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Hartford’s Bebeau Quietly Reaches 200-Win Mark

Hartford High boys hockey coach Todd Bebeau, center, discusses strategy with his team during a timeout on Dec. 20, 2011. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Hartford High boys hockey coach Todd Bebeau, center, discusses strategy with his team during a timeout on Dec. 20, 2011. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

White River Junction — The first thing from Hartford High boys hockey coach Todd Bebeau’s lips on Monday after being asked about winning 200 games: “OK, who ratted me out?”

Um. Er. Wellllll … not sure I can answer that. Coach. Um. Sir.

Y’see, Bebeau has never coached hockey — having just complete his 20th season in some such capacity for his high school alma mater — for the milestones. So when the Hurricanes took a 5-1 win over Mount Mansfield last Tuesday in the Vermont Division II quarterfinals for his 200th career victory, it went unnoticed.

Almost.

“To be honest, I never got into coaching for these personal accolades,” Bebeau said in a phone interview. “Just the relationships with the players and being part of my community is what drives me to coach. I’ve never been a big person for self-accolades.

“I didn’t let anyone know (about No. 200), to be honest. So I’m not sure how this got out.”

The milestone recognizes both Bebeau’s long history with Hartford as well as his success as a coach.

The 44-year-old played his youth hockey at what is now called Wendell Barwood Arena and was a key element of Hartford teams that made the D-II championship game in all four of his high school years. The 1984-85 team, when Bebeau was a sophomore, was among the state’s few in state history to claim an undefeated state title with 20 or more victories.

Bebeau’s hockey playing interests carried over to a post-graduate year at Vermont Academy in 1987, then four years at Norwich University for coach (and now athletic director) Tony Mariano until graduating with an education degree in 1992.

“For me, one thing I can relate to is the kids on my team that may not get much playing time,” Bebeau said. “I was probably the least-skilled guy on my college hockey team. I had to scratch and claw to play every day. Those skills and experiences have helped me sort of execute some empathy to kids that don’t get much time. I’ve been there; I’ve done it.”

The military side of Norwich didn’t appeal to Bebeau (“I was a cadet and I wore the uniform, but I failed at making beds for four years”). The educational life did. He’s been teaching physical education at Hanover High for 18 years after a brief stint at Hartford at the outset of his career.

Coaching became a natural addition.

“Athletics has always been a very important part of my life,” he explained. “Just starting, I knew that I wanted to be involved in athletics, hopefully coach one day. Having mentors like Butch Lovering, Bob Potter, John Hudnor, Mike Stone, I could go on and on. I looked up to those coaches and teachers growing up, and to fall in their footsteps is what I love to do.”

Bebeau’s no-nonsense approach to personal success runs parallel to his primary coaching philosophies.

“I’ve always tried to be fair with players, very honest with players,” he said. “I’m the first person to give a pat on the back when they do something positive, but I’m also the first to critique when it needs to be done.

“I’m hard on my players. I always expect a lot out of kids on the ice and, more importantly, to be a good person, to treat themselves well and their teammates well. Those are the things I’m hoping they bring with them when hockey is done.”

Bebeau’s days as a coach aren’t over, which means his win total will be going up again when Hartford hockey reconvenes next November. He’ll enter season No. 17 as a head coach with a 200-138-15 record and the same vision he’s possessed through the years.

“It’s been my passion,” Bebeau said. “For me, other sports can seem like work, but hockey never seems that way. I love to play it, and I’m fortunate to coach it.”

Sideline Chatter: Possibly coming to a Florida high school football field soon: some variation of Mascoma High’s double wing offense as a goal-line package devised by former Royals assistant football coach Josh Kershaw.

The 24-year-old Proctor Academy and Plymouth State University graduate is moving to Florida to join the staff at Nease High School in Jacksonville, where Kershaw has visited for football clinics the past two summers. Kershaw assisted his father, Ray, at Mascoma the past two years and helped run the Royals’ conditioning program while finishing his senior year at Plymouth State.

Mascoma played in New Hampshire Division III last fall and has 404 students in grades 9-12, according to the NHIAA. Nease plays in Florida Division 6A, the second-largest in the state, and has 100 students … in the football program alone.

“It’s been my dream to coach high school football there,” Kershaw said in a phone interview on Monday. “For me, football up here is good, it’s great, but down there it’s so much more farther advanced. There’s more kids, so many more schemes. To get a job opportunity is fantastic.”

Working with his father at Mascoma gave Kershaw his first taste of designing offensive line game plans. (Ray Kershaw wrapped up his tenure with the Royals at the end of last season.) He also furthered his education by continuing to play center for a semi-pro team in Manchester until hurting his knee late last season.

While playing will probably have to end, coaching is only starting. Kershaw said he’d like to move up the coaching ladder someday, possibly into the college ranks. And he may get the chance to drop some Mascoma knowledge on some unsuspecting Floridians.

“In talking to the coach there, he was very intrigued with what we ran at Mascoma, believe it or not,” Kershaw said.

“The spread and no-huddle and double wing, he really liked it and told me, when I get down there, to put that in as a goal-line package.

“I’m excited about that. I’m looking forward to it.”

Too bad Nease didn’t have it a few years ago. They had this Tim Tebow guy on their roster who would have been perfect for it.

Grappling With (More) Success: As a preface to Bellows Falls-Hartford’s second-place team finish at last weekend’s Vermont state wrestling championship, two Hartford High students joined three others from BF at the state junior varsity tournament at Spaulding High School on Feb. 22.

Hartford High sophomore Jaleel Denson came away the big winner for BF-H, taking three matches to claim the title in the 195-pound division. Hartford freshman Cameron Viens was fourth at 120 pounds, and BF-H’s Kevin Gosslant-Johnson won back-to-back matches to take sixth place in the class. Two other team members, Bryce Smith and Shane Brown, also wrestled at the meet.

BF-H capped its most successful season as a program on Saturday with its runner-up state result at 26-time champion Mount Anthony Union High School. Hartford senior Nolan Viens repeated as 145-pound state champ and four other athletes posted top-three placements.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.