Jr. Wolf Pack working to grow game in Northern Nevada
Now in its sixth season as a youth hockey program, the Nevada Jr. Wolf Pack has grown exponentially since 2014.
A USA Hockey-sanctioned association, the Jr. Wolf Pack sticks firmly to the American Development Model (ADM), and the results speak for themselves.
“We have grown from just an idea to keep a bunch of kids from both inline hockey and ice hockey from the Reno, Sparks, Carson City area playing by doing a tournament high school team as California’s tournaments started offering high school divisions,” said Jr. Wolf Pack president Louie Trio. “We had 10 players from Northern Nevada playing 14U for travel ice teams from all over Northern California that also played with some inline players from Carson City in mixed inline and ice AAU tournaments that the parents were concerned as they entered high school would not still have the time to commit to the hour-and-a-half to three-hour drives twice a week to practices in Northern California, plus the weekend games in Northern California.”
That was during the 2014-15 season, and the program started the Nevada Jr. Wolf Pack the next season playing in four high school JV tournaments with those original 12 players.
This year, the Jr. Wolf Pack has a 14U tournament team, has kids playing in the San Jose Sharks High School League and is offering Learn to Play and player development programs to get more kids in the younger age groups on the ice.
“We expect to have around 65-75 players in our program this season,” said Trio.
And while it’s well-known that hockey works in Las Vegas, the Jr. Wolf Pack is showing that hockey is growing in the northern part of the state as well.
“I do think we are showing there is a ton of interest for ice hockey in Northern Nevada, although that was never our intention,” Trio said. “We just wanted to give kids wanting to play a chance to play. One big difference between Vegas and Northern Nevada is that Vegas has multiple year-round indoor ice facilities. Northern Nevada has zero. Reno/Sparks had an indoor rink for decades until the last one closed 15 years ago.”
Trio also noted that the Jr. Wolf Pack values player development over wins and losses.
“We are 100 percent behind the USA Hockey ADM and wholeheartedly believe that everyone needs to play the game to learn the game,” Trio said. “Having mostly the use of small outdoor seasonal rinks to practice on the small-area games philosophy and small-area station-based drills works right into what we have available to practice on for the most part.
“It is unusual for an ice hockey club to be in a position to grow themselves and grow the sport without a permanent ice rink to call home, but that also means we don’t have some of the pressures some clubs have by their home rink to book ice all the time. We have been free to build a club from the ground up, based on the theory that someday with all the big corporations and casino corporations in Reno/Sparks that somebody will see the value of an ice rink to the community as a whole and build a rink.”
Looking at where the program was and where it is now, Trio feels the future is bright for the Jr. Wolf Pack.
“I think we are in a position to absolutely explode as far as our numbers go,” said Trio. “This year is the first time one of the seasonal outdoor rinks is willing to sell us ice so we can do our own Learn to Play programs, which should help propel us into a situation of buying ice next year for more Learn to Play and some developmental house-type leagues, as well as expanding our tournament teams to include younger teams and teams at multiple levels.
“If a rink gets built in the next couple years, I think we are in a position to become a travel hockey club that competes either in Northern California or Southern Oregon.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Nov. 22, 2019)