Creation of the Utica Comets Jr. Elite ProgramNov 12, 2015
The 2015-16 season brings a new addition to the Utica Jr. Comets and Mohawk Valley Youth Hockey Association. Both beginning their first season, the Utica Jr. Comets 2004 and Utica Jr. Comets 2006 Elite teams will pave the way for youth hockey in the Mohawk Valley and help the youth talent in our area reach their maximum potential. Dating back as long as one can remember, youth hockey in Oneida County has always been segregated, as local cities, towns and villages previously competed against each other. The Elite programs, both at the 2004 and 2006 level, will be comprised of the best players in our area, finally moving forward toward national recognition.
This plan came to action in the summer of 2015, as Utica Comets President Rob Esche realized how the area’s best players were playing against one another instead of with each other.
“It immediately made sense to me to consolidate and elevate the level of play our youth kids could reach,” Esche said. “The time was right, and I knew we had the resources to start turning a vision into action.”
The Utica Jr. Comets organization felt it was time to bring the best players together to better conglomerate the area’s brightest talent. In the summer months, the two teams started to come to fruition, as local players from Utica, Whitestown, Rome, New Hartford, Westmoreland and Clinton attended tryouts at The AUD. Under the watchful eyes of an extremely experienced coaching staff, players have already started to develop at the highest and most productive rate.
While the focus of the elite program is to tie the best local talent together, it is equally as important to provide an exclusive experience for the young athletes. What sets the Utica Jr. Comets Elite program apart from the rest of youth hockey is not only the opportunity for these young players to compete at the highest level, but also to be treated as young professionals. The Elite program will call The AUD its “home” – the same home as the AHL’s Utica Comets. Each player in the 2004 Elite program took part in a summer workout program to continue developing throughout the off-season. And during the season, the elite teams practice three times per week, including a power skating session run by Utica College Men’s Hockey coach Gary Heenan. Along with playing a schedule that generally consists of two competitive games per weekend, the elite program will take part in some of the most recognizable youth tournaments across the country, including the CanAm Challenge Cup in Lake Placid, New York. Other highlights for the season include team road trips that include traveling alongside the Utica Comets and playing youth organizations from other AHL cities.
Throughout the season, the overarching goal of the program is to continuously develop each player, but also teach lessons that can be used outside of the hockey rink. The coaching staff is committed to helping these players become future leaders in the community as each one of them continue to grow on and off the ice.
Building on the momentum from the Utica Comets, Mohawk Valley Youth hockey is rising exponentially. The Utica Jr. Comet 2004 and 2006 Elite programs have set the pace to grow the sport at a level never before reached in our region. The possibilities are endless, and the future has never looked brighter for our area’s youth hockey.