Ice hockey isn’t a sport people associate with the South, but one Huntsville native is making strides to change that.
Nichelle Simon is taking her shot on the ice and heading to the National Women’s Hockey League but her journey to get to this point hasn’t been as smooth as ice.
“It’s absolutely a dream come true,” Nichelle Simon said.
She’s been playing ice hockey since she was 17 years old.
“I started ice hockey later in life, and I didn’t feel like, I don’t feel like I’ve played my best years of hockey yet,” Simon said. “And I’m a better hockey player now than I was in college and I’m just not done playing yet.”
At the beginning of September, Nichelle got the chance to turn her dream into reality with a week long tryout with the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters.
“Actually after the very first practice that I had, they gave me the heads up that I’d be getting offered a contract,” Simon said.
But a year and a half ago, Nichelle didn’t know if she’d ever get to play hockey again after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I had a bi-lateral mastectomy in march, a year a half ago in march,” Simon said. “And I was going to try for the league that year, but obviously that put a quick stop to that.”
The next four months would prove to be the toughest challenge as she went through chemotherapy.
“I mean I struggled to make it up a flight of stairs, I had to stop three times, and that was hard for my boyfriend to watch,” Simon said. “I mean I was extremely strong before that. I lift heavy weights and stuff and I’m working out hard and here I am I can barely walk up a set of stairs you know.”
“When she had it, she went through the ‘am I going to die?’ and I said ‘no, you’re not going to die. We’re going to get through this.’ and we did,” Simon’s boyfriend, Eric Smith said.
Nichelle and her boyfriend, Eric, set big goals to help push through chemo.
“I kept saying to her, you’re going to get through this and play hockey,” Smith said.
Simon agreed to what her boyfriend said about playing hockey and added, “all I wanted was to get through so I could start working out again, and get strong and healthy as quickly as possible.”
Nichelle might not have been physically ready to be back on the ice after her treatments, but she was mentally ready to start training again.
“It was slow the first few months,” Simon said. “It was a struggle working out. It was hard to lift a five pound weight, let alone anything heavier than that. It was hard to run. It was hard to do everything.”
Now, there’s no stopping her from shredding on the ice.
“I think girls need to see them playing, no matter what; whether you get paid a lot or a little,” Simon said. “Getting paid anything to do something you love is an incredible opportunity and I want to be there to be a role model for girls and women who are coming up in the sport and it’s a very big honor to be able to do that at the highest level.”
Nichelle told WAAY 31 that no one really knows how strong they are until they are pushed to do something they didn’t think they could do. She’s proven anything’s possible if you keep believing and working hard towards your goals.
Now, Nichelle has also been a coach at the Huntsville Iceplex for 12 years and has taught a lot of kids how to play hockey and skate. On Saturday, September 14, Nichelle signed her contract for the Riveters at the rink in front of family, friends, and current and former students. Everyone we talked to said Nichelle is going to be greatly missed, but they’re all looking forward to going up to New Jersey to watch play.
“She is not just like ‘oh we’re going to play around.’ she is a hard worker, and she says you have to do that,” Simon’s player Ian Sharpe said. “She does not let you piddle around and she’s very tough and strong she really works hard.”
“You get to see her from like when she coaches you and then when she’s actually a professional,” Matthew Brown said, another one of Simon’s players.
Nichelle was only back in Huntsville for that one day and actually is headed up to New Jersey Sunday to start practicing full time. The Riveters first game of the season is coming up quickly at the beginning of October.
