It’s hard to build a program without a strong foundation of coaches to pass along their wisdom to the young VJW players who range in age from seven to 19 years of age. Those coaches – many of whom have sons or daughters competing at various age levels – spend countless hours on and off the ice preparing game plans and designing practices in hopes of getting the most out of their players. On their free weekends, they are usually packing up their cars and traveling up and down the East Coast to compete in high-level tournaments or league games. It is that dedication that allows each VJW team to excel and for the players to enjoy every moment of the eight-month season. “We are fortunate to have a corps of coaches who are some of the most dedicated and conscientious in the area,” said VJW Director of Player Development Fred Devereaux, who is also a 20-year and current NHL scout with the Calgary Flames. “Our goal as a staff is to find individuals who have a strong knowledge of the game but who understand how to provide a full experience to every single player.” If you scroll through the impressive list of VJW coaches, you will find NHL All Stars, collegiate stars, youth program presidents and program directors. Every single coach has excelled at some level and is thrilled to be a part of this program. Here are just some of those stories…
Two years ago, Bob Carpenter joined the coaching staff as program development director. Carpenter’s roots here in Massachusetts are deep as he was a St. John’s Prep superstar who was the first U.S. citizen to be drafted into the NHL directly out of high school. His professional statistics are jaw dropping – he scored 32 goals at an NHL rookie and sent a record for American-born players when he scored 53 in his fourth year – as his career spanned 18 years and was highlighted by three Stanley Cup victories in 1995, 2000 and 2003. After serving as coach in the NHL and AHL, Carpenter made the decision to return home to the Bay State where his career began years ago.
Since that time, Carpenter has become an integral part of the VJW program. In addition to his staff responsibilities, Carpenter serves as head coach of the ’94 Elites and is an assistant coach for the ’96 Elites. His daughter Alexandra and son BoBo compete on those teams, which make it a true family affair.
Carpenter joins another former Boston Bruin, Bob Sweeney, who heads the ‘94 Elite team. Sweeney was a highly acclaimed player at Boston College and then with the Bruins for six seasons. His 15-year professional career also included time with the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders. When not coaching his VJW team, Sweeney works as a director of development for the Boston Bruins Foundation.
Several coaches enjoyed outstanding collegiate careers before taking their place behind the bench. AndyHeinze, current VJW director of operations and Junior A head coach, is a former captain of the Merrimack College hockey team who stills holds the school record for most games played with 144 and ranks 10th on Merrimack’s all-time scoring list with 77 goals and 89 assists. His coaching prowess matches his on-ice success as he has twice been named the EJHL Coach of the Year.
Paul Sacco, current coach of the Mite Select squad, is a former hockey captain at Northeastern University who went on to a seven-year international playing career. He – like several other VJW coaches – also contributes on the high school level as head coach at Woburn High School.
Mike Holubowich, who formally served as assistant under Heinze and now leads the U-16 squad, is a former head coach/general manager of the Bridgewater Bandits Junior team and spent 16 years with Paul Vincent’s Dynamic Skating program.
Coaching talent has led to impressive results on the ice. This past season, Bill Franzese and Peter King led their teams to Massachusetts State Championship titles.
King, a USA Hockey certified level 4 coach, is enjoying his eighth season with the Warriors. Since coming to the Warriors as an assistant with the Mite Select team, Peter has led the ‘93 level team to four consecutive Massachusetts Hockey Tier I State Championships at the Squirt Minor through Peewee Major levels. In 2006, the Peewee Major team earned a birth into the 2006 USA Hockey U13 National Championships.
Franzese, meanwhile, is at the helm of an impressive ’95 Elite squad that went all the way to Nationals last season. Before joining the VJW program, Franzese helped grow the local town program in Marblehead by serving as a vice president and coaches committee chairman. Over the course of his career, he has captured four VHL titles and one NEHL Championship.
“Our coaches exemplify success at every level,” explains Devereaux. “Their diverse experiences make our program extremely unique. They are not only helping these young players develop their skills, but they are teaching them the merits of dedication and team work.”
The Warriors program offers the players a comprehensive hockey program that includes skills sessions, summer hockey, tournament play and off-ice training. The entire package makes it a desirable place to be for even the best of coaches and players.
"It's nice to be a part of a great organization like the VJW and to be able to watch the development of a great group of boys both as hockey players and as young men," said Mark Foster, a six-year VJW coach whose '95 Select team has made the Massachusetts Select playoffs in three of the four years that it has competed in the league.
Glenn Corbett echos Foster's thoughts as he simply enjoys the benefit of seeing players develop both athletically and emotionally.
“It is a very fine line balancing [the players] because they are now becoming or are young adults, yet they are still kids,” remarked Corbett, coach of the ’94 Select team. “I remember being 13 and 14 years old and all of the emotions, challenges and experiences that went along with that age. Sometimes it can be scary so it is with great hope that I can be of some help to them.”
Corbett is one of those coaches who never had a chance to play at the top level but has since dedicated himself to coaching youth teams. After suffering a career-ending injury in high school, Corbett went on to graduate from Westfield State College with a degree in Criminal Justice. Over the course of his 10-year coaching career, he has become a key member of the Billerica Youth Hockey Program. One of his highlights was taking a Bantam B team to a Division AA tournament in upstate New York. With the odds stacked against his team, Corbett led his players to an unimaginable victory over the host team from Clifton Park. The victory broke a 27-year tournament winning streak for that team.
“I remember looking up in the stands… there were literally hundreds of Clifton Park fans watching the game and cheering on their home town,” remembers Corbett. “When the final buzzer went off in that third period and my players escaped with the hard fought effort, I remember the stunned look on the Clifton Park fans’ faces. My team was a group that had to work extra hard for everything they wanted, and they did.”
Creating memories and reaching one’s potential. That – in a nutshell – is what coaching young players is all about. And that is what the many VJW coaches bring to this program year in and year out.