I hope that this newsletter finds you, and your family well.
We have been very busy this Spring at the Hockey Family Advisor offices. Our clients have had unparalleled success at all levels of the game, and at school. We are so proud of every one of them.
I should first tell you that within the past month, my second son, Bradley, has joined John and I within our firm. At the present time, he is wrapping up his post-secondary schooling from Laurentian University, where he will graduate with an Honours, Bachelor of Commerce, in Sports Administration.He has also just finished up his CIS hockey career.
I am not 100% sure, but I believe that we might be the only father-son who will have graduated from this excellent Program, and I highly recommend our readers to consider it when they are considering options.
Regarding our clients, within the past few months, we have had several clients move from the amateur ranks, and begin to play professional hockey, and we look forward to continuing to follow their hockey careers.
Most important though, we have had many clients finish their professional playing careers this year, and decide to begin their professional working careers, and fortunately because of the wise decisions that they made as teenagers, they are beginning to transition very nicely. This is really were we get our most satisfaction.
We still have one more ’96 born player who needs to make a final decision, as to where he will play college / university hockey next season, but all others have made their decisions on where they will play and pursue their full-time post-secondary educations.
By this time next month, I am sure that we will be able to report a 100 % success rate, in this regard.
Some of our clients had unbelievable success in this year’s USHL Draft, and will have terrific recognition in other upcoming junior drafts.
Having said that, we remind players and parents that this process is a marathon, and not a sprint for most players.
Over the years, we have seen many players who had no idea of where they would attend school in the Fall, or to play junior hockey, but things always seem to have a way of working themselves out, through continued player dedication , and by having our ears very close to the ground. This includes midget, prep school, junior and college/university hockey.
A lot of decisions are yet to be made for players, and there is still lots (or almost “lots”) of time.
We remind players that it is always best to begin making plans as early as possible, and not just leaving things up to chance. There are certain steps that you can proactively take to ensure that you “get on the radar”.
More important, there are many booby-traps that can ruin the prospects of an (otherwise well-qualified) player from ever playing college hockey.
Some of these mistakes that prevent players from being able to play college hockey occur as early as at 15 years of age.
Some of our clients have received excellent college commitments as young as 13 years of age, and we have had many more get offers as late as August of the year in which they go to college / university.
What we have noticed, over the years, is that the only similarity regarding the the path for each individual student-athlete is that each is different.
Are you doing the things that you need to do to achieve long-term success, in order to leverage your hockey skills to receive incredible benefits?
Are you sending those subtle hints that you wish to play college hockey, by enrolling in showcase events. With so many players playing the game these days, it is easy for recruiters to identify qualified players, and we recommend that you take the proactive steps to ensure that they know that you are interested in attending college / university.
If you need help identifying the best path forward, and help in making those important life-changing decisions, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more than 100 years, college hockey has been a breeding ground for outstanding hockey players and people. Today college hockey players make a bigger impact in the NHL than they ever have, with more than 30% of the league in 2011-12 coming from the U.S. college ranks.
NCAA hockey is made up 59 member schools (D-1) across six conferences: Atlantic Hockey, Big Ten, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East, NCHC and the WCHA. The member teams range as far west as Alaska and as far south as Alabama.
There are a number of reasons to consider the college hockey path:
-Pro Opportunities: From Martin St. Louis to Jonathan Quick, college hockey consistently produces NHL stars and its presence in the league continues to grow.
-Player Development: With its style of play, emphasis on practice and opportunity for strength and conditioning, college hockey provides an unparalleled environment for player development.
–Education: Some of the finest institutions in the world offer college hockey, providing young players exposure to elite educational programs while pursuing their hockey careers.
–Student Life: The off-ice experience of life on campus, surrounded by fellow students in a supportive environment, is unmatched and often considered the best time of a person’s life.
–Special Events: Holiday tournaments, conference championships, outdoor games, the Beanpot and the NCAA Frozen Four provide college hockey players the opportunity to play in intense, high-profile special events.-
–History: With traditions unique to each school and a history that traces back to the 1800s, today’s college hockey players carry on a proud legacy.
College Hockey, Inc. believes there is no better place to build your skills than college hockey. That said we know young hockey players face difficult choices, and we hope this site helps answer questions you may have about such subjects as:
–Recruiting: The college recruiting process can be exciting, nerve-wracking and – sometimes – confusing. We provide some background.
–NCAA Eligibility: To play college hockey it’s important to succeed both athletically and academically. Find out what it takes to maintain your academic eligiblity.
–FAQ: We offer answers to many other common questions about recruiting, major junior, advisors and more.
Every Friday and Saturday night during the college hockey season, teams play in college arenas full of hyped-up fellow students, friends, family members and fans. Thousands of fans sing their school fight song after every goal. School spirit creates an atmosphere not experienced anywhere else in the world.
Those are memories college hockey players carry into their NHL careers and beyond. And all terrific reasons to Play It Smart. Play College Hockey.
Top 10 Recruiting Tips
Our very best advice when trying to attract a college coach’s attention.
It’s incredibly hard to make an NCAA Division I hockey team, and the deciding factor in landing one of those coveted positions typically comes down to your hockey ability. That said, there are a number of things young players and parents can do to catch the eye – and the interest – of college recruiters.
Here are 10 ways you can help your cause at the rink, in the classroom and beyond:
1. Be Proactive
College coaches are limited in when and how often they can contact recruits, and they can’t reach out to a player until after his 10th grade year. Players, however, can contact coaches at any time. It can help to let a school know that you are interested with a reminder of where they can see you play. See More: Writing a Winning Hockey Resume
2. Be Studious
The better your grades and standardized test scores, the more options you will have. Only 59 schools offer Division I men’s hockey – you don’t want to narrow your field further because your marks aren’t up to par.
3. Be Aware of Eligibility Requirements
Two key elements are part of determining a student-athlete’s NCAA eligibility: their academic achievement and their amateur status. Review the requirements at eligibilitycenter.org to understand what classes and standardized test you need to take. Don’t jeopardize your amateur status by signing a CHL contract or playing in a game.
4. Be a Character Player
Coaches constantly have to make tough recruiting decisions between equally talented players. What often breaks the tie is what they can see of a players’ character in a game. Is he a good teammate? How does he respond to a bad shift, or a bad call? Always assume that someone’s watching you – they probably are.
