BY RANDY SCHULTZ —
The relationships you build, the memories, the friendships, the tournaments, the swimming in the pools, the knee hockey you do is really what it is all about. That is what youth hockey is all about.
That is how former National Hockey League star, Kevyn Adams described his feelings about youth hockey. Adams is President of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres Youth Hockey Organization.
Although born in Washington, D.C., Adams grew up in Western New York in Clarence where he played his entire youth hockey. That included two seasons with the Niagara Scenics (now Buffalo Jr. Sabres).
Adams first experience in youth hockey was at the now defunct Keenan Center Ice Arena in Lockport. After a couple of years there, it was on to the Wheatfield Blades organization where he played until joining the Scenics.
Adams played for 10 seasons in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks. He was a member of the 2006 Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes team.
But after accomplishing all of that Adams still considers his youth hockey days the most memorable. The former number one draft pick of the Boston Bruins (the 25th player taken overall) in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft remembered those days.
“To this day, even playing hockey at a much higher level, losing the National Championship as a BantomMajor still bothers me,” commented Adams with a smile on his face. “That wrist shot that went over our goalies glove.
“You never forget things like that.”
Four players that played together at the age of seven on that championship team went on to play Division I hockey, including Adams who played four seasons with the Miami of Ohio University RedHawks.
Adams admits that playing on the Niagara Scenics Jr. team of the North American Hockey League was one of the more challenging experiences in his life.
“I was 15 at the time,” remembered Adams. “There were some who said I wouldn’t make it and would be cut.
“Maybe I should have been because I was only 5-6 at the time and not very big. It was a 15 year-old playing against a group of 18 to 20 year olds.
“Actually it wasn’t a case of playing, but surviving. It was a tough league.
“But I was able to stay at home and go to school at Clarence High School. And I grew, both on and off the ice.
“I remember one of the items I always packed for my road trips with the team was my book bag. I had to study on the bus.
“There was one rule in my house with my parents. If I didn’t have certain grades in school, there would be no hockey.”
When it came time for college hockey, Adams’ parents were very big into education. Several colleges talked to Kevyn, including the legendary hockey coach, Tim Thomas, of Yale University.
“I had the hockey skills to get into Yale,” said Adams. “Unfortunately I didn’t have the SAT scores to go with it.”
Following his first year at Miami of Ohio, Adams was drafted by the Bruins. For the next three summers it was a debate of Adams returning to college or turning pro.
For three consecutive summers he chose to return to college.
“I can’t lie, it was because of my parents,” admitted Adams. “But it was the best decision I could have made.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I have my college degree today.”
Adams has some advice for those youth hockey coaches who work with today’s young hockey players.
“To me, one of the most important parts of working with young players is to teach them the passion of the game and give it all you got,” remarked the 38 year-old Adams. “When kids come to play a game or practice, you want them to have a smile when they come in and a smile on their face when they leave.
“Hockey should be a fun experience.”
Adams also has one other strong belief.
“I believe in practice,” stated Adams, who resides with his wife and family in Clarence. “I was never the best player on any of the teams I ever played for.
“I remember shooting puck after puck after puck to make myself better. I practiced hard and enjoyed practice.
“Practice is how you will get better. Develop your skating.
“If you can skate you will be off to a great start.”
Adams is also a believer in not playing hockey all year long.
“As a kid, when my hockey season ended, the bag got zipped up and put away. I played baseball, soccer and basketball during the summer months.
“Other sports are fun too. But in the end hockey should be an enjoyable life experience.
“It has been for me.”