Omaha, a city known for its strong agricultural roots and bustling economy, may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about hockey. But in recent years, this Midwestern city has quietly established itself as a rising force in the hockey world, and it’s not just their professional team, the Omaha Lancers, making waves. The city’s minor hockey scene has been producing top talent and blazing a trail towards becoming a dynasty in the making.
So, what is it about Omaha that has led to this recent surge in success? What sets their minor hockey program apart from others in North America? And what can we learn from their model for developing young players?
A Thriving Youth Program
The foundation of any successful hockey program is a strong youth program, and Omaha has just that. The Omaha Hockey Club (OHC) was formed in 1974 and has consistently grown and evolved with the city’s hockey scene. Today, it boasts over 600 players from ages 4 to 18, making it one of the largest youth hockey programs in the Midwest.
One of the key factors behind the OHC’s success is its emphasis on skill development. From the earliest age groups, players are taught fundamental skills and given ample opportunity to practice and hone their abilities. This attention to skill development has led to a pipeline of talented players moving up through the ranks and into higher levels of hockey.
In addition, the OHC has a strong focus on creating a positive and inclusive environment for all players. This philosophy not only helps to foster a love of the game but also promotes teamwork and sportsmanship among players. The club also offers programs for children with disabilities, ensuring that hockey is accessible to all in the community.
Investment in Facilities and Resources
Another key factor in Omaha’s rise to hockey success is their dedication to investing in top-notch facilities and resources. In 2015, the Omaha Hockey Village was established, a state-of-the-art complex that houses four ice rinks, a weight room, and off-ice training facilities.
This facility has not only provided a home for the OHC but has also attracted top teams and tournaments to the city. The Hockey Village has hosted major events such as the USA Hockey National Tournament and the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, bringing exposure to Omaha’s thriving hockey community.
Furthermore, the OHC has recently established a partnership with renowned strength and conditioning program Evolution Athletix. This partnership provides players with access to specialized training programs and nutritional guidance, furthering their development on and off the ice.
Fueling the Flames of Competition
One aspect that sets Omaha’s minor hockey program apart from others is its competitive structure. Unlike other programs that focus on winning at all costs, the OHC believes in providing players with a competitive yet healthy and positive environment.
At the younger levels, players participate in a tiered system that ensures they are competing against teams of similar skill levels. This helps to boost confidence and promotes healthy competition. As players move up to the higher levels, the competition becomes more intense, preparing them for the rigors of junior and college hockey.
This structure has paid off for the OHC, with many of their teams consistently ranking in the top tier of their respective leagues. In just the past few years, OHC teams have brought home multiple tournament championships, division titles, and national titles.
Attracting Top Talent
Beyond cultivating their own homegrown talent, the OHC has also found success in attracting top players from across North America. With the rise of junior hockey leagues, including the United States Hockey League (USHL) and North American Hockey League (HL), players can now bypass the traditional route of college hockey and join these leagues at a younger age. Omaha has been able to capitalize on this trend and has become an attractive destination for players looking to develop and showcase their skills.
This has been made possible in part by the establishment of the Omaha Hockey Academy (OHA). Founded in 2015, the academy provides players with a unique opportunity to attend school and receive hockey training all in one place. The OHA has quickly become a valuable resource for young players looking to take their game to the next level.
Omaha’s success in attracting top talent is also evident in their USHL team, the Omaha Lancers. In recent years, the Lancers have consistently ranked near the top of the league, producing top NHL draft picks and feeding players into top college programs.
In the highly competitive world of hockey, it takes more than just raw talent to become a dynasty. And that’s what Omaha has proven in recent years. By investing in facilities and resources, placing a strong focus on development and creating a positive environment, and attracting top talent from all over North America, Omaha has established itself as a powerhouse in the hockey world.
The success of Omaha’s minor hockey program serves as a model for other cities and organizations looking to build a strong and sustainable program. And with the city’s continued investment and dedication to developing top players, it’s safe to say that Omaha’s rise to hockey glory is far from over.