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Welcome To Our Mid-March Newsletter

 

portraitSuitcoat100This is a very exciting time of the year….., with playoffs happening….. provincial and state championships…., and Nationals…..

It is also the time of year when tryouts are being announced, players protected, and draft lists prepared, and much uncertainty about next season.

On top of that….., almost everyday, there is a new invitation in your inbox from a different showcase event.

Prep school applications are being submitted.

So much to do, but so little time.

I constantly remind people that “It’s the things that you don’t know, that you don’t know…. that will get you in the most trouble in this game!

I know that many of our readers have considered using the services of an agent or an advisor, and we have included an excellent article in this newsletter regarding the difference…., and how using the services of one (or the other) may affect the future playing career of a player, and the future options that a player may have.

Many people contact us too late in the process, after they have made decisions, which drastically reduce their options for the future.

These decisions may include the fact that they have chosen the wrong academic classes and/or programs, or they have decided to play in a hockey program that receives little (or no) attention from the college (or other) programs that they may wish to pursue in the future.

We think it is important to keep all options open for as long as one can.

We remind players to be proactive, and to take control of their own destiny (or hire us to do it for you).

We often hear from players, who tell us that they counted on last year’s coach to help promote them, and when it does not happen the way that they believe, they are disappointed.

We remind parents and players that at this time of year and over the next five-six months, it is the # 1 responsibility of your coach to recruit for their own )next year’s) team.

Most coaches have great intentions, but their lives are very busy….., and it’s not fair to place that burden upon them.

If a coach hears of an opening and has four players (that he is graduating) who could benefit from being promoted, what does he say about you vs. the other players?

Coaches are a very important part of the recruiting and placement process, but I often hear from players in September and October who say that they were counting on the previous year’s coach to help get them a tryout, and/or to talk to someone about a certain team.

Do not count on your coach.

They are too busy winning today’s games and recruiting for their own team for next year, and although they have the greatest of intentions, it is possible to fall between the cracks.

Most coaches are honourable guys…. but….. remember, your coach’s interest may not be the same as your own.

Perhaps as a 17 year old, you could benefit from playing on a junior team, but your existing coach could benefit from having you on the midget team for an extra year.

Over the years, we have seen some players who are 19 years of age who are ready to play College Hockey, but their junior coaches have not wanted to lose them until after their 20th year, and they have tried to hold them back.

We have heard from players who have attended a major junior camp as a 16-17 year old, who we know were only being used as” a filler” in the camp.

We knew they would never be a member of the team that they were drafted by, but were told wonderful stories by others, and as a result gave up their chance to later play college hockey, because they accepted a gift, stayed too long in camp, signed an agreement,  associated with an agent or an unscrupulous advisor, or played an exhibition game with a CHL team. Having said that, the CHL is the right decision for some players, and we often help families and players figure that out (while ensuring that they keep their options open),

Remember, (likely) ONLY YOU are able to look out for your best interests.

Are your familiar with the various rules that you must abide by in order to protect your options for the future?

ONLY YOU can assure yourself that you are not placing yourself in  jeopardy.

Do not make decisions, based on ego.

Take control of your own destiny (as much as you can).

These are some of the things you think about!!!!!

If you think we can help, drop us a line at info@hockeyfamilyadvisor.com.


Sincerely,

David MacDonald, SPAD
Hockey Family Advisor




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Posted in Newsletter

College Credit

NHL teams rely more and more on NCAA alumni

By Chris Peters


photo

Carl Hagelin was one of 13 former NCAA players to get their name on the Stanley Cup with the 2016 Penguins.

 

When the Pittsburgh Penguins skated the Stanley Cup around the SAP Center ice last June, more than half of the players who lifted the most famous trophy in sports over their heads had played NCAA hockey. In the end, 13 former NCAA stars saw their names etched on the Cup, a record for a single team.

The Penguins’ championship fueled by former collegiate standouts including leading scorer Phil Kessel was one of several highlights of a record-breaking summer when it comes to the NHL and college hockey.

After a highly-entertaining and competitive 2015-16 college hockey season, a record 67 NCAA players signed NHL contracts. Many were previously drafted players, however, it was also another big year for undrafted free agents earning contracts after brilliant NCAA careers. Drake Caggiula and Troy Stecher of national champion University of North Dakota were among the high profile UFAs who drew heavy NHL interest before ultimately signing with the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.

On top of that, players with college ties were part of an historic showing on the first night of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. A record-tying 11 players who either just completed or were about to enter their freshman seasons were selected in the first round. Two incoming freshmen were taken in the top 10, with Boston University’s Clayton Keller going to the Arizona Coyotes at No. 7 and North Dakota’s Tyson Jost getting tapped by the Colorado Avalanche at No. 10. Shortly thereafter, Luke Kunin of Wisconsin and Charlie McAvoy of Boston University went back-to-back at 14th and 15th to close out the first half of the first round after their standout freshman seasons.

ad-2017-chafindoutmoreThe summer turned out to be a prelude for an astonishing start to the 2016-17 NHL season, where the influx of young talent was one of the biggest early storylines. Fourteen players who were skating in college hockey rinks just a few months prior found themselves on NHL opening night rosters in the fall, and that number has more than doubled during the course of the season. Making the jump from college to the NHL is an accomplishment in itself, but several of those players also became instant contributors to their team’s success.

One of the rookies off to a hot start is Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey, the third straight college MVP to make an NHL roster right after his award-winning season, with the New York Rangers. So is Zach Werenski, who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets after his sophomore season at Michigan, helped their AHL affiliate with the Calder Cup last spring and now already a top-four defenseman as a 19-year-old.

Perhaps these rookies and others could follow in the more freshly-laid footsteps of such former NCAA standouts as Jack Eichel (BU), Shayne Gostisbehere (Union) and Colton Parayko (Alaska), who made up half of last season’s NHL All-Rookie Team.

subscribeAs more young players file into the NHL, more and more opportunities are arising for NCAA players sooner than ever before. On top of that, the ones who are making it so quickly are making an instant impact on their NHL teams.

This story initially appeared in the January 2017 issue of The Hockey News.

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Penguins sign coveted college free agent Zach Aston-Reese to two-year deal

By Jason Mackey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PHILADELPHIA — With his classes at Northeastern University in Boston canceled Tuesday because of the winter storm, Zach Aston-Reese finally had some time to think.

After giving his hockey future some serious thought, Aston-Reese settled on signing a two-year, entry-level deal with the Penguins, adding to the organization’s recent success when it comes to college free agents.

“Pittsburgh is a really good organization,” Aston-Reese said. “You look at the college free agents that have gone there the last couple years. A lot of them have had success. It’s a good day. I know my family’s really happy.”