5. Be Committed to Improving
Many young players get wrapped up in playing every showcase event that they can. Coaches recognize, however, that development comes in practice, not games. Instead of signing up for every showcase, spend time working on a part of your game that has room for improvement – then show off those skills when you are back in the spotlight.
6. Be Consistent
Colleges have three coaches each who can watch recruits – they don’t employ scouts. Therefore, they can’t be at every game and they may see you on an off night. Do your best to give a consistent effort and rest assured, they see recruits multiple times before making any decisions.
7. Be Our Guest
The best way to find out whether a school is right for you is to take what’s called an unofficial visit (official visits are paid for by the school and only available once you are in 12th grade). An unofficial visit can allow you to see the campus, tour the facilities and even take in a game. Reach out to the coaching staff before you go and let them know you’ll be on campus. See More: The Benefits of Unofficial Visits
8. Be Inquisitive
As much as coaches want to find the right fits for their programs, they want to be sure their recruits are comfortable where they end up as well. They want to hear recruits asking questions – insightful questions – of the coaching staff, players, professors and others around their program.
9. Be a Supportive Parent
Never forgotten in this process are the parents and their significant role. It shouldn’t be too significant, however. Your son should be the one writing letters and reaching out to coaches. Coaches want to know that it’s the player’s ambition, not their parents’. Be supportive but not overbearing – coaches have to be sure they want you in their program for four years as well.
10. Be Patient
The last – and often hardest – piece of advice is to be patient. The recruiting process takes time, and prospective student-athletes can commit to schools anywhere from 15 years old to 21. Don’t get frustrated if you aren’t one of those select few who get an offer while playing minor midget hockey. Follow these other nine steps and the recruiting process can be a rewarding, exciting experience.
NCAA College Hockey vs. CHL Major Junior
Talented college hockey players face a choice at a young age as to where to pursue their dreams – two paths that can both lead to the NHL, but have a number of differences between them.
On one hand is college hockey, more specifically the 59 teams that make up NCAA Division I. On the other is major junior, or the 60 teams in the OHL, QMJHL and WHL that make up the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
“That debate’s always going to be there,” said Ron Wilson, longtime USA Hockey and NHL head coach and a former player at Providence College. “I think the chances of playing in the NHL are just as great playing college hockey as they are playing junior.”
With that in mind, here are a few things for players and parents facing that choice to consider:
Because the CHL includes players who have signed professional contracts, the NCAA considers it a professional league. Therefore, players who have played a game – even an exhibition game – in the CHL are deemed ineligible for NCAA competition.
There are paths to have NCAA eligibility reinstated for players who have played a limited number of CHL games, but they are not guaranteed and must be initiated by an NCAA school.
A big reason college hockey is producing more than 30% of all NHL players is its success in player development. That stems from a number of factors:
Coaching and training staffs: College coaches are dedicated to their players and helping them achieve their fullest potential. Staffs include assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and equipment managers who give players the ideal environment to improve.
Facilities: College facilities are first-class and constantly being constructed or renovated to meet the needs of the student-athletes. College facilities typically include weight rooms, video rooms, hydrotherapy tubs and other features to help development such as off-ice shooting bays.
Practices and conditioning: The college schedule of approximately 40 games allows three or four days per week to focus on practice and off-ice conditioning work. Practice – with players getting more ice time and having the puck on their stick – has proven to be a much better environment for talent development than games. The additional time in the weight room allows players to add significant weight in muscle during their college careers.
Intense games: With fewer, more meaningful games, college hockey is intense and hard- fought. Alums often marvel at the intensity of their college games relative to their pro experience.
Older competition: College hockey features players ages 18-24, rather than 16-20 in major junior hockey. That older, faster, stronger competition helps players elevate their games.
Additional time: Since college players can remain in school until graduation – as opposed to having to sign pro contracts at 20, like major junior players – they have more time to develop. That allows players like Chris Kreider to jump right from college into the NHL, and also gives players who may not be ready at 20 more time to pursue their hockey dreams in a development system.
“In a word, maturity,” Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said of what he sees from former college players. “On-the-ice maturity. You get a player that’s had longer to develop physically and mentally.”
College hockey is played at some of the finest institutions in the world, and the NCAA model allows student-athletes to progress toward their degree while pursuing their hockey dreams at the same time.
While the CHL’s education program has made strides in recent years, it comes with restrictions that families need to consider. Expenses covered can be limited and packages can be eliminated if players sign certain pro contracts or fail to begin pursuit of their education in a certain timeframe.
A recent NCAA study showed that 88% of men’s hockey players earn their degree. Published reports have shown that fewer than 20% of major junior players go on to earn their degrees.
College students – not just hockey players – often call their time on campus the best years of their life. NHLers who played in the NCAA are no exception.
The ability to socialize with thousands of other students the same age, to make lifelong friendships and to live on their own makes for a great experience, and prepares college hockey players to be more mature when they move on from school.
He came to speak to my team and I about 4 years ago before our National Championship playoff run.
I remember telling myself, “man…this guy can work a room!“
He was captivating.
He was inspiring.
He was charismatic.
He literally had the entire room’s attention for quite a long period of time—i don’t even think I blinked once!
But it’s not what he said that night that I want to share with you today (if you want to know what he said that night, pick up his book titled ‘Leave No Doubt‘—it’s a must-read for players and coaches)…
I was lucky enough to cross paths with him again just a few days ago at our annual Redmen Alumni Banquet (the picture above is of him and I after supper that night), and it turns out he had even wiser words to share this time around—includingtwo life lesson that I’ll never forget.
Now, Mike speaks often and really is one of the best in my opinion, but it’s not every day you get to listen in.
You’d really have to be lucky to catch one of his speeches…
But today, I’m going to share those important life lessons with you in as close to his own words as possible so that you can apply them to your game—and your everyday life!
1. Comfort Kills
Mike Babcock’s main message to the audience was simple:
“Embrace being uncomfortable as you move forward in hockey and life.”
He took us back to a time where he was a young player looking at his different university options. Like many young Canadian men, all he really wanted to do was play hockey.
He eventually settled on McGill University and quickly became uncomfortable and unsure.
He had no idea about the school’s academic standard, the commitment level of the students, the demand and the expectations of the professors…it was all new to him, and it’s not what he was used to.
His mind was on hockey, and he had never really embraced being a student before.
He had noplan.
No idea what he wanted to do later on if hockey didn’t work out.
No career path whatsoever.
He was uncomfortable, to say the least.
