Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chapter 21: I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I wrote this chapter a few days prior to the death of our friend and fellow hockey dad, Steve Parker.  If you haven't read the previous post please do so and help out if you can. Thanks. 

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

One of the best parts of my experience of traveling with my son is the people I've met and friends I've made along the way.  I've met a lot of great people along the way.  I mentioned a number of them previously.  

You remember my  college teammate, Glenn Adamo who went on to run broadcast operations for the NHL and now the NFL.  Here is a fantastic article that does a great job of highlighting his life and career.  

I visited Glenn a number of times while visiting New York City when he was with the NHL.  He was always able to get us tickets for games when we were off traveling for holiday tournaments.  I went to a NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden to watch them play the Penguins.  I sat in the NHL box, next to the Pens owner.  After the game Glenn took me down to the locker room area.  He stepped into the refs locker room and grabbed me a puck out of the ice bucket to bring back for my kids.   I met Gary Thorne, the broadcaster.  I had no idea he was so short or that he wore khakis and beat up topsiders.  Things you can't see when he's on TV. 

Glenn's son Gregg was a few years ahead of Max.  I followed Gregg as he went off to Choate then to Vermont to play for my other buddy, Brad Holt's Green Mountain Glades junior team.  Gregg ended up attending Amherst in the NESCAC(New England Small College Athletic Conference...also known as "the Little Ivies").  He's now working in private equity at Wellspring Capital Management in New York. 

During my travels I ran into and reconnected with Brad Holt.  I mentioned earlier that Brad's father was the head coach at UNH for many years.  After I graduated from Uconn Brad transferred back to New Hampshire where he had a solid career.  He played some pro hockey in Europe then coached prep school and junior hockey.  He was on involved with ownership of the Green Mountain Glades.  About four years ago he took over as head coach for the University of New England in Maine and has helped them transition from an ACHA club team to to NCAA D3.  The first few years were rough but things are looking up as UNE has a brand new rink and has been successful at recruiting quality players to their beautiful campus.  Brad has always been a phone call away in helping us navigate the junior and college hockey maze.  I've had the great pleasure of returning the favor by being his eyes on the west coast. 

Both Glenn and Brad have been tremendous resources providing invaluable guidance not only to our family, but to numerous friends who are on the same path.  

Another true mensch I've had the genuine pleasure of knowing is Larry Rocha.   Larry is just one of those great people that you may have the privilege of knowing in this life. 

Max would head off to prep school in New Hampshire. Larry was the coach of the NH Monarchs, the AAA 18u midget team Max played for.  In New England the youth teams play a split season. They play the bulk of the season prior to the prep/high school season that begins in late November.  After the school season ends the youth team concludes their season if they've qualified to go on to the national playoffs.  Here is a clip of a highlight reel goal Max scored for the Monarchs in the playoffs.  Coast to coast.  This is a kid, who for most of his life was hesitant to hang on to the puck.  Not this time.

It turns out Larry played hockey at St. Anselms at the same time I was at Uconn.  He was a freshman during my junior year, so we played against each other during my last two years.  In addition to coaching the midget AAA Monarchs, Larry previously coached at the Berkshire school and is the USA Hockey Coach-In-Chief for New England.  He's a surfer and a black belt in karate.  I spent part of a week a few summers back with the Rochas at their home near the beach in Rye, NH.  Larry put us up while Max played in the Hockey Night in Boston tournament.  Larry has a couple of great kids.  The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree in this family.  His son Cheyne just finished up his college hockey career at Army by winning the Senior Class Award.  He's a great kid and an incredible leader.

Larry told me a story about his high school days in New Jersey.  He played for Brick High School.  They had just won the state title.  Larry was the captain.  His team had the opportunity to play in a charity game vs. the Philadelphia Flyers...I'm talking Broad Street Bullies.  What a thrill that had to be.  Larry told me how the puck was dropped at the opening face-off.  One of Larry's teammates chased the puck down in the corner, only to be crushed into the boards by none other than Dave Schultz.  The poor child was knocked out cold.  Today this would have been a lawsuit.  Not then though.  

Larry skated up to Schultz and said something like, "Mr. Schultz, take it easy OK, this is just a charity game".  To which Schultz replied, "F**k you kid, this is hockey."  I'm not sure what happened next, but Larry didn't bother Mr. Schultz after that.  

I made plenty of friends in my travels over the years.  This aspect of the game is one of the most rewarding and lasting benefits that I've enjoyed over the years.   Glenn, Brad and Larry stand out because they were always there to guide and advise my son along the way.  I'm grateful.   There are other friends who have been in the trenches with me all along the way.  We've all worked very hard to give our kids the best opportunity to develop and advance in their careers and in their lives.   They know who they are and I will have some more to say about them as we proceed.

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