So are the Penguins.

Aston-Reese is a 6-foot, 204-pound forward who led the NCAA with 31 goals and 63 points with Northeastern this past season. He was the most sought-after college free agent on the market, with more than a dozen teams interested.

General manager Jim Rutherford compared Aston-Reese to Patric Hornqvist for his tenacity and how relentlessly he plays the game.

“He’s a player with a lot of character and determination,” Rutherford said. “He brings it to the room and on the ice. The shortest way I can describe him is he’s a ‘Hornqvist-type player.’ “

A few of the players Aston-Reese mentioned — college free agents who have signed with the Penguins — include Conor Sheary, Thomas Di Pauli and Ethan Prow.

Rutherford has seemingly found restocking the cupboard through college free agency to be a beneficial route, and the players the Penguins have been signing are taking notice.

“They have a lot of good guys in their organization,” Aston-Reese said. “I think they have the resume, I guess, to back that up with the players that they’ve brought in and developed. I’m really looking forward to making the next step.”

The two-year deal starts next season. Aston-Reese, 22, will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this weekend on an amateur tryout contract.

Rutherford said the Penguins project Aston-Reese as a left wing in the pros, and the GM doesn’t believe it will be long before he makes the NHL roster.

“He’ll certainly be given a good chance next year,” Rutherford said. “We like to put guys into Wilkes-Barre for a few games, more along the lines of what we did with [Jake] Guentzel, where he played a half a season, got his confidence, and worked on his skill level. [Aston-Reese] is a good player that will probably be in Pittsburgh sooner than later.”

Aston-Reese’s father, Will, is from Crafton, although Zach said that didn’t play much of a factor into the decision.

“That’s just a bonus,” he said.

Sort of like Aston-Reese’s offense, you could argue.

He has plenty of size and works hard to play a 200-foot game — music to Penguins coach Mike Sullivan’s ears. It’s tough to argue with the results.

In four years at Northeastern, the Staten Island, N.Y., native produced 66 goals and 148 points in 145 games.

“I really pride myself on being able to play defensively first and having that lead to offense,” Aston-Reese said. “I like to find quiet areas down low and play with the puck, try to create opportunities to get the puck to the net.”

Aston-Reese is a graphic-design major and spent time helping out at his mother Carolyn’s embroidery shop back home, working on logo design and silk prints.

The major is unique — “I didn’t really want to do what everyone else was doing — business program or communications,” Aston-Reese said — and it affords him a way to make this transition quickly while also graduating on time.

subscribe“[I] have to talk to some of my teachers,” Aston-Reese said. “I’ve already talked to one. Kind of work something out where I can be in touch with them while I’m gone. … I don’t really have tests or finals. They’re more projects.”

And his latest one — signing a pro contract with the defending Stanley Cup champs — is easily the most exciting of them all.

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Rules For Hiring An Adviser – The Difference Between Agent And Adviser

Image result for sports agentThere is not a week that passes where I do not have to answer questions pertaining to the rules that control what a family adviser can do, and the rules that the NCAA has in place for family’s regarding hiring a family adviser.  Its my job, and whether the person who asks is a client or not, it is my obligation to make sure they understand the rules.

For many years, Agents have worked as Family Advisers and in general many players and parents can be confused about the rules and differences between the two.  While much of the work done by an Agent is similar to the work done by and Adviser, the primary difference comes in how the Agent or Adviser is compensated for his work.

Under NCAA rules, an Agent is someone working for future earnings.

Under NCAA rules, an Adviser is someone who the parent or player hires and pays for his services rendered.

While on its face, the difference in compensation may appear to be minimal, it is actually quite a big divide.

It was once a long-standing tradition in hockey that an Agent would say he was working as an Adviser and the family would not be responsible for compensating the Adviser until the player signed a professional contract.  That type of arrangement is COMPLETELY AGAINST NCAA RULES.

While there are many Agents still working as Family Advisers, those that are offering their services without reasonable and customary fee’s being charged are placing the players NCAA eligibility at serious risk.  While reasonable and customary charges may vary from region to region, some Agents have tried to circumvent the payment system as well.  If a player is caught doing this, he stands to lose his NCAA eligibility.

ad-2017-chafindoutmoreA “token” payment to an Adviser of a few hundred dollars for a year of representation is not something that is seen as being reasonable and customary when the Adviser who also works as an Agent for other players earns an average commission of a few thousand dollars for doing the same work as an Agent.

Lets be realistic and put yourself in the shoes of an NCAA compliance officer.

Look at nearly any NCAA recruiting application, on-line or on paper, and almost all of them ask if a player is working with an Adviser.  They not only want to know who the adviser is to make sure the player is getting good advice, but they want to know who the Adviser is to make sure the player is not receiving an improper financial benefit.

You see a player has an Adviser.  That Adviser is also someone known to work as an Agent.  The NCAA has a responsibility to make sure that a Student Athlete is not receiving advice for free or at a greatly discounted rate that he should be paying for.  Any financial benefit provided to a Student Athlete that is otherwise not freely available to every other Student Athlete is an improper financial benefit based upon the Student Athletes athletic ability.

Compliance Officers are not stupid people, and they know who try’s to cheat the system.  If you’re caught you may as well be prepared to pay a very stiff penalty for trying to cheat, and the penalty could include a loss of eligibilty to play NCAA hockey.

Compliance Officers also do not like to be lied to.  So if you think you can get away with not saying you have an Adviser, but you actually have one that also works as an Agent, you will likely experience the uncomfotable interogation and microscopic investigation that comes with being caught in such a lie.

Lets be realistic.  Would any one of you go to the office or to the shop and work all day without getting paid for your work?  You might do this for a short period of time if there were some benefit down the road you were trying to obtain.  You certainly wouldnt make a career out of doing this unless there were some big payoffs in the end.  An Agent works for the big payoff in the end.

Now, there is nothing wrong with Agents.  Agents are needed, and are in fact required for all NHL players.  They serve a valuable purpose in Professional Hockey.

For junior players looking to play NCAA hockey, you need and Adviser, not an Agent.

subscribeFor players not going the NCAA route, and looking at Major Junior, you may hire either an Agent or an Adviser.  If you are unsure of which route you plan on taking, it is always best to be cautious and hire an adviser, this way your options are kept open as long as possible.

I hope this helps those who are trying to make good decisions on your future.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Pittsburgh Penguins Fan Gives His Extra Ticket to Homeless Man: ‘He Told Me That I Made His Life’

 

 

When Jimmy Mains, a police officer in Rankin, Pennsylvania, couldn’t sell an extra ticket he had to Friday night’s Pittsburgh Penguins game, he ended up taking an unlikely guest.