But that same feeling of “being uncomfortable” is what led to his extreme growth as an individual…
The people, the professors, the coaches & classmates…
The academic load and the new perspectives, thoughts and ideas…
All of this “new unknown” led to amazing growth opportunities that allowed Mike to challenge himself and grow not only as a hockey player, but also as an individual.
‘I was being stretched as a person like I never had been before as a student. I was finding out about myself. I was finding out what I loved to do. That to me is the whole key to loving your life.– Mike Babcock
If he would have remained comfortable and stuck with what he was used to, he would have never grown in the way he did.
His second lesson is just as powerful…
The Gift of Passion
Once you’ve embraced being uncomfortable and you’ve allowed it to drive you forward, find what you love.
If you love something, you have a chance to be good at it.
-what do you love?
-what are you good at?
-what gets you out of bed in the morning?
-what excites you and energizes you?
“When you figure out what you love, you gotta’ chase it as hard as you possibly can. The gift of passion is this: if you love something, you can grind harder and longer than the guy next to you.” – Mike Babcock
[Img credit: Sportsnet.ca]
Passion allows you to separate yourself from the crowd.
Passion allows you to excel.
If you’re passionate about something, it’s not called a “job”—you don’t have a job when you do what you love!
And the thing is…
No one can be GREAT without PASSION.
You can have GOOD without passion…
…but you can’t have GREAT.
What drives passion?
Mike found out through being uncomfortable that coaching was his passion.
He’s now the only hockey coach in the history of the game to lead teams to victory in the Stanley Cup, the World Championship, and the Olympic Games.
In closing, Mike reminded us to not be the guy that tells the same story for the next 30 years.
Don’t be the guy who lives in the past.
Make new memories. Make new stories. Pursue new opportunities and continue to grow as much as you can.
Think “constant growth”. What made you happy last week won’t make you happy next year.
When you’re comfortable, it’s very close to complacency.
[Image credit: Toronto Sun]
If you’re a hockey player, don’t stay behind to play in a league where you’re the best—jump up a level and be uncomfortable. It’ll force you to develop.
If you’re a hockey coach, don’t stay on a team that has won it all—jump into the unknown and try turning an inexperienced team into a winning team. It’ll force you to grow as a coach.
Uncomfortable is where the fun is at!
Embrace it, and allow yourself to grow into something you never thought possible.
Fighting Irish catalyst has grown into a constant offensive threat.
Anders Bjork leads all players in the Frozen Four with 52 points this season.
Watching a player like Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork dominate the Northeast Regional the way that he did, it can be easy to forget that he didn’t arrive on campus as a finished product.
Yes, he had the pedigree of an alum of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, and was a draft pick of the Boston Bruins. And he had a good freshman season, recording 22 points.
But Bjork didn’t arrive on campus like a Jack Eichel, who was the Hockey East Rookie (and Player) of the Year that season. Instead he has steadily progressed into an Eichel-type who can take over games the way he did 10 days ago in Manchester.
Now Bjork heads to Chicago as the top-scoring player in the Frozen Four with 52 points on the year. He was a first-team All-Hockey East selection and one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.
Getting to that level has been a process, and Bjork’s development is a credit to him – and the entire Notre Dame program.
“I think I’ve become stronger and a lot more confident,” Bjork said when asked to compare his game now to his freshman season. “That’s thanks to the great staff we have at Notre Dame. Also my teammates pushing me and pushing each other each day in practice and in the weight room. It’s a great organization we have and a great group of guys. We make each other better.”
The Notre Dame coaches are quick to point out Bjork’s role in the process.
“Ultimately every player is responsible for their own development and he takes that very seriously,” assistant coach Andy Slaggert said. “He’s going to find out what his potential is, he’s not going to get cheated.”
Bjork has benefitted from the opportunities available to him at Notre Dame. The six-year-old Compton Family ice Arena, like many college facilities, gives players constant access to state-of-the-art weight rooms, shooting bays, video rooms and additional ice time.
“When we planned the team space, we put a lot of emphasis on player development,” head coach Jeff Jackson said. “We have a weight room, a cardio room, rehab and medical facilities, a team meeting room. We’ve got shooting bays so that guys can come in and work on their shooting on or off the ice, even jumping in there between classes.”
Bjork, it seems, hasn’t missed a stop in that facility tour.
“I think he’s really driven, internally,” Slaggert said. “He does the work in the weight room, he shoots pucks after practice, he goes in the shooting range, he’s on the bike. It didn’t happen by accident for Anders.”
The results have been impressive. Only T.J. Tynan (54 points in 2010-11) has had a more productive season under Jackson at Notre Dame, and Bjork could match that total with two more points in Chicago. He scored or had the primary assist on the Irish’s last five goals in the Northeast Regional.
Bjork came to campus with promise, but had accelerated his high school classwork and arrived just weeks after his 18th birthday. He was still raw, but eager to develop.
“He’s not a big ego kid, which sometimes happens with really talented players,” Jackson said. “He’s still young, age-wise is almost like a sophomore. He’s still growing up as a kid and he’s got the right character and attitude to be great for us in many situations. He does a lot of things to help us win.”
Sophomore Andrew Oglevie finished off Bjork’s feed for the overtime goal that sent Notre Dame to the Frozen Four. His freshman-to-sophomore year improvement – plus-16 goals and 32 points – is even more impressive than Bjork’s was (5 goals, 13 points).
It’s clear that Bjork has made a big impression on his sophomore classmate, who is actually a year and a half older than him.
“I think everyone in the locker room knows that Anders is probably one of the most special players in college hockey,” Oglevie said. “Being able to play with him is an honor for me and I’m sure most in the locker room. Playing with him, fun things happen. He’s fast, he’s got great vision, and he’s always in attack mode.”
Developing into a special player like that has taken time and effort. It has brought Bjork from a fifth-round NHL draft pick to one of the Bruins’ top prospects in less than three years.
It’s also put him within two wins of a national championship as the Irish descend on United Center.
Rookie, who scored hat trick in Game 3 against Blue Jackets, impressing parents, teammates
by Nicholas J. Cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist
April 17th, 2017
COLUMBUS — Mike and Sally Guentzel have a unique way of following their son Jake, a rookie forward with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mike is the associate head coach of the men’s hockey team at the University of Minnesota and sometimes can’t watch Jake’s games. So when Jake assists on a goal, Sally will text an apple emoji, and when Jake scores, she’ll text “bingo.”