On September 1st the United States Hockey League (USHL) and its Member Clubs announced Sunday the 30-man protected and affiliate lists for the 2019-20 season. We are proud of our 47 #TPHTrained players that have secured a spot on one of these rosters. We will be cheering on the following players as they work hard over the next few weeks to secure their spot on the 30-man protected list:
Max Sasson – Detroit CoE/8-Week Summer
Nate Hanley – WSI
Jacob Badal – Detroit 8-Week Program
Josh Doan – WSI
Mathieu De St. Phalle – Detroit CoE
Cameron Rowe – OHL Cup
Christian Stoever – Detroit CoE/8-Week Summer
Michael Mancinelli – Detroit CoE/8-Week Summer
Nick Andrews – 8-Week Summer
Tiernan Shoudy – 8-Week Summer
Luke Robinson – Nashville Jr Preds/8-Week Program
Riley Rosenthal – OHL Cup
Ben Schultheis – 8-Week Summer/Nashville Jr. Predators
Hunter Longhi – WSI
Ryan Beck – Detroit CoE/8 Week Program
Thomas Middleton – 8-Week Summer
Zach Faremouth – Detroit CoE/8-Week Program
Camden Thiesing – Nashville Jr Predators/8 Week Program
Dylan Moulton – Nashville Jr. Predators /Nashville CoE/OHL Cup
Dylan Wendt – Detroit CoE/OHL Cup/WSI
Xan Gurney – Detroit CoE
Dalton Norris – Detroit CoE/8 Week Program
Cole Kodsi – Nashville Jr Predators /8 Week Program
Davis Pennington – Detroit CoE/8 Week Summer/OHL Cup
Stephen Davis – Nashville Jr Predators /8 Week Program
Tanner Kelly – Detroit CoE
Bennett Barnes – 8-Week Summer
Kienan Draper – 8-Week Summer
Nick Donofrio – OHL Cup
Ryan Humphrey – Detroit CoE/8-Week Summer/OHL Cup
Ryan Mcinchak – 8-Week Summer
Ryan Sorkin – OHL Cup
Sutter Muzzati – OHL Cup
Hunter Carrick – OHL Cup
Kyle Kawamura – Nashville Jr. Predators
Sam Antenucci – 8-Week Summer
Joe Blackley – OHL Cup
Ryan Sullivan – 8 Week Program
Victor Mancini – 8-Week Summer
Luke Buss – Detroit CoE
Mitchell Miller – Detroit CoE/WSI
Mathew Knies – WSI
Nick Sofikitis – Detroit CoE/8 Week Summer/WSI
Ethan Szmagaj – 8-Week Summer
Logan Stein – Nashville Jr. Predators
Josh Deluca – 8-Week Summer
John Larkin – 8-Week Summer
DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS
Ryan Beck | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
Luke Buss | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
Nick Sofikitis | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
Mitchell Miller | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
GREEN BAY GAMBLERS
Xan Gurney | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
Dylan Moulton | TPH Center of Excellence – Nashville
Dylan Wendt | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
Tanner Kelly | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGH RIDERS
DES MOINES BUCCANEERS
Christian Stoever | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
Michael Mancinelli | TPH Center of Excellence – Detroit
The Software Report is delighted to announce The Top 25 Education Software CEOs of 2019. The following individuals represent excellence in the field of education technology and organizational leadership. Many of the awardees have demonstrated a deep commitment to the education and training sector and a passion for improving learning outcomes in local, global and corporate areas. Just as important, these CEOs are superb leaders who inspire their teams day in and day out and who can navigate the complex from executing market expansion strategies to undertaking multiple acquisition integrations.
Thank you to all those who submitted nominations on behalf of their CEO, your insights are invaluable in forming a clearer picture of an executive’s capabilities.
Please join us in congratulating this year’s awardees.
2. Jamie Candee, Edmentum
Before she was CEO, Jamie Candee had built her career step by step as she took on various roles in the Edmentum organization. In 2005, she started her career with the ed-tech company in their human resources department. From there, she moved on to serve as Director of Sales and Service Effectiveness, followed by VP of Product Development, and then SVP of Sales and Marketing before she became Chief Revenue Officer in 2012.
Candee took some time away from the ed-tech organization to step into her first chief executive officer role with Questar Assessment, a provider of educational assessment programs. During her three-year tenure as CEO, she led efforts to develop IT training and mentorship programs for Minnesota students through her partnerships within the business community. In 2017, she returned to Edmentum to serve as CEO of the online education provider.
Candee is well known for both her drive and passion for education technology. In a 2017 interview, she shared some of her early experiences with working her way to the top. “I was 21 and told my manager (I was in banking at the time) that I wanted to run a company as CEO. He told me I was aiming too high. From that moment, I crafted my plan and relentlessly focused on achieving that outcome. To run an education technology company as CEO is my absolute dream.”