As Mains was walking to the PPG Paints Arena, a homeless man asked him for money. Mains told the man, who identified himself as Rob, that he didn’t have money but he did have a ticket to the game against the Tampa Bay Lightening, according to WPXI.

Mains told the news outlet that Rob “was ecstatic” after he realized the offer wasn’t a joke.

“I can’t really describe it. He was running up the steps into PPG Paints Arena, and I was like, ‘Dude, you don’t even know where you’re going yet, but we’ll get there,’ ” he told WPXI.

subscribe“We went in and the whole time he couldn’t stop smiling,” he wrote along with the photograph. “At the end of the game he told me that I made his life. He asked me how he could repay me and I told him just to pay it forward.”

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Talent gets you noticed, character gets you recruited

 

written by James Leath

 

Image result for character sports“He is going to be shocked we no longer want him.”

“Come again?” I asked the college assistant coach seated across from me at lunch. “You flew across the country to meet him, and now you won’t recruit him anymore?”

The coach had recently stopped for a day in another state to check in on one of their prospects, before arriving at my school in Florida.

“He is a great talent, he certainly has the skills needed to play for us,” said the coach. “Sadly, he just won’t fit in well with our culture. It’s sad how many kids we come across every year that we cannot recruit, and it has nothing to do with their ability.”

As the Head of Leadership at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, I have the privilege of having conversations with college recruiters from major universities every week. One of saddest topics we discuss are stories of top high school talent being passed over because of behavior off the field. High talent and low character is a poor combination.

I have heard these stories enough to feel compelled to write this so that it may be passed onto every high school athlete that dreams of playing in college. There are a lot of talented athletes out there, but talent alone will not land you a coveted roster spot. Your talent may get your foot in the door, but it takes a lot more to hit the field at the next level.

The recruiter is not there to see you tackle, throw, bump, spike, pitch, catch, hit, shoot, or pass for the thousandth time. He already knows your stats. He has already watched your highlight film and read all the press clippings. He has likely seen you play. What he is looking for are called intangibles, the things that cannot be easily measured, but make all the difference.

Of the countless conversations I have had with college recruiters, here are the most common questions  recruiters are searching for answers to decide whether they should recruit you or not.

What are you doing when you think no one is watching?

Distance between winning and losing.

Image courtesy Kennesaw St Football.

Recruiters are not always wearing their school clothing. That guy in the corner of the weight room talking to your coach? He might be a recruiter on an unscheduled visit. That woman in the stands taking notes? She may be writing down the behavior she sees to report back to her head coach. The more talented you are, the more people are watching you to try and see what flaws you are hiding. How do you treat your teammates, coaches, parents, and officials? Do you make eye contact with your coach when she is talking?  What is your body language like when things are not going well? This all matters, a lot!

Are you one thing in person, and another person online?

Social media is the microphone of your character, and whether you agree or not, you will be judged by what you post. Please, pause and think before you post! If you wouldn’t want it on a billboard so your grandma could read it, you probably shouldn’t post it online.

Colleges put a lot of research into your character, especially the high-profile sports such as football and basketball. Most schools have teams of people who use very creative tactics to comb through your social media feeds.

For example, I heard a story recently about a prospect who used a lot of racial slurs on his Twitter account. This recruit was shocked because his Twitter account was set to private. However, a few weeks prior to the recruiter’s visit, this prospect accepted a request to allow an account with a profile picture of a pretty girl. That account was actually owned by a guy named Chris. Once accepted as a follower, Chris was given access to that prospect’s entire feed. Chris also discovered that the recruit had a habit of ridiculing teammates online. The recruiter thought that prospect had the talent to play at the next level, but talent alone gets you nowhere.

 

Who are your biggest influences?

You will  become like the people you hang out with the most. This includes who you follow on social media. Take a look at who you are following on social media sites, and in life, and unfollow those you do not wish to be associated with or become like.

ad-2017-chafindoutmoreLast year, I spoke to a coach about a 5-star baseball recruit being watched by all the major universities. That was until a news story came out about all the accounts this recruit was following on Twitter that promoted sexual assault towards women, drug use, and alcohol consumption. This recruit also had a Twitch account where he would play certain games that glorified abuse towards women and was recorded cheering when an explicit event would happen during the game. Not surprisingly, he ended up going to community college and getting kicked off his team halfway through the year.

Ask yourself, “If I were a coach, and I looked at the list of people influencing me, would I recruit me?” Be honest with yourself, because your potential future coach will be looking very closely at your influencers.

 

Are you a great teammate?

I coached varsity football for a number of years and had some decent talent under my supervision. I remember one recruiter visiting from a big school in Southern California to take a look at our star linebacker, maybe the best at his position I ever coached.

When the recruiter arrived, he was wearing boots, jeans, and a t-shirt. Nothing about what he was wearing gave away where he was from or connected him to his university. As I spoke to him in the corner of the weight room, he watched one particular athlete with great intensity. If he were to tell the story, this is how it would go:

“When I arrived at the school, I was taken directly to the weight room where our number one linebacker prospect was lifting with his team. He did not know who I was because I was wearing regular street clothes. I do this during all my visits because I don’t want to influence their normal routine just because I’m watching. I am sure the amount of weight he was squatting was impressive, but watching him squat was not what I flew 400 miles to observe. One thing I noticed was during every set, he had a spotter standing behind him just in case he needed help. This teammate was yelling encouragement during the prospect’s last few reps and helped him rack the bar.”

“After all three sets, sadly, I watched our recruit sit down and pull out his phone instead of returning the favor of spotting his teammate. His coach asked him to put his phone away after his first set. He did. He then pulled it back out after the second set. I stopped his coach from intervening again. We look for guys who can be trusted to do the things after being told once. During the third set, he finally put his phone down, but only because he saw his teammate struggling to finish his last few reps. This teammate was there for the prospect every rep. The prospect, however, did not spot him or encourage him, putting himself and those around him in danger. I began to question his ability to be a great teammate, and if he would fit in with our team. Then, when the workout was over, the coach blew the whistle to start cleaning up. The prospect headed straight for his cleats and walked out the door, never even making eye contact with me, and leaving his teammates to clean up and rack the weights. Definitely not a good fit for our culture.”

 

Do you make a good first impression?

One of the first things I teach all my athletes is the art of the handshake. Firm grip, eye contact, be fully present while you introduce yourself. I had a group of NBA prospects in my leadership class recently. I had been working with this particular group a few weeks so they knew how to enter a room, command presence, shake hands, make eye contact— all things that will set them apart from the hundreds of other NBA draft prospects.