Mike was scouting in Sioux City, Iowa, when Jake was playing in Columbus on Sunday. Mike watched the United States Hockey League’s Clark Cup Playoffs and listened to a radio broadcast of the Stanley Cup Playoffs using headphones and the NHL app. His phone buzzed.
Mike knew Jake had scored, but he didn’t know how yet because the radio broadcast was delayed. He heard the play-by-play catch up, the puck carom off the end boards and Jake put it in 3:17 into the first period, pulling the Penguins into a 1-1 tie with the Blue Jackets.
After the game he was scouting ended, Mike hopped in his car for the 4-½ half hour drive home and kept listening to the Penguins. He was about five minutes down the road when his phone buzzed again.
Another puck caromed off the end boards and Jake put it in, banking it off the back of the left pad of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky on the power play 11:48 into the third, giving the Penguins a 4-3 lead.
“Aw, that was awesome,” Mike thought.
The Blue Jackets tied it, and the game went to overtime. But about an hour and a half into the drive, just outside of Worthington, Minnesota, his phone buzzed yet again. He grabbed it with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Did they win? Did they lose?
Guentzel nets third for OT win 01:28 • April 16th, 2017
Jake smacked in a pass from Sidney Crosby 13:10 into OT. The Penguins had a 5-4 victory and 3-0 lead against the Blue Jackets in their best-of-7 series in the Eastern Conference First Round.
“When you can score in overtime of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that’s something you dream about,” Jake said.
As a player and as a parent.
“It’s crazy to think that your kid would score in the playoffs,” Mike said. “Obviously the run Jake’s had this year has been pretty special.”
* * * * *
Jake is 22 and listed at 5-feet-11, 180 pounds. He has little to say in interviews. But he has made a major impact on the ice and cannot avoid the spotlight.
In his first full regular season as a professional, he had 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 33 games for Wilkes-Barre Scranton of the American Hockey League and 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 40 games for the Penguins.
He had two goals in his NHL debut against the New York Rangers on Nov. 21, scoring on his first shot on his first shift. He was first in the AHL in goals and second in points when he was called up to Pittsburgh for good on Jan. 16. He ended the regular season on a five-game goal streak.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, was the only other rookie with a five-game goal streak this season. Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine (0.88), the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, and Matthews (0.84) were the only rookies who had more points per game than Guentzel’s 0.83.
Through his first three playoff games, Jake has four bingos and an apple.
“He’s playing unbelievable right now,” Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta said. “He’s a big part of our team. What you saw [Sunday], but it’s not only the goals. It’s just him holding onto the puck, making the right play at the right time. It’s pretty amazing to watch what he’s able to do.”
Yes, Jake has been playing on a line with Crosby since March 11, and that helps. But he’s playing with Crosby for a reason: He’s competitive, fearless and intelligent. He goes to the net. He knows how to find soft spots in the defense. He does the little things.
Jake drew the penalty that led to his power-play goal on Sunday, taking a cross-check from Brandon Dubinsky in front. On the winning goal, Crosby was buzzing below the goal line, his signature. Jake slipped into an opening in front of the net and lifted the stick of Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson so his stick would be free. When Crosby backhanded a pass in front, Jake was in position to score.
“I think his hockey sense might be his biggest asset,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
It goes back to nature and nurture.
Mike Guentzel was picked in the seventh round (No. 135) by the Rangers in the 1981 draft, played in college at Minnesota and briefly in the IHL and AHL, and has coached at several different levels. He will receive the Terry Flanagan Award from the American Hockey Coaches Association on April 26 in Naples, Florida, in recognition of his work.
He had two older sons who played college hockey: Ryan at Notre Dame and Gabe at Colorado College. Gabe plays professionally in Germany.
Jake was small and skinny growing up. To hang with his brothers and make it in hockey, he had to be competitive, fearless and intelligent. He learned from watching his brothers, his dad and his dad’s players.
“Sometimes you get a little brother who just sits back and the older brother’s going to prod him, but not Jake,” Mike said. “He wanted to be first, and he wanted to be in the front, and he wanted to get the big goals. That’s just kind of way he’s been. That’s what I love about him. ‘Tell me I’m too small. Tell me I’m not this. Tell me I’m not that. And I’ll show you.’ He just does it quietly and goes about his business.”
If Jake had a chance to go to the rink with his brothers or his dad, he would go to be with the big boys. He used to spend hours at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena and looked up to future NHL players like Keith Ballard and Paul Martin.
“Game days, we were there pretty much all day, and practice days, I always went right there during the week,” Jake said. “Just kind of roaming around as a kid, trying to be everywhere.”
Jake left home his senior year of high school and played for Sioux City of the USHL in 2012-13. It wasn’t a typical move for a Minnesota kid, considering the importance of high school hockey in the state and his dad’s job.
“Didn’t sit well with certain people,” Mike said. “That’s all part of it too. But he looked at his mother and father and said, ‘I want to be a hockey player, and this is the thing I need to do right now.’ We blessed it, even though we were reserved a little bit in what we felt.”
Jake had 73 points (29 goals, 44 assists) in 60 games for Sioux City. The Penguins picked him in the third round (No. 77) of the 2013 draft.
“He just learned the total package of what it takes,” Mike said. “That’s when he became a really good student, and that’s probably the thing we’re most proud of. That taught him the discipline of training and working and doing things right, acting the right way. It just went extremely well for him there. They accelerated him and put him into college faster than he thought he was going to go in.”
Jake spent three seasons at Nebraska-Omaha, then turned pro. He had six points (two goals, four assists) in 11 regular-season games and 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 10 playoff games for Wilkes-Barre last year.
He has matured physically. He hits the gym with his brother Gabe four or five days a week in the summer, and they push each other.
“People always look at the bigger, stronger kids at 14 and 15 and think they’re going to be the finished product, and there’s kids like Jake who just keep working and keep grinding and keep getting better,” Mike said. “That’s the biggest thing that’s happened in the last three, four years. His body has grown and given his assets a chance to really blossom here.”
* * * * *
Sally has joked that Mike is not allowed to watch Jake play anymore out of superstition. Why mess with what’s worked? Why not stick to text messages and radio broadcasts?
Jake made the same joke Monday.
“I don’t know if he’s going to be able to watch anymore,” Jake said with a smile.
But when the Penguins try to close out the series at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN360, TVA Sports 2, FS-O, ROOT), Mike will not be scouting in some arena somewhere with his headphones on. He will not be on the road listening to the radio. He will be free to sit down in his great room, glued to the television.
