In August I interviewed John McCreary of Champion City Sports Company about NCAA hockey documentary On Thin Ice- A Journey to College Hockey. Please read more to learn about this film that spotlights the trials and tribulations that men and women hockey players go through to play at a college level.

I am a big NCAA hockey fan. What do you think the biggest hurdles male and female Junior Hockey players have to face to reach that level?

Well there are endless hurdles for players these days, especially with how much the sport is growing. That being said, the biggest hurdle for players is the amount of competition. Girls hockey, especially the USA Hockey/Hockey Canada girls team rivalries have made more and more girls want to start playing the game – in the long run, the girls from the US and Canada are all competing for the same college roster spots. For the guys, it’s a huge numbers game below tier II Hockey. You have the USHL (Tier I), NAHL (Tier II) in the US and about 3-4 leagues in the Canadian Junior A Hockey League system that are college teams first picks for NCAA Division I Rosters – there are also a considerable amount of players from Tier III Leagues in the Northeast US as they move to that level as well. Then you have about 200 Tier III Teams in the US and numerous Junior A and B (Including the rest of the Tier II Players) all fighting to make it in the NCAA DIII. So if you are on a mediocre team in a not so ideal location, the climb is tough. After the rambling, it really comes down to numbers and location, location, location

What was the driving force/inspiration to get this documentary made?

Well having been coaching for a while, I dealt with a lot of coaches both attempting to move their players on, and from colleges looking to fill their rosters. People have never really been given a look into the world of these players and what they go through. People need to see the importance of playing at these levels, along with how they act away from the game, for better and worse.

What unique challenges did you face while making the documentary?

Well we are just beginning filming. Our biggest challenges are going to be getting the players to be genuine. Not to act differently than they normally do, as we are aiming for honesty in this film.  Also, it will be the continuous building for the release of this film, and continuing to have it help educate future players and parents in the game.

Can you tell us a little about the players the film follows?

One player we have committed to featuring is Quade Hamlin that plays for the Springfield Express in the Western States Hockey League. Quade is a 1994 birth year, he has dealt with a lot of injuries that he finally got repaired this summer (Shoulder) and will be 100% by October. Quade is an outstanding player, had a ton of USHL and NAHL attention, but the injuries were a huge Obstacle for him. He is also not the tallest player, so have some people overlook him, until they see him play. We are also going to be featuring a player from the Boston Jr. Rangers of the Eastern Hockey League and we are seeking a 3rd. We also have not filled the Female features yet. We are also going to talk to players currently in College or recently graduated to talk about the roads they took  such as Alex Boak (Clarkson ’14) Brooke Webster (St. Lawrence ’17) Lynn Alstrup (Minn-Duluth ’18) and Carley Cathering (RMU ’17) We will also talk to a few NCAA DIII players and coaches.

Quade Hamlin

Quade Hamlin

I am a film geek. What type of look and feel will the people watching the documentary experience?

We are looking for a true documentary style, but along the lines of how NHL 24/7 does it. They provide great information, all while not leaving out the action that keeps people watching. We’ll be featuring these players with a great introduction and story throughout the piece. Knowing you’re a film geek and a hockey fan, we’ll make sure we under-promise and over-deliver!

When and where can people see the documentary?

At first we will do a free release online, and we will have it available to download on ITunes, Apple Store and the Android Market. These kids love watching movies while on the road on the bus with their teammates. We are looking into submitting it to a few festivals, but really want to be careful and submit it so it can be accepted as a sports documentary. We hope to gain enough attention that we can get streaming through a Netflix, Hulu etc.

I know you have a bi-weekly show on YouTube talking about major junior players. What can people expect from watching the show?

That will be a show that will be the lighter side of major juniors, but still be very similar to the film in a shorter program, and obviously a different league.

What other involvement does your company have in hockey?

Well Champion City Sports is a Full Service sports company, so we are involved with all sports, and will be doing shows and films for those as well. As far as hockey, that is the sport I personally am closest to, and have been all my life (even though many who knew me growing up knew I was better at baseball). We do private lessons; we are launching a video recruiting service that can be held in a player’s budget. We also have the Clothing Company Bring Hockey Back working with us to provide our featured athletes with some swag for the shows and film. We also have a tournament team in the summer time to attend tournaments such as Chowder Cup and Niagara. Lastly we are going to be partnering with the Players Edge Camps run by Jeremy Law (Head Coach of Springfield of the WSHL) and combing the camps for pre-tournaments, as well as running his weeklong pre-season conditioning camp in Littleton, CO that brings in Pro Hockey Players, NCAA, Junior A and AAA Players. So, all in all, we are fully involved with hockey on every level, and are always looking for new players to help!