A new guy showed up to campus and was put in my class. When he walked in, he gave me a handshake that could only be described as “a dead fish.” He mumbled his name and never really made eye contact. The class booed him and told him to “try it again,” pointing towards the door. He was confused and shocked that he was booed when he walked into the room. He came back in, did the same thing, and was again booed by his peers. Here was a phenomenal athlete, tall enough to have to duck when he entered the room, and he was getting booed for how he entered. I walked out with him the second time.

“Why are they booing?” he asked.

“Because you suck at entering a room.” I could see the confusion on his face. Then I saw a smile as he realized class had begun.

“How are you going to stand out if you enter a room like everyone else? And what’s with this handshake? Give me your hand,” I said.

I showed him a proper handshake and I encouraged him to walk across the room with purpose, introduce himself clearly, and look me in the eye when he shook my hand. Then I walked back into the classroom, shutting the door behind me.

The large man destined for the NBA walked in, smiled, and walked across the room with purpose. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and introduced himself clearly. The room full of other large men erupted in cheer.

You are always being watched—from the moment you get out of your car to the moment you leave the parking lot. The more talented you are, the more people pay attention. Give them a reason to remember you off the field, court, mat, or pool.

 

Do you “sweep the shed?”

The most successful sports team in the professional era is not the NY Yankees, or the Boston Celtics, or Real Madrid, but a team from a far less known sport. It is the New Zealand All Blacks in rugby, who have an astonishing 86% winning percentage and numerous championships to their name. In the outstanding book, Legacy, written about the All Blacks (the most winningest professional team in the history of modern sports), author James Kerr discusses one of their core values that epitomizes the selfless attitude.

It’s called “Sweep the Shed.”

Legacy coverYou see the goal of every All Blacks player is to leave the national team shirt in a better place than when he got it. His goal is to contribute to the legacy by doing his part to grow the game and keep the team progressing every single day.

In order to do so, the players realize that you must remain humble, and that no one is too big or too famous to do the little things required each and every day to get better. You must eat right. You must sleep well. You must take care of yourself on and off the field. You must train hard. You must sacrifice your own goals for the greater good and a higher purpose.

You must sweep the shed.

After each match, played in front of 80,000 plus fans, in front of millions on TV, after the camera crews have left, and the coaches are done speaking, when the eyes of the world have turned elsewhere, there is still a locker room to be cleaned.

…by the players!

If the New Zealand All Blacks are sweeping their locker room, then why aren’t you out there helping younger players, picking up cones, arriving first and leaving last, and setting the example for others? Are you leaving the uniform in a better place, or counting the days until they retire your jersey?

I once asked a recruiter what he thought of the prospect he came to watch.

“Remember when they were doing pushups?” he asked. “He led the team by counting, but he missed pushup 13 and pushup 18. He just didn’t go down, even though he commanded the team to do so. I am not sure about this guy, honestly. Out of twenty plays, we can’t have him taking off two because he is tired.”

You are always being watched, so sweep the shed.

 

Do you show a sense gratitude?

How you treat the people who take care of you matters. The coaches, the trainers, the ball boys—they are there to serve, but they are not your servants. True leaders serve those around them. When the trainer shows up, don’t bark, “I need tape!” Instead, ask for it. Say “please.” Say “thank you.” Clean up after yourself. When you are grateful, and treat others with the respect they deserve, people take notice. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do.

  • Show  gratitude.
  • Be a positive influence.
  • Do the little things.
  • Be a great teammate.
  • Make a great first impression.
  • Sweep the shed.

And always remember, whether you are online, on the field or in the classroom, someone is watching.

As president Calvin Coolidge once said, “nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.”

subscribeYour reputation is who people think you are; your character is who you are when you think no one is paying attention. Someone is always paying attention, and every recruiter has countless stories of passing on a talented athlete who failed the character test. You must be the exception. You must be extra-ordinary. That’s how you get recruited.

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Badgers men’s hockey: Aidan Cavallini savors ‘a pretty special experience’ with Wisconsin

Aidan Cavallini photo

No, Tony Granato did not really have a premonition that December morning in Michigan that Aidan Cavallini was about to have a breakthrough.

Sure, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey coach talked to the senior forward during the morning skate about being ready for a chance at his first collegiate goal.

Yes, he may have described to Cavallini the play that ended up happening hours later in a decent amount of detail, right down to it being a puck laying in the crease on a rebound.

“I didn’t know he was going to score that night,” Granato said, “but I knew he’d have the chance to.”

Cavallini had chances in plenty of games during a collegiate career where he tried to stay positive through movements in and out of the lineup.

The story of his season and time with the Badgers is a different one today than it was three months ago. That morning skate conversation led to a goal, which led to new opportunities to Cavallini to contribute.

“I never really imagined it’d be like this, or at least have the success we’re having right now,” Cavallini said. “With team success, individual success follows. It’s just a pretty special experience. I’m pretty lucky — I’d say fortunate — to be here.”

All seniors get slammed at some point with the reality that their college playing time is dwindling. Cavallini, forwards Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway and defenseman Corbin McGuire have their last games at the Kohl Center today and Saturday when No. 16 UW hosts No. 15 Ohio State.

It really came into focus for Cavallini one night this week, but he said there was a surreal quality in thinking about his last home games.

“It’s just weird,” he said, struggling to come up with a better way to describe the emotions brewing.

The senior season started in a familiar way for a player who had dressed for just under half of the Badgers’ games over his first three seasons: In the first two weekends, he played one night and sat out the next.

But Cavallini has since become something of a fourth-line mainstay, playing in 28 of 32 games overall.

A successful season for the Badgers required individual gains from a lot of returning players. Cavallini is one of the most prominent examples of how growth in players can lead to growth of the team.

Entering the final weekend of the regular season, UW is 13th in the PairWise Rankings, an objective system that replicates the NCAA tournament selection process. That’s 27 spots higher than it ended last season, the third-biggest jump in the country.

“I think he sets a great example for the kind of players that you want,” Granato said. “He could have easily been frustrated, but I think as a human being, it’s not in his M.O.”

What is a big part of Cavallini’s makeup, Granato said, is being a solid presence in the locker room. It’s one of the reasons why UW made him a nominee for the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award, a national honor recognizing sportsmanship and work ethic.

No, Tony Granato did not really have a premonition that December morning in Michigan that Aidan Cavallini was about to have a breakthrough.

Sure, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey coach talked to the senior forward during the morning skate about being ready for a chance at his first collegiate goal.

Yes, he may have described to Cavallini the play that ended up happening hours later in a decent amount of detail, right down to it being a puck laying in the crease on a rebound.