“There’s no way I can’t watch,” Mike said. “It’s neat as a parent and neat as a father.”
How did a smallish soccer-playing Hispanic kid from sun-drenched Escondido, California, end up an ice hockey star in Nebraska?
Although his profile does not fit the stereotypical hockey player, UNO Mavericks forward Austin Ortega has risen to the top ranks of college hockey, a sport dominated by big bruisers from the North.
The senior—also known as “California Hot Sauce” and “Score-tega”—has proved doubters wrong ever since he left home at age 15 to pursue his hockey dreams.
He lived with host families while playing elite youth hockey in Colorado and during two seasons in the USHL. After a season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, he graduated from high school in Iowa. Then, he split his next season between the Indiana Ice and Fargo Force. A scholarship brought Ortega to UNO.
Despite being undersized (by elite hockey standards) at 5 feet 8 inches tall, 175 pounds, and a West Coast oddity, he’s been a prolific, crunch-time scorer everywhere he’s played. Competing in Division I’s toughest conference, he’s among Omaha’s all-time point leaders and holds two NCAA scoring records—for most game-winning goals in a season and a career. He’s made indelible memories and sparked frenzied cheers at the CenturyLink and, now, Baxter Arena.
Being Mr. Clutch is the result of instinct and intent.
“I’ve always tried to have the knack,” he says. “It really accelerated once I got here, especially over the last couple years, and it’s just something I keep trying to get better and better at.”
During a winter visit to Omaha, father Frank Ortega says that his son “lives for the moment to try to shoot the puck in when it matters. It started when he was younger, playing soccer. He wanted to be that guy doing the penalty kick. Over time he’s gained confidence, and now he’s developed into the guy who wants that puck.”
Austin Ortega and current-NHL player Jake Guentzel formed a potent one-two punch as sophomores leading Omaha to the program’s only Frozen Four berth in 2015. Last season started strong, with Omaha even netting its first No. 1 ranking, but fortunes sank, and the team missed making the playoffs altogether in 2016.
In Ortega’s collegiate season finale, despite losing Guentzel to the pros (the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Ortega’s linemate and the team’s captain before his senior year), he has continued to lead the Mavericks’ offensive effort.
In a two-game series with Lake Superior State, he got the game-winner the first night and led a furious come-from-behind win the second night.
“Halfway through the third period we had nothing going on,” coach Dean Blais says of the comeback. “I said to Austin, ‘You’ve got to take this game over. You’re our scorer, you’re our so-called leader in that category, and we need you now.’ And he was like shot out of a cannon. Austin’s found his way to get those game-winning goals. Sometimes he might score the fourth goal [after] the other team has scored three, but he’s also scored game-winning goals in overtime and shoot-out type situations, so he’s a real sniper.”
Taking on the pressure to be the hero or goat “is a lot to handle,” Blais says, “To be a leader you gotta want to be a leader—you gotta want to do it every day in practice, and he’s been doing that.” Blais has seen it all from Ortega and expects even more at the next level. “Austin will be signing an NHL contract with whoever gives him a good opportunity, but to get that he’s got to really earn that this last stretch of games. He’s among three or four forwards in the United States everyone’s looking at. It’s hard to find scoring in the NHL. Austin has that ability.”
The accolades, achievements, expectations, and opportunities are more than his parents imagined when he discovered skating and hockey at age 5. Unfamiliar with hockey, they figured his interest would wane.
“We never anticipated he would be to where he is now with all the success he’s seen,” Tessie Ortega says.
She and her husband were awed when Austin’s hockey skills earned a college scholarship. Everything else, including multiple Player of the Month national honors and vying for a national title, has been a blur.
“Austin’s shown a lot of dedication and made sacrifices to the sport. There’s a lot of stuff he’s missed—birthday parties, holiday gatherings,” Frank Ortega says. “It’s amazing how it’s all coming to an end. It happened so fast.”
The player is keenly aware this amazing college ride is nearly done.
“One thing I’ve learned now that I’m a senior is to enjoy every moment,” Ortega says. “I know a lot of guys try to rush the process and get a call to pursue professional hockey as fast as they can. A lot of guys don’t realize this is one of the best times of their life. I mean, with this new rink and the fans and everything, I just like to soak it in and try to slow it down as much as I can, because I know I’ll be out of here real soon.”
His parents realize Ortega is on the verge of a pro hockey career, but they’re cautiously watching the process play out, just as they did when he went from youth leagues to the USHL to college. The NHL’s the next logical step.
“For us, there’s a little hesitation to think that can happen until it does because you don’t want to assume anything,” Frank Ortega says. “But it’s exciting.”
Words themselves can take on different meanings, it’s the context that gives the word its place. The term “commitment” can be an obligation; I can’t go to the game I have another commitment. It can also be a vow, I am committed to be with my wife for the rest of my life. Or it could be a pledge or promise; the football player is committed to being the best he can by training hard every day. However, in the context of NCAA recruiting, especially as it relates to men’s hockey, commitment is a loose term.
This past week the number of de-committed players still in high school, juniors or prep school exceeded 60, which is significant for a sport that only has 60 Division 1 programs. Last season there were just shy of 500 incoming freshmen at the NCAA Division 1 level. So, that means that if we expect those numbers to remain constant, then roughly 12% of the committed players will either de-commit or switch their commitments.
There have been countless arguments on every side of this issue. Here at NZ we will look at the issue from the perspective of the players, the coaches and its impact on the game.
Before we delve into the four main contributing factors, lets first identify if this is even a problem.
12% isn’t a huge number, but it has had a significant impact in the competitive amateur hockey markets. We have already seen a shift from player development style camps and clinics to showcase tournaments because the focus has shifted from individual improvement to exposure by midget, prep, juniors and NCAA/CHL scouts.
The worst-case scenario of de-committing form the player’s perspective is banking on a college hockey scholarship and getting the plug pulled late in the game. That player may have had other opportunities if they weren’t committed and may have to end up paying full tuition at another school. The worst-case scenario from the coaches’ perspective is when a player who they have verballed a full scholarship to de-commits late in the game. They may have passed on other players or moved pieces around to accommodate that scholarship and to lose it late in the game can really hurt a team’s recruiting class. Given the dates of the early and late signing periods, schools and players are somewhat protected from this but not every school is a scholarship school and not everyone plays the game fairly.