Read full article at: https://www.thesoftwarereport.com/the-top-25-education-software-ceos-of-2019/
September 12, 2019 – Defender Nichelle Simon, who played college hockey at Hamline and Neumann universities and appeared in season 9 of NBC’s hit show “American Ninja Warrior,” has signed with the Metropolitan Riveters of the NWHL.
Simon is also a breast cancer survivor who completed her treatments in June, 2018. She has preparing for a comeback to hockey ever since, and achieved her dream after a successful tryout before the Riveters’ hockey operations staff.
The veteran defender was born in Ft. Lauderdale and attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School before playing college hockey at Hamline University and Neumann University. She scored 19 goals in 87 career games, including 10 goals in her freshman season at Hamline University, and was named to ECAC West’s All-Academic Team in her senior season.
Simon, 36, is a dedicated athlete. She competed during the ninth season of “American Ninja Warrior” at the Daytona Beach qualifiers and continues to train for ninja events. Simon participated at the 2018 USA Pond Hockey National Championship in Wisconsin and led her team, the Southern Thunder, in goals at the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Nationals in Anaheim.
“I’m extremely proud and honored to be selected to represent the Riveters and the NWHL on and off the ice,” said Simon. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of competing with and against great hockey players and the opportunity to be a role model for girls and women coming up in the sport. My message is that it’s never too late to follow your dreams!”
Simon has been committed to promoting hockey in the South and has been an instructor for over a decade. She is an “Operations Ninja” for Total Package Hockey, a service dedicated to positively impacting the lives of student-athletes through the best sport in the world.
Contact: Chris Botta, NWHL firstname.lastname@example.org
ELIGIBILITY CENTER BEGINS TEXTING PROGRAM SEPTEMBER 16
Starting the week of Sept. 16, the Eligibility Center will begin messaging prospective student-athletes via text with updates relating to their Eligibility Center accounts.
The text messaging program, which has been under development for more than a year, is designed to more effectively communicate information about the certification process to high school student-athletes seeking certification, as well as increase each student-athlete’s rate of response to certification tasks. The program is also designed to decrease the number of emails sent from the Eligibility Center and minimize inquiries to the Customer Service team.
During the certification season, which runs through summer to mid-September, an average of 250,000 prospective student-athletes come through the EC, seeking certification or information on certification. Of those, approximately 100,000 register with a certification account annually.
Each account can require a dozen or more direct contacts from the EC, usually via email, in order to assist each student in moving their certification process forward.
This can be another valuable resource for our student-athletes. See links below to NCAA Resources.
Greg Austin, Director of the Indy Center of Excellence, is pleased to announce that Styner Sports Training will provide the off-ice strength and conditioning program for the CoE student-athletes for the 2019-2020 school year.
“This is a great opportunity for our student-athletes to receive the professional off-ice strength and conditioning that Styner offers,: stated Coach Austin; “Off-ice conditioning is an important component of training elite hockey players and creating the well-rounded athlete.”
Chris Clyne, owner of Styner Sports, shared the announcement on Facebook. “We are excited to build on this relationship and eager to help develop these high end players.”
Styner Sports Training has been in business for several years and trains both individual players and also many of the local high school hockey teams. Of note, Styner Sports trained local NHL player Mason Jobst, forward for the NY Islanders.
Last weekend was the 7th annual North American Hockey League (NAHL) Showcase at the Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota. All 26 NAHL teams were present and we are excited to see 17 of our Nashville Jr. Predators alumni competing in the showcase. Below is the alumni who competed in the showcase:
ABOUT THE NAHL SHOWCASE
During the 2018-19 season, a record total of 351 NAHL players made NCAA commitments, with 232 (66%) of those being NCAA Division I commitments. The NAHL Showcase plays a big role in that success, with dozens of players each season earning an NCAA Division I opportunity during and following their participation in the event.
“The NAHL Showcase is the Greatest Show on Ice and truly representative of why the NAHL is the League of Opportunity. Our mission each season is to continue to set the bar higher and higher and the 2019 NAHL Showcase will be no different. There is simply no other event like this that brings together the number of scouts that we see during the five days and we look forward to seeing a new crop of players and talent showcase their skills,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld.