“I didn’t know he was going to score that night,” Granato said, “but I knew he’d have the chance to.”

Cavallini had chances in plenty of games during a collegiate career where he tried to stay positive through movements in and out of the lineup.

The story of his season and time with the Badgers is a different one today than it was three months ago. That morning skate conversation led to a goal, which led to new opportunities to Cavallini to contribute.

“I never really imagined it’d be like this, or at least have the success we’re having right now,” Cavallini said. “With team success, individual success follows. It’s just a pretty special experience. I’m pretty lucky — I’d say fortunate — to be here.”

All seniors get slammed at some point with the reality that their college playing time is dwindling. Cavallini, forwards Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway and defenseman Corbin McGuire have their last games at the Kohl Center today and Saturday when No. 16 UW hosts No. 15 Ohio State.

It really came into focus for Cavallini one night this week, but he said there was a surreal quality in thinking about his last home games.

“It’s just weird,” he said, struggling to come up with a better way to describe the emotions brewing.

The senior season started in a familiar way for a player who had dressed for just under half of the Badgers’ games over his first three seasons: In the first two weekends, he played one night and sat out the next.

But Cavallini has since become something of a fourth-line mainstay, playing in 28 of 32 games overall.

A successful season for the Badgers required individual gains from a lot of returning players. Cavallini is one of the most prominent examples of how growth in players can lead to growth of the team.

Entering the final weekend of the regular season, UW is 13th in the PairWise Rankings, an objective system that replicates the NCAA tournament selection process. That’s 27 spots higher than it ended last season, the third-biggest jump in the country.

“I think he sets a great example for the kind of players that you want,” Granato said. “He could have easily been frustrated, but I think as a human being, it’s not in his M.O.”

What is a big part of Cavallini’s makeup, Granato said, is being a solid presence in the locker room. It’s one of the reasons why UW made him a nominee for the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award, a national honor recognizing sportsmanship and work ethic.

They’re learned traits, especially for someone who spent parts of his youth hanging out around the professional teams his dad, Gino, played for in Austria and Germany following a 596-game NHL career.

“I idolized those guys,” Aidan Cavallini said, “so that was pretty cool.”

Maybe he learned a little from those experiences about how players handle goal slumps. Cavallini had his own going until Dec. 9 at Michigan.

A puck bounced off the glass behind the net right to Cavallini in front — just like Granato predicted — and he scored for the first time in 65 games with the Badgers.

“I don’t know if I really believed it’d be off the boards like that,” Cavallini said. “I mean, that’s pretty ridiculous.”

He has added five goals in 16 games since, including a top-shelf snipe against Ohio State at Madison Square Garden.

Cavallini isn’t leaving UW after this season — he has been accepted into a two-year master’s degree program in Applied Security Analysis through the School of Business.

subscribeBut he is coming to grips with having to move on in life without the bonds he’s formed with teammates.

“It’s been the best time of my life,” Cavallini said. “I’ve met some of my best friends here. Some of these experiences I’ve had with these guys, I’ll never forget them.”

A Hockey Family

 

Mike Barrett celebrating with his teammates and best friends.

 

By Emily Iannaconi

From lift, to practice, to meetings, to games, student-athletes are hardly ever without their teammates. Senior assistant hockey captain Mike Barrett does not mind though because his teammates are also his best friends. “You never get sick of them,” said Barrett.

Throughout his career, Barrett has played in 145 games and scored 43 goals, while tallying 55 assists for 98 points. When looking back over his four years though, Barrett can confidently say that he could not have had the same success without the help of his teammates.

 

BECOMING A LEADER

Coach Berard and Mike Barrett

A native of Orland Park, Ill., Barrett is extremely grateful to have been able to play alongside the many talented hockey players who have come through Holy Cross over the years. The dedicated and hard working student-athletes have made Barrett’s job as assistant captain an easy one. “Leadership is a team thing,” explained Barrett. “If I’m not doing something the right way, I want someone to tell me and vice versa. It’s a mutual respect and it’s a system like that which keep guys honest. Everybody works hard and has a lot of respect for each other.”

Through his actions both on and off the ice, Barrett has developed into a player that his teammates can look up to. He led the team in scoring as a sophomore while he is second on the team this season with 26 points. Barrett has also posted at least 20 points or more in every season. As a Veteran Leader in the Holy Cross Leadership Academy and a two-time member of the Atlantic Hockey All-Academic Team, Barrett has become an all-around role model. “He’s been a player that we’ve relied upon to produce offensively,” said Holy Cross head coach David Berard. “He brings much more than that though. As a leader on the team, he is vocal and assertive. He has been really important to us this year as we transition from last year being a team with nine seniors to this year being a team with nine freshmen. Mike sets the example and tone everyday in practice.”

Though it can be challenging to lead friends, Barrett has learned how to utilize the strengths of each player. “Everybody has a different personality,” said Barrett. “So, if two guys make the same mistake, you can’t approach them the same way. Holding guys accountable can be challenging, but I get to be best friends with them, so I know how to talk to each guy differently.”

 

HOME AWAY FROM HOME

Members of the Holy Cross hockey team return to campus in the middle of August, and oftentimes do not have the opportunity to go home until after the hockey season is over in the spring. For this reason, the team becomes its own family while on Mount St. James.

“Mike is a guy that we turn to quite a bit. He understands our culture, and he understands what we’re trying to do as a program. He not only follows that himself individually, but he also influences others to do the same.”
Head Coach David Berard

“You learn something new about somebody everyday,” said Barrett. “I’ve been here with guys for four years, and I’m still finding things out that I didn’t know before. People come from all different backgrounds.”

The coaches also contribute to this family atmosphere. “Our coaches are here with us every day and probably logging more hours at the rink than we are,” said Barrett. “They really care about each player, not just how the team is doing, but how guys are doing in school too. They are like parent figures. If we ever needed anything, we know that we could go to them, and they would help us and take care of us.”

The feeling is mutual for Berard who has come to trust and rely on Barrett as an assistant captain during his time here. “Mike is a guy that we turn to quite a bit,” said Berard. “He understands our culture, and he understands what we’re trying to do as a program. He not only follows that himself individually, but he also influences others to do the same.”

 

BEING A TEAMMATE AND FRIEND

Barrett celebrating Senior Day with his family and his two classmates, Brett McKinnon and Logan Smith

Barrett’s teammates know that he will always have their back both on and off the ice. “I am fortunate to have spent three years with Mike and have witnessed his immense contributions to Holy Cross men’s hockey not only as a player, but as a friend as well,” said junior captain Brett Mulcahy. “Mike is one of my best friends and I know our relationship will extend well beyond our time at Holy Cross. He is fun to be around, his actions are selfless and his work ethic on and off the ice has allowed him to develop an impressive skill set, making him a complete player.”