The best-case scenario for both parties are the same, the player and the school decide that this isn’t the right fit and mutually decide to part ways on their prior commitment. This can happen with a new coaching staff comes into play or simply a player realizes they want to play at another school and the coaching staff realizes the player doesn’t fit their teams style.
Therefore, we can’t make the blanket statement that “de-commitments” are always bad or that they are the players fault or the coaches fault. In some cases, it is the best case scenario for all parties invovled. However, the rise of de-commitments in the past few years and the change in recruiting culture changes are negatively impacting the sport at all levels.
With that being said we will look at four contributing factors to the rise in de-commitments.
This may be the single largest problem that college hockey faces in the upcoming years. Players are verballing committing to NCAA programs at the ages of 13, 14, 15 and 16. These are very common and have completely shifted recruiting focuses among college coaches over the past 10 years.
Youth players are being asked to make decisions as it relates to their future when they don’t have the full scope or ability to make an informed decision. Most have no idea what they want to study, what their NHL likelihood will actually be, what size of the school they are looking for, the location of best fit, etc. It isn’t until these players are older, more informed and have endured enough experiences to really know where they want to go to school, what kind of coaches work best for them, where they want to live or even if the school has the major they are interested in.
From the coaches perspective, they also don’t have enough information or perspective to know for sure if that player is going to be good enough or play the right style of game to fit their team. Once the player matures and grows into his game, coaches will then be able to evaluate the likelihood of the player panning out, what role he could play for their team, what scholarship situation is and where that player fits in, etc. In some cases the player didn’t develop the way they had hoped and is no longer good enough. In some cases the player is good enough but not worth the scholarship they verbally offered and they cut the chord. Or sometimes the player just isn’t the right fit in regards to their style of play and what they bring to game. Lastly, we are seeing the repercussions of coaching changes (which are abundant) on recruiting classes. There are over 100 committed players on our recruiting class rankings who committed to a coach who is no longer at the school. The most recent coaching moves could trickle a major shift in recruiting as we saw with highly touted prospect Kale Howarth de-committing from Northern Michigan to UConn this past week.
Currently, early recruiting makes sense for both the player and the coaches, despite its potential negative repercussions, trick down effect and its high level of uncertainty. The reason is simple: the risk vs. reward favors both parties. There is very little risk in committing at 14, 15, 16 for the player because they could always switch their commitment or “upgrade” if they improve. The reward is they have a place to play, they are “committed” which gives them preferential treatment in terms of drafts, all-star teams, etc. From the coaches perspective, there is very little risk to them because it’s a verbal commitment. If the player doesn’t develop the way they hope, they can simply de-commit them without breaking a single rule. There is also no limit on the number of players they can commit to so they don’t risk losing one player because they early committed to another. The reward for them is locking up a talented player with upside and setting up their recruiting classes for the future. They can also monitor those players and have an impact on their development by suggesting either directly or through their agent where the players should play, what coaches in their area are good, where they should train, etc.
We are not condoning early commitments and we are not saying it’s a positive because we think it has a real negative impact on youth hockey and high school hockey; we are simply saying it makes sense why players and coaches do it and until that is changed, it will always occur.
The CHL Impact
Every league is trying to prove that they are the best path to the NCAA or CHL or NHL, etc. The truth is college hockey and the CHL have always been in competition for top prospects and that continues to play a role in the NCAA recruiting process. The WHL Draft for example occurs at ages 14/15 and the OHL and QMJHL occur at ages 15/16. So the CHL, in some respects, forces the NCAA’s hand to offer players before they may be ready to in order to entice them to stay in the NCAA system. This leads to what NZ calls “Upside Scouting” which comes with considerable risk. Upside scouting is a system based on projecting players 3-4 years down the road based on a limited set of viewings or a limited amount of player attributes. “Less than 15% of every NHL Draft Class will make a career in the NHL and those are 18-20 year olds,” remarked Director of Scouting Brendan Collins. “Imagine the percentages for projecting 14, 15, 16 year olds. It’s not an accurate assessment strategy.” If the CHL is telling a high end 16-year-old that he can play on their team that is pretty attractive offer and colleges have to act immediately or they’ll lose that player.
The Strong-Arm Tactic
The strong-arm tactic relates to coaches giving verbal offers attached to a time frame. A common example would be a coach telling a prospect that they have a full scholarship offer from that day until the end of the month. After that time the school is going to offer the scholarship to someone else. Because of the speed of recruiting today, if a coach finds an unknown prospect he may want to get him “verballed” before other schools know about him. However, when that occurs with 14, 15 and 16-year-old prospects it could lead to rushed or uninformed decisions where the player could find out later the school isn’t the right fit. Vis versa the school could find out he isn’t actually the player they thought he was and de-commit him as well. The point is strong arming does occur, it’s not illegal, it can work for teams but it is also a contributing factor to higher rates of de-commitments.
Family Advisors / Agents
While family advisors and agents were intended to be a solution to the complexity of recruiting, they have in some way, created a bigger problem. When it comes to the top 10% of players, most all of them have agents or “family advisors” as the NCAA coins it. These advisors are helping the family make decisions, but in reality, they are talking to schools and trying to place kids in programs. What this creates is a conversation, behind the scenes, between a 14-year-old and his advisor that then is relayed to the NCAA coaches. Coaches are not allowed to directly contact the player so the third party advisor allows for communication through them which keeps both the player and school in NCAA compliant. In reality, it’s a lot of adults coming together to make decisions for a young player who doesn’t even know what they want to study or where they want to live.
This third party in the recruiting process is not new but its grown significantly in the past 15 years. Back in the 70’s, 80’s and even the first half of the 90’s recruiting was between the player and the coach. However, this third person in the recruiting experience can backdoor NCAA rules by playing the middle man between the coach and younger prospects. However, these agents can have their own motives and influence the players decision. We have several cases of players who have committed to schools that may be considered bottom or mid-level programs and once they go to juniors and start proving themselves their agents start “shopping them” around to higher level programs. The term “shopping” refers to agents asking coaches informally if they have interest in their player and if they have scholarship money to make the deal. Once they get a few sniffs they’ll relay that to the player and then the player isn’t guilty of directly talking to other schools or dishonoring his commitment.
In fairness to the advisors, we are not pointing the blame in their direction. In most cases, the advisor is doing what his clients ask him to do, which is their job. Also, advisors have filled information voids and helped players navigate through the often-complicated NCAA recruiting process. So, to say they have created this issue would be unfair, but they are on the front lines of it.