The NAHL Showcase attracts over 9,000 people in overall attendance, including more than 350 professional, college and junior scouts. For scouting purposes, the NAHL Showcase is the premier event of its kind and is a yearly gathering for every NCAA program and NHL team as they get their first look at some of the best and brightest hockey talent North America has to offer. For more information on the NAHL Showcase including schedule, ticket prices, hotels, rental cars and arena information, visit nahl.com/showcase
Hard work and faithfully practicing the Golden Rule in business has allowed Taso Sofikitis, CEO and President of Maynards Group of Companies to achieve immeasurable success.
Maynards manages auctions/liqudations, asset valuation projects valued up to half a billion dollars as well as operates a Capital business that does asset-based lending from eleven offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and China. In addition, the Maynards Group owns and operates manufacturing companies both in the paper/containerboard sector as well as the oil and gas sector.
Sofikitis will be honored in October during the UAH Alumni of Achievement ceremony for his successful international business accomplishments and philanthropic work.
“It’s an honor to accept this award, it means a lot to me because it confirms that if you work hard, treat people right you can achieve success, it is both personally and professionally satisfying to be recognized,” said Sofikitis.
Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, he attended UAH on an athletic scholarship. Sofikitis was a member of the team that won the Division II Hockey National Championship in 1996.
In addition to playing hockey, Sofikitis excelled in his academic studies at UAH. He has fond memories of his College of Business professors including Dr. Brent Wren and Dr. Jim Simpson.
“My favorite UAH experience was being part of the hockey team for four years, building relationships and friendships with my teammates Sheldon Wolitski, Mario Mazzuca, Wade Tulk, Brad Dame, Lance West, and others.
“UAH had a significant impact on my life and my business career, I learned how to manage my time, I learned what it took to work hard both in the classroom and in athletics,” said Sofikitis. “UAH helped me understand the importance of building relationships, and being part of a team…all things needed to be successful in the business world.”
He began his career at Maynards, in 1998, and has been an integral part in helping the company become a global leader. Sofikitis became the majority shareholder in the Maynards Group of Companies in 2012 and has managed countless sales projects around the globe equating to over a billion dollars in sales.
In 2018, Sofikitis and Sheldon Wolitski (’96 BSBA) generously donated funds for a full renovation of the UAH Spragins Hall weight room.
The two alums earned First Team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors as seniors and played for the UAH Chargers under legendary head coach Doug Ross.
Sofikitis is a member of the Machinery Dealers Network Association, the Association of Machinery and Equipment Appraisers, and is a Certified Equipment Appraiser.
He has volunteered and generously donated funds to the Greek Evangelical Church, First United Methodist Church, Make a Wish Foundation ® America, Youth Hockey Programs (USA Hockey), and the UAH Hockey Program. Sofikitis is married to UAH alumna Carrie Hopper Sofikitis and the couple has three children, Nicholas (16), Evan (12) and Sophia (8).
We talk plenty about Junior (20U) hockey at TJHP. After all, Junior hockey is in our name. However, that’s not all we do. We also offer in-depth coverage of 16U, 18U, prep school and competitive high school hockey.
I’d like to kick off our “Midget” and prep/high school coverage with a long overview sprinkled with a little history. Midget hockey being defined as all USA Hockey (USAH) youth hockey post-14U.
With the explosion of Junior hockey around the turn of the century prep schools took minor hit in prominence but Tier I Midget hockey, and in some areas Tier II Midget hockey, almost disappeared outside of the Midwest. Part of that was due to status-oriented salesmanship: “If you’re good enough to play Junior hockey why play Midgets? Junior hockey is how you get to college … and by the way we have a Junior roster spot for you.” It was nothing sinister, just a shift in marketing as rink-based travel programs started to overtake the traditional non-profit hockey clubs as the norm.
The sales pitch was in high demand from the players and parents, so it was a two-way street. It allowed organizations to offer 3-4 Junior teams in lieu of Midget teams. What nobody ever seemed to figure out is that regardless of the Midget vs. High School vs. Prep School vs. Juniors arguments, the number of players at those levels never increased as a result. The pie was being cut into different sized pieces for each level but the pie can’t get bigger when talking about 15-20-year-old players.