Student assistant coach Brett McKinnon understands and appreciates the great contribution Barrett has had on the Holy Cross men’s hockey program. “Mike has been a top player since he came in as a freshman and has led by example throughout his four years,” said McKinnon. “Not only has Mike been great on the ice, but he has been an exceptional teammates off the ice by always being there to support his teammates.”

 

FAVORITE MEMORIES ON AND OFF THE ICE

Barrett playing at Fenway Park on Dec. 28, 2013

Looking back on his four years as a Holy Cross hockey player, there are certain games and moments that will always stick out to Barrett. “Beating Boston College freshman year on the road is something that I will always remember,” said Barrett. “Playing at Fenway Park was also an unbelievable experience. Playing RIT in the playoffs was another memorable series. And this year beating Providence was a very cool moment.”

Beyond the ice though, Barrett will never forget the memories that he has formed with his teammates. “Simply hanging out with the guys and getting to know them has been an incredible experience,” said Barrett. “We have so many different personalities on the team, so it’s fun to hang out with everyone.”

As his time at Holy Cross comes to a close, Barrett recalled what two of his former teammates, Joe McNamara and Jack Kenney used to say about playing college hockey. “They would always say that college is so special because everyday you wake up next to your best friend, you have classes all day with your best friends, you have lunch with your best friends, you go to practice and see them again,” explained Barrett. “You’re always with your best friends and you never have that again in your life.”

 

HOCKEY BEYOND HOLY CROSS

Barrett knows that the relationships he has made from playing hockey at Holy Cross will only continue to help him after he leaves Mount St. James. “You can sit down and talk to anybody who knows hockey and have a conversation,” said Barrett. “No matter if you play 2,000 games in the NHL or play four years of college and are done, you always have the connection.”

subscribeAnd when Barrett is ready to stop playing hockey, he knows that there will be a community to support him, just like there always has been. “We have an alumni network now of all the guys who played hockey here,” explained Barrett. “Even though we’ve never played with some of them or even met them, it’s the connection of being a Holy Cross hockey player. It’s a special bond.”

Though Barrett does not yet know exactly where he will be next year, he is sure of one thing. The friendships he has made through playing hockey at Holy Cross will continue long after his time on the Hill.

Barrett and his teammates are about to start their quest for the program’s third Atlantic Hockey Championship. The Crusaders (14-13-7, 11-10-7 AHC) are the fifth seed and will play at fourth seed Robert Morris (19-11-4, 15-10-3) on March 10-12 in a best two-out-of-three Atlantic Hockey quarterfinal series. The winner will advance to the semifinal round in Rochester, N.Y. on March 17.

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‘It never stops’: Life as a head coach in college hockey

On the tail end of his team’s first full NCAA season, ASU hockey head coach Greg Powers describes his job’s demands

Photo by Celisse Jones | The State Press

Greg Powers, head coach of ASU’s NCAA Division I Hockey program, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 in Oceanside Ice Arena.

By Matt Layman

On a February morning inside a chilly Oceanside Ice Arena, Greg Powers finished up practice with the Sun Devils, who are ready to embark on a road trip for its last two games of the season.

Though it was just past 10 a.m., Powers was already several hours into his day. He said he gets up at 5:30 a.m., works out, then commutes from Anthem, Arizona — an hour away. Once he gets to the arena to plan practice, his day is only beginning.

After talking with a reporter, Powers needed to coordinate with Hockey Operations Director Adam Blossey for the road trip that began the next day. Once the team played two games in Michigan that weekend, Powers stayed up north to begin his off-season recruiting.

“I think it’s a stressful job. We only see a part of it,” said senior defenseman Drew Newmeyer, who has played for Powers as the team elevated from club status to NCAA Division I. “There really are no days off. It’s not a 9-to-5. It’s a 24-7 type of thing.”

While part of Powers’ job is being a disciplinarian, he said he has an open-door policy with his players. Captain and sophomore forward Dylan Hollman spoke highly of Powers’ ability to balance discipline and relatability.

“As a head coach, he not only has to direct us on the ice but I think more of a challenge is managing the team off the ice,” Hollman said. “I’ve had coaches in the past who are not that easy to communicate with and tough to know what’s going on their mind, but I could tell right away (when I first talked to him) he’s an easy guy to talk to.”

Hollman said Powers was working to help him find an internship over the summer in his major of accounting and finance. Newmeyer said Powers is almost like a father figure.

Powers wears many hats in his professional and personal life: Coach, disciplinarian, mentor, recruiter, travel-coordinator, father and husband, among others. And on this particular Wednesday morning at the arena, the task at hand was to partake in an interview with The State Press.

 

What’s a game day like for you?

Powers: “Game days, at home, I wake up and try to get a workout in. Usually I work out around 6 a.m. and then drive down. I spend a lot of time in the car, get any calls I need to, especially on the East Coast, I can call out early in the morning which is good. I get here, finish planning practice if I didn’t do it the day before, get ready for practice, get everything situated, do our game day skate, and then spend the rest of the day in the office either recruiting or prepping or doing whatever administrative stuff that needs to be done, and then getting ready for our games.


“I go through a lot of thought in planning our pregame meeting, what the message needs to be, any final details that we need to cover going into whatever opponent that we’re playing. And then, really, I’ve always been of the opinion that once the puck drops, my job’s overrated. It’s on the players. Up until really Friday midday, that’s where my job’s important … getting them ready to play and prepare. And as soon as the puck drops on the weekend, it’s on them.”

 

You mentioned getting up early — is this a late night, early morning job? 

“It never stops. Sometimes it’s coaches that you want to talk to when you’re recruiting kids or those kids have off-hours practicing when you’re recruiting, so you have to be available at all times.

“The way I operate is I have an open-door policy with my guys, 24/7 if they need something or have a question, or if it’s something personal, they can reach out. I’m always willing to help them handle whatever I need to help them handle. So, it’s a 24/7 job. Usually I wind down by about 10 p.m. after I’ve put my kids to bed at home and spend some time with my wife. And whatever work I’ve got to get done before I go to bed I get done, I wake up at about 5:30 a.m. every day and get back at it.”

 

What do you do in the off-season?

“It’s all just getting ready for the next season. Trying to build off of what you established — in a good way — and continue to move in a positive direction.


