Since the age of four, my life has revolved around hockey. Winters playing hockey on Windsors Pond, Honeoye Lake, and the barge canal with neighbors and family led to the neighborhood getting together to build an outdoor rink in our family’s backyard…”The Rollingwood Forum”. Summers switched to the driveway where intense road hockey was played all summer. High School Hockey in Pittsford, College Hockey at RIT, and over 30 years of coaching at all levels from beginners to college, was just the beginning. My wife played on the Oswego State Women’s Ice Hockey Team, and was recently inducted into their athletic hall of fame. One of my high school coaches, Don Cherry, also coached the Rochester Americans, and remains a close family friend to this day. My first son was born with a knee hockey stick and a knitted pair of skates from Don in his bassinette in the nursery. Youth Hockey has taken our family all over Canada and the United States, where we have met many fantastic people. My two sons have had the privilege of playing college hockey (Chris at Boston College and Greg at UNH), and Chris had his dream come true when he signed with the Boston Bruins this summer.
People have called us crazy for years (and I guess they are probably right), but I wouldn’t change a thing. Hockey has been good to our family. It has given my kids great opportunities, and allowed us to meet many amazing (and also crazy) people while spending quality time as a family. Over the last couple years, I have been looking for a way to pass on what I have learned, and allow other families to experience what we have been so lucky to have been a part of. I helped start the Rochester Monarchs hoping it would be the vehicle to accomplish this, but although the Monarchs have been a success, they are able to serve only a small group of hockey families. The birth of the Rochester Grizzlies Youth Hockey Development Program comes from my desire to bring the enjoyment of hockey to a larger number of players and their families.
For me it all started when I was born...the great hockey legend Don Cherry stood over my cradle and gave me a hockey stick and a pair of skates, and from that point on hockey has been the passion of my life. Growing up I had a big advantage, I had a brother only 1 year younger than I was. We constantly played, fought and battled growing up together. Greg and I had another big advantage, as we grew up in a hockey family. My mom and dad both played college hockey. We were given every chance to play hockey and were provided the facilities necessary to do so. My Grandfather built a rink in my dad's backyard for him and his brothers while he was growing up, and in carrying on the tradition, my dad did the same for us. We played countless hours on our backyard rink. It wasn't huge, but for Greg and me it was all we needed. On top of the backyard rink my parents owned a fun center named "Adventure Quest". This was a place with many rooms perfect for hosting the countless floor hockey battles we had with each other and our friends. We always went to summer hockey camps and played in multiple tournaments throughout the year, but honestly nothing was more fun, and I now realize nothing was more developmental for our skill than these games we played both in our backyard and in our parents place. We were always having fun and never wanted to stop, we would play deep into the night and never get tired of it. It was the fun we had that developed our passion for the game of hockey as well as developing our skills. To this day even as a pro hockey player I consistently attribute parts of my game back to when we were playing and having fun as kids. The battling in the corners and knack for scoring the goal when I get the chance relates directly back to when I was battling with Greg in the backyard or in "Adventure Quest." If I didn't score that one chance I got I would have to hear it from the little brother all night long. You can go to all the camps and tournaments you want and practice for hours on end but if you are not having fun it is impossible to develop the passion it takes to move on to the next level.
Hockey has been very important for our family. We have spent many weekends away from home, but those weekends were almost always spent together. I had a very close relationship with my late grandfather and we shared many great hockey experiences. He loved the sport and taught Greg and I to love it as well. He rarely missed a game and almost never missed a trip to a tournament. It was those experiences that bonded me to my grandfather and they are something I will take with me the rest of my life. No one in my family ever felt playing hockey was a sacrifice; we saw it as an opportunity. Not only was it fun and it kept us busy, but we spent countless hours on the road together or in hotels in many fun cities. These experiences have made our family extremely close and provided us many great memories. The older I get the more I realize what my parents have done for my brother and I. People were always questioning why they were constantly traveling and sending us to different places for hockey, but no one could have understood that except us. That is what Greg and I wanted, and there was no way we would have settled for anything less.
Because of the fun we had and passion we gained for the sport of hockey through out our childhood, hockey continues to be an important part of our life today. And the best part about it is that our entire family feels the same way. My sister Kelly has become quite the player, and my youngest sister Courtney is our biggest fan! (You should see the hockey wall in our living room, it’s awesome!)
The Rochester Grizzlies program is based on the concept of fun and passion for the game of hockey. My dad, my brother and I have talked about starting a program like the Grizzlies for a while, and I was most excited about the idea of sharing our own family’s passion and love for the game of hockey with other players and their families.
This game is not just about practice and drills and systems, although these all play important roles. The game is about passion and fun. Having fun brings passion and with passion for the game, and a commitment to be your best…a player can make all his hockey dreams come true...