Left out of that sales pitch was the fact players are highly likely to matriculate to college only when they’re 20 years old, regardless of where they played. So, three years of Midget and two years of Juniors = five years of Junior. Time was the only thing that created 20-year-old players.
Over the past decade the pendulum has swung back toward Midget hockey with the 2004-05 creation of the 16U and 18U divisions by USAH. Until 2003-04 USAH offered Midget hockey up to 17U. One of the goals of the 18U level was to allow all high school seniors to continue playing club hockey through their final year of school. By creating 18U it also created a four-year Midget window for 15-18-year-olds, which was deemed too wide for the physicality and maturity of all the players, so USAH split the difference and created 16U.
It took a few years for the 16U level to catch on as the top 15- and 16-year-olds immediately clamored to play 18U. This left the remaining 15- and 16-year-old players trying to figure out what to do, but eventually 16U gained traction has become a bastion of NCAA Division I and United States Hockey League (USHL) recruiting. USAH has also since added a 15U division which has also caught on around the country, providing a stable ladder of development for all Midget players regardless of how quickly they develop physically.
The re-emergence of Midget hockey has its roots in the mid-1990s, which ironically was about the time it started to suffer. A private high school in southeastern Minnesota name Shattuck-St. Mary’s (SSM) was struggling on the ice and with overall enrollment numbers in the late 1980s. At one point, SSM went from being one of the worst teams in the Minnesota State High School League to a co-op team with Fairbault High School (the city in which SSM is located) that had only a couple of SSM players involved. SSM hockey was almost non-existent in 1989 (Source: Minnesota Vintage Hockey).
The idea was hatched and executed to create a nationally renowned hockey program at SSM, which in turn would create a demand for school admissions, thereby solving two problems with one idea. The new SSM product didn’t burst on the hockey scene in 1990 with great prominence, but by 1999 it built a program that captured its first USA Hockey National Championship, coached by future NHL head coach Andy Murray.
More importantly it became a desired destination for players all over the United States and Canada, including Sydney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise to name just a few of the distinguished alumni. SSM added 14U teams and a Girls Program in the years since, which has not only provided a broad college development program but bolstered admission numbers at the school.
The SSM model was duplicated in 2011 when the South Kent School (Connecticut) and LEGACY Global Sports entered into an agreement to form South Kent Selects Academy (SKSA). South Kent dumped its traditional prep school hockey membership and created Tier I 16U and 18U (and later 15U) SKSA teams that play nationally competitive USAH teams across the country. SKSA won its first USA Hockey national championship in 2019 at the 18U level, but its teams have become regular attendees at the national competitions.
Devin Rask, who helped guide SKSA from prep school into a nationally competitive program, did such a bang-up job that he and his staff were successfully recruited to Mt. St. Charles Academy (Rhode Island) which shocked much of the prep school world by adopting a SSM-style program that hit this ice this fall.
“The headmaster (at South Kent School) saw that the traditional three sport athlete wasn’t the same as he was 20 years ago,” said Rask about his hiring process at SKSA. “Division I athletes are, and sports in general, are becoming more specialized. Not that (the headmaster) didn’t believe in the multi-sport athlete, he saw what was happening and made a change ahead of the game.”
South Kent saw immediate success on the ice and eventually at the admissions office. “(Enrollment numbers due to hockey) didn’t go up much in the first year so, because they still had the prep team, but eventually we went to three teams and added 60-64 students compared to the 30-35 they used to have,” said Rask. “I think we all knew Shattuck was the model school for a program like this. They did it, they produced elite hockey athletes and they drove up their enrollment. In my mind they were the marquee model.”
While the ability to recruit and attract top-end players due to the nationally competitive schedule is great, Rask, like other coaches who are involved in these types of programs, instead raves about the player and personal development opportunity.
“For me the big piece is the development piece,” said Rask. “We are on the ice four days per week, we have off-ice development and a goalie coach. It’s not just hockey but all sports that get specialized at this age.”