“(We’re) continuing to think of ways we can continue to build our culture and do things better and reflect on the previous season, where maybe we did things we didn’t like that didn’t work. And not necessarily systematic stuff on the ice, just overall program-building type things like working out at 6:30 a.m., maybe we want to tweak stuff there; yoga every Tuesday, maybe we want to do it every other Tuesday. And that’s all just getting feedback from the players and figuring out what they liked and figuring what they thought worked well.

“This is with any sport in college — when our games end this weekend, things get crazier. Things get even more busy. If you saw my calendar through March and April, I think I’m here less than I was during the season. During the season, everything is regimented. As a head coach, you have to be local during the week with your team, running practice, overseeing your program, but when you no longer work with your players, you focus on everything else. Whether it be cultivating donor relationships and going to community events, whether it be recruiting.

You get pulled in a lot of different directions. I think a lot of people think that college coaches, when the season’s over, they just sit with their thumb up their butt and don’t do anything. But that’s when the real work starts — in the off-season.”

 

You have kids and a family. Is it tough to have a personal life with this job?

“Yeah, it is. You have to have a supportive family and I certainly do. It’s good with where I live, both of my children play hockey up in Scottsdale. So, on Mondays and Tuesdays on the way home, I can always stop off in Scottsdale and spend time and watch them practice. I don’t get to see them play very many games at all. I got our weekend off last weekend. Luckily, my daughter had a tournament here locally so I got to see all of her games. So I don’t get to see them do much. I try to, during the week, always be at every practice and every activity that I can. And I have a job where whatever I need to get done I can get done, I don’t have to be in my office on campus, I can be at home, I can be in my car. Juggling personal life and being a good father and a good husband is certainly a challenge at times, but I do my best.”

 

Are your kids pretty good hockey players?

“Yeah! My daughter’s a 9-year-old, and she’s the only girl in the top Triple-A team in the state that plays with all boys, so she’s really good. My (7-year-old) son’s just getting started in Mini Mites, so we’ll see how he pans out but he’s having fun, that’s all that matters.”

 

How much does your corporate recruiting background affect you as a coach?

“I think it’s applicable in every way. I was hired by organizations and large corporations to go find the perfect fit for very important positions, whether it be a CEO, a CFO, a VP of sales. So what I had to do was learn their culture, learn where they wanted to go, what maybe didn’t work in the past and go find that person that fit into that vision. So the human side of what I did was very important in reading people and finding good cultural fits.

“We know what we want here. We know what kind of program we want to build here. Finding the right kids who have the right mindset, not just the best hockey players, but most importantly the kids away from the rink who want to build our culture and enhance it and enrich it and help us achieve our vision as a program.”

 

How do you balance being a disciplinarian and trying to be relatable and be their buddy?

“Well, certainly the one thing they know I’m not is their buddy. I’m not their friend and they know I’m not their friend. But they know I love them and I care about them. So I think that holds more water when things are good and they’re doing the right things, especially away from hockey, and they’re performing in the classroom and they’re behaving in the community, and they’re handling their business away from the rink. Everything here is great.

“When they walk in the door it’s positive, it’s supportive, we have fun together, but when they don’t — I don’t have any issues going the exact opposite way. … It holds a little more water when you’re not every day down kids’ throats and making things so hard and being negative and yelling and screaming. You’ve got to pick your spots. And when you do, it means a lot more to the players.”

 

You had recruits in on Monday. What’s that like when they come here?

“On Sunday, I picked up two and (assistant coach Alex) Hicks picked up two. We all went to dinner, all six of us, dropped them off at their student hosts, and then Monday morning, Hicks picked all four of them up, they came to practice, we did the whole campus tour, they met with our athletic directors, they met with our academic resources. I took one of the guys to lunch that wasn’t committed. Two of them were committed, they just were taking their official (visits).”

 

Related: Golf Carts and Palm Trees: How ASU Hockey recruits its players

“Then I ended up taking the other one that wasn’t committed to dinner on Monday night and they left Tuesday morning. So, it’s a really full, action-packed day where they get in, you take them to dinner, they get to know the guys a little bit, they wake up at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, go to about 7 p.m., so it’s about a 12-hour action-packed day of information that we try to get all the kids who come in here to see what we’re all about, and then we get them back on a plane and send them back to their team.”

 

What’s your view on reporters, especially at a college where so many reporters are students? Does it ever get tedious dealing with the media?

“No. It’s all part of it. As long as I’m here, we’re never going to forget where we came from. I think a lot of our success as a club program is the fact that the student media took so well to us and covered us and gave us the coverage that put us out there and into the community and to the right people on campus.

“I tell Mitch (Terrell, of Sun Devil media relations) every day, and it will always be this way, if a student reporter — whether it be a kid doing a project in his class, whether it be a State Press guy like yourself, whether it be somebody from Cronkite — anybody, if they want to talk to me and they want to get time with me, I’ll always set time aside to do it. We’ll never get too big for that, we’ll never forget where we came from, and it will always be that way. That side of the media thing to me is really important to continue to foster and support. I’ve seen so many kids go through this process with me and then they graduate, and now they’re having a ton of success doing whatever it is that they’re doing, doing what they love doing.”

 

What did you plan to do with your broadcast journalism degree?

“I don’t know. I was the sports director for my high school radio station, so I did play-by-play for football when I didn’t play hockey. So I did about half of those. And then I tried to do all the play-by-play for basketball. I love sports. I love football, I love basketball, I probably watch more football and basketball than I do hockey, to be honest. That’s what I envisioned myself doing. And then I got to school and, I don’t know. I had an itch to get into business, even though I didn’t major in business, and that’s what I did.

“Really, the first time I ever used my degree in broadcast was just the other night when I was a guest analyst at the (Arizona) Coyotes. But who knows. Maybe when I’m done coaching, I’ll mix the two and get into it. I think at the end of the day, a lot of kids major in things that maybe they don’t apply to where they go in the real world, and I think the most important thing in college is if you start something, you finish it, and that’s what that degree means. You’re committed to getting it and earning it and finishing it.

 

Do you ever have players ask you about becoming a coach?

“Yeah, it happens all the time. I think everybody has a different path to their ultimate destination in any profession, and I tell them there’s not one right way to become a coach.

“I think if I could go back in time — because I love what I do so much now — and start coaching earlier in my life, I probably would have. It ended up working out for me, but it’s my advice to kids that if they think they want to get into coaching, go right into it, try it before they have to put food on the table for a family, just worry about themselves. And that applies to anything. Whatever you think your passion is, you should try and tackle it right away. Whether it’s journalism, whether it’s — it doesn’t matter. When you only have yourself to worry about and support, before you start to build and grow a family, go do what you love. And if you can figure out how to do what you love really well, you’re going to end up making a living at it.”