By Mike Pickles, CPT, D.FHP, Founder, Dry-land Hockey Training
I’ve spoken many times about the importance of long-term off-ice development and how minor hockey players need to take it seriously if they want to perform at their absolute best. One of my biggest responsibilities as a professional strength coach is to educate parents about what their kids should be doing at specific times of the year, such as how much off-ice work and what kind of activities are beneficial for increasing their performance the following season.
With all the hype and misleading information out there, the off-ice hockey market and industry can leave many parents confused and overwhelmed about what to do and where to start. Last article I outlined what a full season should look like for off-ice preparation and this month I’d like to leave you with a list of pointers to consider when getting ready for next season.
1. After a long regular season take the skates off. Continuing to play more hockey will not necessarily make you better. Go play another sport! It is well known that some of the best hockey players are also the best athletes on the ice simply because they are involved in different kinds of off-ice sports.
2. Players cannot expect to get stronger if they don’t give their body a break from too much activity during the week. 1-2 days per week of activity and 2-3 days a week of strength training during the off-season is enough to see considerable results without burning out.
3. Work on specific skills instead of just playing more hockey after the regular season. Find a good power skating instructor and work on better puck handling drills.
4. Sit down with your parents and discuss your goals for the following season. It’s best to actually write them down and post them on the fridge, don’t just talk about it.
5. Make an action plan to figure out how to achieve the results you need to get better for the next season. Be specific and hold yourself accountable, no one else.
6. Find a good physical therapist who specializes in Active Release Therapy and practices Trigger Point Therapy as well. It will be one of the best investments you can make in order to fix your weak links and maintain the integrity of your mobility and movement.
7. Most kids never stretch on their own so I’d highly recommend finding a power yoga class 2-3 days per week for at least an hour. Never underestimate the importance of flexibility.
8. Increase your level of conditioning closer to the end of the summer, about one month out from tryouts. Make sure you understand hockey specific conditioning. Long distance running around a track will not prepare you for tryouts.
9. Find a good one week on-ice conditioning and skills camp right before tryouts begin. You don’t have to play hockey all summer long, but continue to play some kind of ground sports or activity.
10. Read a great inspirational book. Find a biography about your role model or favorite athlete, it will instill confidence and desire to be the best you can possible be and get ready for the next season.
TORONTO – It is the end of summer and about a dozen NHL players have just finished an hour-long skate and are now spending the rest of a Friday morning in August tucked inside a windowless workout room at the back of St. Michael’s College Arena, sweating, shouting and slamming weights.
Two giant fans are set to the highest setting and a door leading outside is propped open, but the room, which is about the size of a master bedroom, is still sticky hot and humid. With a mix of hip-hop and dance music echoing off the walls, it feels like a nightclub. Players are even sipping on pink cocktails — full of protein and vitamins, of course.
“Character is what you do when you think nobody is watching,” is written in big block letters on one of the walls. It is a slogan the players are putting into practice.
In one corner of the room, Montreal Canadiens forward Devante Smith-Pelly is doing jump squats. A few steps to the left, Washington Capitals winger Michael Latta is tacking on as much weight as he can handle for rep after slow rep of deep squats. Beside him, Anaheim Ducks forward Chris Stewart is standing on his tippy toes while balancing a barbell on his shoulders.
Everyone else is either shouting encouragement or catching their breath, waiting for their turn.
“C’mon boys!” shouts BioSteel strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol, a former football player and power lifter who could easily outlift everyone in this room. “Don’t think! Work! Work as hard as you can!”
This is what most hockey fans picture when they imagine off-season training: players pumping iron, pushing themselves to exhaustion. Thanks to Gatorade and Under Armour, hockey players are portrayed in commercials as part-time strong men who, when they are not playing one of the most physically-demanding sports, are spending their off days flipping tires, swinging thick ropes and running with a parachute attached to their back.
That might seem true today. But for most of the summer, you’re more likely to see a hockey player in the downward dog pose than pushing a weighted sled across a football field.
“I bring this upon myself, because we show pictures of guys at BioSteel Camp and their mashing ropes and throwing stuff,” said Nichol, a one-time Toronto Maple Leafs strength and conditioning coach who now trains a stable of players including Mike Cammalleri, Wayne Simmonds and Tyler Seguin. “And kids are like, ‘that’s how I should train for hockey.’ But that’s one snippet of what we do at the very end of the summer. That’s totally not representative of how we train most of the time.
“If you looked at what we do here, 50% is rehab.”
If you had visited the gym a month ago, you would have seen players performing yoga or pilates or simply lying on their stomachs and getting a massage. You would have left thinking hockey players are either lazy or not that impressive. But the reality is the biggest component of training is rest. And plenty of it.
An NHL schedule consists of 82 gruelling games, not including the playoffs. The sport is highly physical and hell on the body. By the end of the season, players are either hobbling off the ice with an assortment of nagging injuries or just plain drained.
When Phil Kessel told reporters a year ago that he did not skate much in the summer, it was not a sign of lethargy. It was reality.
Forget lifting weights. After getting crosschecked on the back thousands of times, some cannot even lift themselves out of a chair.
“I would say skinny fat is a good description,” said Maple Leafs forward Shawn Matthias, when asked what his body looked like after the season. “You look around the room at training camp and everyone’s big and strong and they’ve got abs. But by the end of the year, you’re so worn out. You definitely don’t have the muscle you once had.
“No matter what you do, you’re just so tired and you’re just trying to maintain.”
Emaciated bodies need recovery time. So players are told to stay out of the gym for the first few weeks and get back to a normal sleep schedule. Eight months of staying up late to play games, traveling at all hours of the night, while eating post-game meals of chicken wings and pizza, not to mention the mental stress of competing at the highest level, takes its toll. The summer is about building the body back up, piece by piece.
“The first half of the summer, we’re just trying to get these guys into alignment,” said Nichol. “For some, training camp hits and they just ditch their strength training and just hold on. A lot of the guys will show up at the end of the season like they haven’t had a solid meal.”
The off-season is split into four parts. The first month involves transition and recovery. Depending on specific diets catered towards the age of the player and how long his season was. Gary Roberts, who trains Steven Stamkos, Mark Scheifele and James Neal, ships in his favourite spring food from Italy and has Nature’s Emporium prepare organic meals for his clients.
“I’m an extremist when it comes this nutrition part and the holistic part and the whole foods part,” said Roberts. “I’m not a big supplement guy. I don’t push four shakes a day, like guys say I did.”