At Mt. St. Charles, which has a storied history and NHL alumni like Bryan Berard, Brian Boucher and Garth Snow, Rask plans to keep the status quo with the way he and his staff execute.
“I just want to carry on the tradition because it’s legendary with Coach Belisle and what he did here. That’s part of the reason I came to Mount — because of the tradition and legacy. High school hockey is changing and we want to lead the way into the future. Minnesota high school hockey has been able to continue (its stature) but on the East Coast it’s changing. If you drive two or three hours in any direction you can find dozens of Junior, Midget and prep school options. There is just so much.”
Another offshoot in the re-emergence of Midget hockey was started by Thunder AAA Hockey, which made famous the “weekend model” for hockey clubs.
As the sport developed in non-traditional areas – like the Southeastern District where Thunder AAA Hockey was based — it became difficult for the elite-level players to stay home and play if they wanted to continue to develop. There simply weren’t enough local players or interest to fashion a competitive Tier I program. Enter Nathan Bowen, a former University of Alabama-Huntsville and minor league professional player, settled in Huntsville after graduating college and commenced coaching hockey.
Bowen could see the raging growth in the Southeast and he put together a program that allowed players in different locales to all play on the same team. In what the Thunder called a “multi-city model,” the Tier I program used the weekends for the teams to get together for practice and competition, by gathering in Huntsville, Atlanta and Nashville for High Performance Weekends or games, or by everyone meeting for a tournament at another venue. During the week the players were on their own for individual skill development that was offered in each area.
The Thunder’s model was successful, not just on the ice but for families and players looking for the Tier I option without sending their kid off to the Northland to billet. Thunder AAA Hockey was comprised of 90 percent players within the Southern Amateur Hockey Association, the USAH Affiliate for Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, while another five percent were from within the Southeastern District. The Thunder weren’t about recruiting and billeting but providing opportunity within the southeastern United States. “The Thunder merged with the Nashville Jr. Predators this past summer but we had 17 alumni participating in (last week’s) NAHL Showcase (in Blaine, Minn.),” said Bowen by email. “That’s a pretty cool stat to see the work paying off for the players.”
Bowen also started Total Package Hockey in 2001, which is a year-round training and hockey service provider that now has nationwide franchises. Many Thunder AAA Hockey players trained with TPH during the week and during the off-season while competing for the Thunder.
Finally, we have academy-style Midget hockey, which is where all the players are recruited to a certain locale where they live, train and participate in online schooling of some sort. This model allows for daily, daytime practices, when rinks generally have otherwise unsellable ice, and flexibility to set game schedules with few parameters.
The Skipjacks Hockey Club, which is based at the York City Ice Arena in York, Pa., has become a prominent academy-style program over the last six years while the South Florida Academy has also entered the fray with a staff laden with former NHL players.
“When we started the Skipjacks in Maryland, we had half our players local and half our players billeted,” said Jared Kersner, co-owner and head coach of the Skipjacks. “Half our guys were doing online school and training the rest of the day in the gym or extra ice time. We figured why not do it that way 100 percent and have all our guys doing it that way.”
Kersner and his brother, Jason, a longtime Midget and former North American Hockey League head coach, sought out York because of the smaller community size, the ease of working with the municipally owned twin-sheet arena and the economics of operating in an area like York.
The Skipjacks exist purely on a development basis for players. They do not register as national-bound teams and play league games in the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) while attending various other showcases for exposure and competition purposes. “We bring the players into York the last weekend of August and we put them in a full-service environment until the end of February when the USPHL playoffs end,” said Kersner. “All our players do online schooling and we have four hours per day of study hall with paid tutors available at all times. That way players can go back homes and their home schools to finish out the year each spring. We have an intense program but we keep it to six months.”
All three of the program styles covered, in addition to the traditional local Tier I team model, have been producing hundreds of NCAA Division I commitments and United States Hockey League (USHL) and NAHL draft picks for the past decade. As hockey continues to evolve there will be no doubt more programs and innovators to enter the picture and keep the hockey development moving forward.
Read original article at: https://www.tjhpodcast.com/single-post/2019/09/24/The-Rise-Fall-Rise-of-Midget-Hockey