “After that it was just pure excitement. Coming to this arena, being in the same spot they watch the pro teams, they loved it. They loved every minute of it.”

Since arriving in Albany in July, the Devils have been involved with youth hockey in the Capital Region. Specifically, rookie defenseman Dan Kelly is a constant at Devils events that pair the players with youth organizations.

“Hockey has to be fun,” Kelly said after witnessing the mites take the TUC ice. “I try and keep it loose and I like having fun with the kids. The passion has to be there and I try and be a good example and show them that you have to be happy with whatever you do.”

The cross-ice format during the jamboree allowed the six teams on the ice at one time to rotate through and face each squad once. The organizations that participated were Bethlehem, Saratoga, Schenectady and Troy-Albany.

“I liked playing today a lot,” said Antonio Rossetti, who plays for the Schenectady Chargers. “My favorite part was just being on the ice. I like to play hockey because I like to just skate.”

To an eight year old, just playing the game is enough reason to get involved, but the parents see the big picture.

“I thought the layout and format of the jamboree was great,” said Antonio’s father David Rossetti. “If feels great to watch him skate around and see him work hard. Especially with hockey, kids get a very good sense of discipline and camaraderie.”

Bzdell goes further, “Aside from everything we know about health, we want kids to be active throughout their lives. We want them to be involved in sports and be healthy. Learning team work, learning how to put up with disappointments, learning how to persevere and try when it’s not going well; it makes a huge difference developing life skills. Cross ice gives them a chance to try and fail, try and fail, try and learn and they have it forever.”

Kelly was a benefactor of participating in athletics when he was young. He started playing when he was five on a backyard rink alongside his brother and neighborhood friends.

“When I see these youth kids at appearances or even at the jamboree today, I tell them to have fun every day and enjoy doing it,” Kelly said.

When the final horn sounded, ending the jamboree, the kids exited the ice just as Kelly and his teammates were preparing for the night’s main event. In the back hallway, tiny voices flowed in and out of the locker rooms.

Bzdell was asked to rate the jamboree on a scale of one to 10.

“Ten. Probably 100. The kids loved it. It was fantastic.”

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They Said It:

Michal Griffin (Troy-Albany)
“Playing goalie is my favorite part. I think I stopped like a 100 pucks today.”

Ryan Dickinson (Troy-Albany)
“My favorite part today was when I scored even though I got tripped. I like to score and do my victory dance” When asked if he has more than one, Ryan said “Yes.” His mother confirmed that he rehearses at home.

Landon Werner (Saratoga)
“My favorite part was playing at the end side, getting to be on the benches. I had a good time; it was a lot of fun.”

Michael Murtagh (Troy-Albany)
“My favorite part was when I scored a goal, like 13 goals total today.”