Players usually don’t lift weights for the first month. But they might do gymnastics-based training, like rolling and tumbling and even head to a nearby playground to climb on the monkey bars.
“If you see all these guys in January or February, they’re all walking like ducks, because their IT band is fused. You need to recover from that,” said Beyond The Next Level’s Dan Ninkovich, who trains John Tavares and Sam Gagner. “People used to train for exercise. Now they train for the movement. A healthy player is the best player. Not the player who can squat 500 pounds.”
As the summer progresses, players go from recovery training to building strength, then turning that strength into power and speed. By the end of August, it is about conditioning.
The few weeks before training camp is sort of like the remaining hours before a final exam. Players are cramming for what lies ahead. They want to do well on their team fitness test. But they also want to be sharp for the first day of practices and drills.
Nichol’s camp brought in Steve Spott, an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks, to run an informal practice that included a bag skate. Ninkovich had skills coach Joe Quinn, who invented a stickhandling device called Power Edge Pro, to help the players work on their hand-eye coordination.
Whatever it takes to get ready.
“Everybody’s body is different,” said Cammalleri. “You get to a point where I’m as strong as I need to be. This phase of the summer is where conditioning kicks in and working to fine tune my skills.”
GURU WASN’T ALWAYS HOCKEY GUY
Gary Roberts played 21 seasons in the NHL, scoring 910 points in more than 1,200 games. But Matt Nichol likes to joke he was a “terrible skater” who played more road hockey than ice hockey.
So when he was hired as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first proper strength and conditioning coach in 2001, he had some convincing to do.
“Coaches would look at me and say you can’t even skate, how would you know?” said Nichol, a founder of BioSteel sports supplements whose background was in football. “In a way, it helped me because it was never a pissing match with players. I would tell Mats Sundin that ‘I can’t even skate, but I’m telling you your left hip is tight. I can help with that.’ Guys warmed to that.”
While having a hockey background helped Roberts get into training once his career was done, Nichol believes his lack of pedigree was also a positive.
“With football, I did what I did because I was a decent player and good on the testing, so I just assumed that was the way to do it,” said Nichol. “With hockey, I had to analyze every aspect of the game.”
“Matt’s one of these genius types, whose brilliant when it comes to training,” said client Mike Cammalleri. “His understanding of the body encompasses the best of everything.”
ANN ARBOR, Mich.— Head coach Red Berenson announced that he is retiring after 33 season at the helm of the Michigan ice hockey program and that he will remain as a special advisor to Warde Manuel, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time and I think this is the right time and it’s the right thing to do for the Michigan hockey program,” Berenson said. “My heart will always be at Michigan and I look forward to the team taking the next step and making me proud as a former coach.”
Michigan went 848-426-92 (.654) in the Berenson era, including the 1996 and 1998 NCAA national championships — the eighth and ninth in school history. Berenson’s accomplishments behind the bench at Michigan put him among the greatest coaches in college hockey history.
“Red Berenson is a legendary figure at the University of Michigan as well as in our ice hockey history,” Manuel said. “Throughout his career, Red has focused on the academic and athletic success of the young men who have come through our program while shaping the sport as we know it today. He has developed an astounding 73 NHL players but, more importantly, he has positively impacted hundreds of young men. We are forever grateful for his contributions to the University of Michigan and I look forward to continuing working with Red for years to come.”
“I deeply appreciate Coach Berenson’s decades-long commitment to ensuring that our student-athletes succeeded in all aspects of their lives: on the ice, academically and as citizens and members of our community,” said Dr. Mark Schlissel, the 14th president of the University of Michigan. “He is an excellent representative of our university, and I will always remember seeing him lead our teams behind the bench in Yost Ice Arena.”
When Berenson took over a struggling program in 1984, his goal was to return Michigan to its glorious success of the 1950s. Introduced by then-athletic director Don Canham on May 17, 1984 in the M Club Room at the University of Michigan Golf Course, a 44-year old Berenson first hoped to restore the image of the hockey team.
“I’d like to improve the image of the Michigan hockey team on campus and with the alumni,” Berenson said at his opening press conference. “I think that now people will be thinking more highly about the program.”
Berenson has more than banked on his promise, building Michigan into a powerhouse that has spanned over three decades. Under Berenson, the Wolverines have qualified for the NCAA tournament in 23 of the past 27 seasons. His run of 22 consecutive appearances from 1991-2012 marks the longest streak ever in college hockey. In that time, Michigan reached the NCAA Frozen Four 11 times: back-to-back appearances in 1992 and 1993; four consecutive appearances from 1995-98; three consecutive showings between 2001-03, 2008 and 2011. Besides 1996 and 1998, U-M also reached the national title game in 2011, losing 3-2 in overtime to Minnesota Duluth.
Berenson became the fourth collegiate ice hockey coach to record 800 career victories, reaching the milestone with a 7-5 win vs. Minnesota on Jan. 10, 2015. Berenson’s 848 victories place him fourth on the NCAA ice hockey coaches all-time win list. He stood behind the U-M bench for the 1,000th time of his career on Feb. 22, 2008 at Michigan State.
Most recently, Berenson was named 2016 Big Ten Coach of the Year, leading Michigan to a record 36th NCAA tournament appearance in program history, and the 23rd NCAA bid in his tenure at Michigan. U-M finished the 2015-16 season at 25-8-5 (12-5-3-2 Big Ten), as the Wolverines clinched the program’s first Big Ten tournament title with a 5-3 win over Minnesota.
A three-year varsity letterwinner, Berenson is one of the top players in Michigan Hockey history, earning All-America and Michigan Most Valuable Player honors in both his junior and senior seasons (1961, 1962). His 43 goals and nine hat tricks in his last season still stand as Michigan records. Berenson holds two degrees from the University of Michigan, his bachelor’s degree from the School of Business Administration in 1962 and a Master of Business Administration degree in 1966.
Berenson played in the NHL for 17 years as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues. He accumulated 261 goals and 397 assists in 987 games — the most career points by any Michigan alumnus in the NHL — leaving an indelible mark on league history. Following his retirement as a player after the 1977-78 season, he served on the coaching staff of the St. Louis Blues, earning the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year in 1981.
Following two seasons as an assistant coach on Scotty Bowman’s staff with the Buffalo Sabres, Berenson returned to Ann Arbor, a place he has called home ever since. Berenson remains one of the strongest advocates for the University of Michigan and college hockey.