As a former Division One assistant coach, one of my main responsibilities for years was recruiting. I’ve traveled all over North America and have met so many families from all walks of life trying to find the right pieces to build a championship team.
I can tell hundreds of stories, but there’s one in particular that I feel like all kids aspiring to play college hockey (and their parents) need to hear. It’s a look behind the curtain of one of the best recruiting visits I’ve ever been involved in.
And it’s a story about Boston Bruins star defenseman Charlie McAvoy.
During my time as an Assistant Coach at Cornell, I remember watching Charlie play as a younger kid. He skated for the New Jersey Rockets and he instantly became noticeable on the ice for his play. He was competitive, could really skate, and had an unbelievable head for the game (he had great grades too!).
We invited Charlie up to Cornell for a visit to check things out and it became one of the more memorable visits I had in my time as a coach.
During the hours that Charlie and his dad were on campus, I quickly realized that Charlie absolutely oozed character. He was a phenomenal kid, and while getting to know his dad it was easy to see where that character came from. We heard from numerous others that they were great people, but in spending more time with them we understood why so many people had such amazing things to say.
We talked about values and family, we talked about what Charlie wanted out of his future, but the conversation that I will always remember centered around the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
Prior to his visit, Charlie’s hometown on Long Island got hit really bad. They told us stories of stores and homes being completely decimated by the storm. But Charlie and his dad spoke passionately about the resilience of the people there and how everyone came together to support each other in the community. Charlie’s dad himself owned a plumbing company and spoke about the numerous jobs he was doing for his neighbors for free. It was really incredible and inspiring to hear about their experience.
Before the visit, Charlie was a young kid that we really liked as a player and wanted to keep a close eye on. At the end of the visit, we knew that we had to have him as a part of our program. We offered him a spot with our program that day.
And here’s what I think all kids and parents need to hear:
Charlie was an immensely talented player, but there are a lot of immensely talented players out there. We knew that this kid was special and destined for great things because of his character. And what gave us comfort in recruiting this young kid was the fact that his dad was such a great individual as well.
We didn’t decide to fully commit to Charlie that day solely because of his hockey playing ability (although that certainly had a huge part in it). We decided that we needed to have him by the type of person that he was and the type of family that he came from.
Charlie didn’t end up choosing Cornell and wound up going to Boston University. But I will always be a fan of his. As a coach you get to know the kids and families really well through the recruiting process and I am not surprised one bit that he became a first round draft pick, a captain of a gold medal winning world junior team, and an all star defenseman in the NHL. Yes, because of his hockey playing ability. But more importantly because of his work ethic and character.
For all you kids out there reading this:
If you work hard and strive to be a good person, the greater the opportunity you’re giving yourself to achieve your goals and dreams. Character shines and colleges aren’t just recruiting good hockey players…they are recruiting good people just as importantly. You don’t just win by what you do on the ice. You win in the locker room by the culture and environment you create. And culture is driven by people.
For all of the parents out there reading this too:
What you do and how you act MATTERS. Just like Charlie Sr. gave us the comfort in recruiting Charlie, a lot of college coaches will tell you that they have chosen not to recruit certain kids because of their parents. That’s just the honest truth.
Your attitude and your actions have consequences for your kids. Encourage them work hard and love the game, stay out of the youth hockey drama, and for the love of God…your kids can’t hear you yell from the stands when they are on the ice.
At the end of the day, it’s no surprise to me that Charlie has won winner wherever he’s been. Great people create great cultures and great cultures win.
And it was clear from their visit, and the stories of selflessness around Hurricane Sandy, that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.