 

How fun is being an NCAA hockey coach?

subscribe“It’s a lot of fun. Everyone always asked — they still ask — ‘How are you liking it?’ My answer still is, ‘It beats working.’ It’s a lot of work — I don’t want to call it work, but it’s a huge commitment. This program needed, because of where we are in our infant stages, a group of people that didn’t look at the clock and would work 24/7 and knew they would never be off the clock. In hiring our staff, that’s the kind of characteristic that I most look for. So, it’s a ton of work but it’s a ton of fun and we’re having a blast.”

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Raising the Bar

NCAA Save Pct. Leader, Charles Williams, is a Rarity, But Wants to Change That

 

by Tony Jovenitti

 

Charles Williams leads top-seeded Canisius into the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals on a 15-game unbeaten streak.

Charles Williams leads top-seeded Canisius into the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals on a 15-game unbeaten streak.

 

When he was 13, Charles Williams moved from Detroit to the suburb of Canton. All the kids there were playing hockey, so Williams and his brother taught each other to skate so they could play, too. Soon enough, they both started netting plenty of goals, but something still wasn’t right.

“We both would have 7 or 8 goals, but we would lose 16-14 or something crazy like that,” Williams said.

He told his brother “If you keep scoring, I’ll try and stop the puck.” So he told his coach he’d volunteer to play goalie.

“Then we were winning every game — giving up 1 or 2 goals. That’s how it stuck,” he said. “I enjoyed the pleasure of stopping the puck and seeing the frustrated look on the players.”

Now, as one of just a few black players to ever play goalie in NCAA men’s college hockey, he leads the nation in save percentage.

After earning the starting position early this year, Williams helped backstop Canisius to a 15-game unbeaten streak to end the regular season, which culminated in winning the school’s first Atlantic Hockey regular-season title. In addition to leading the country in save percentage (.944), he’s tied for most shutouts (5) and he has the second-best goals-against average (1.83).

The path to get there, however, was winding and challenging in more ways than one.

Williams spent four years at Ferris State, where he faced tough competition for playing time — seeing action in just 20 games through three years. Because of a medical redshirt his junior year, he graduated with one year of eligibility remaining. Canisius assistant coach Trevor Large is a Ferris State alumnus and got word of Williams, and invited him to compete for a spot with the Golden Griffins.

“We knew that he had been a good goalie, but we knew that it didn’t go as he had planned at Ferris so he was looking for an opportunity,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “He came in right away, and he didn’t talk, he just worked. He was sincere, he was mature, and he was competitive.”

A few different goalies got starts early on for the Griffins, including Daniel Urbani and last year’s starter Simon Hofley. They all showed promise, but Williams was just a step above them, according to Smith. He also fit in well with the team’s chemistry.

“I think, as a leader, he was welcomed in because he didn’t force it,” Smith said. “He didn’t try to make himself a leader, he just let it happen naturally.”

Though certainly not wanting to be defined as just “the black goalie,” Williams doesn’t shy away from it either. After all, it’s indeed a rarity in the NCAA

ad-2017-chafindoutmoreAccording to our research, African-American goaltenders in college hockey are scarce. In recent years, there was Jordan Tibbett from 2010-14 with Mercyhurst, and Michigan Tech’s Jamie Phillips. Before that, the last African-American goalie in the NCAA was Eustace King with Miami in 1996, over 20 years ago. King played sparingly until his senior year, when he played 17 games and had a .868 save percentage.

Prior to that, there was Peter Harris at Lowell from 1986-90, who again played sparingly, 16 games with an .845 save percentage. His son, Elijah, is a goalie and was at one point committed to Brown, though is not anymore. Finally, there was Carey Gandy, a native of Huntsville, Ala., who played at Dartmouth from 1981-83 and also had a save percentage well south of .900. (If there are others, please feel free to let us know. Our apologies if any were missed. Ed.)

That makes Williams certainly the most successful of that group.

Williams also hopes to be a leader for young black kids, similar to the positive influence players like Willie O’Ree, the first African-American to play in the NHL, and long-time NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes had on him. In Michigan, Williams participated in “Hockey in the Hood,” where he learned about the game directly from his role models.

“Willie O’Ree would put on a camp for two or three weeks for kids who were less fortunate. They were able to come out with whatever they had and skate,” he said. “We would do practices, have fun skates with the parents, and you get to talk and listen to O’Ree and Weekes. That was great to be a part of, and I saw how fortunate we were.

“Hockey is a very expensive sport, so it’s tough sometimes for kids who have the talent and skills but just can’t afford it. Being aware and noticing that helped me tremendously in terms of not taking things for granted, and knowing that this is a blessing.”

For those reasons, he wants to help expand the game. And he remembers how important it was for him to have those role models in the spotlight when he was learning the sport. He wants to continue that work and encourage even more young athletes.

“I know how hard these kids work and I want to be able to give them any kind of outlet, whether it’s one kid or 100,” he said. “It will definitely mean a lot to me and that’s something I see myself doing for years down the road.

“I saw those guys reaching out to kids, knowing that these kids want to be just like them. When they see that, it really motivates them. For me, I was watching guys like Ray Emery, Kevin Weekes and recently Wayne Simmonds, Mike Grier, guys like that.”

Interestingly, Eustace King went on to do precisely that. A native of Evanston, Ill., and son of Jamaican immigrants, he got into the game as a boy by watching Northwestern’s club hockey team practices. A mentor of his helped subsidize King’s playing for youth teams, something his parents couldn’t afford.

After Miami, King went on to become a mentor to others, as a well-respected player agent with clients including Simmonds, Chris Stewart, Emerson Etem, Raffi Torres and T.J. Oshie. And, it should be known, he helped negotiate Weekes’ first television contract, and also represents O’Ree, who is now the NHL’s director for youth development and diversity ambassador — the two guys Charles Williams directly speaks about.

“I don’t have these athletes who happen to be minorities because I’m black,” King told The Color of Hockey blog in 2013. “It’s because I’m highly capable and I happen to be black. One critical point is I understand their history and background, being West Indian or being African-American, and being able to relate to them. That’s the piece that makes the bond that we have so much greater and we’ve been able to accomplish the things we’ve been able to do. … I really believe that a young man needs anywhere from a minimum 4 to 6 mentors in his life. It’s going to be his parents, his coaches, it’s also going to be friends … the ones that are positive.”

Smith has no doubt that Williams will be that kind of role model.

subscribe“I see Charles as a role model for all hockey players. He is a special person,” Smith said. “We have a lot of great kids, but Charles is special. He is a unique blend of maturity, work ethic and sincerity.

“He’s a world class person.”

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