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Marauders Learn the Devil Is in the Details

  • FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2018, file photo, New Jersey Devils head coach John Hynes talks with referee Marc Joannette (25) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, in Pittsburgh. The New Jersey Devils have given coach John Hynes a multiyear contract extension. The team announced the deal Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, saying Hynes' leadership has been instrumental in building a culture and systems for the development of the players. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

  • Sylas Oberting, 4, rough houses with Hanover teammate Matty Gardner, 19, in celebration after their 5 - 0 win over Nashua North at Campion Rink in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover's Rowan Wilson splits Nashua North's Evan Soucy, left, and Jason Scott, right, during their game at Campion Rink in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. Hanover won 5 - 0. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover Captain Charlie Plottner laughs with his teammates as they leave the locker room for their third period against Nashua North at Campion Rink in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. Hanover won 5 - 0. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover hockey players Matty Gardner, left, and Sylas Oberting attend a New Jersey Devils game with their team on Dec. 31, 2018. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, January 05, 2019

West Lebanon — Dick Dodds was still a little awestruck one week later, sitting in his office at James W. Campion Rink on Friday.

His Hanover High boys hockey team was five days removed from a New Year’s Eve trip earlier this week to visit the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., a trip that included practicing twice at the team’s facility at the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House, getting a tour of the team’s locker room and meeting with Devils head coach John Hynes. Hanover’s players were left with a similar reaction last week, taken aback by the detail-oriented workload of those who play their sport at the highest level, and with a new perspective on the hard work involved.

What Dodds didn’t expect was to get treated like family.

“For me, I was like a 10-year-old on Christmas morning,” said Dodds, in his 37th year as Hanover’s head coach. “The whole experience was really fun. Stepping into an NHL rink, walking through their locker room, their weight room, the player’s lounge, all behind locked doors. It was phenomenal. The training room, the film room, it was quite an experience. To see the stuff on the walls, the pictures and the sayings and the slogans. I could have spent the whole two days just reading the walls.”

The trip was Hanover’s second to the Devils’ facility, its first in two years, and was made possible thanks to a special connection between Hanover assistant coach Dean Cashman, a vice president and commercial loan officer at Mascoma Savings Bank and Lebanon resident, and the fourth-year New Jersey coach. Cashman and Hynes’ brother, Chris, were roommates and teammates on the golf team at Providence College. The two have remained close.

John Hynes, the 43-year-old Warwick, R.I., native and longtime head coach with the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton (Pa.) Penguins, was hired by the Devils in 2015. That year, Hanover’s program was looking for memorable midseason trip that could serve as a bonding experience. Cashman, a Hanover graduate in his eighth season as an assistant, had an idea.

“We wanted to do something for the boys that we thought was a little unique and different,” Cashman said. “Coach Hynes was open to making it work.”

Hanover’s first visit to the Garden State was derailed by the Devils’ 6-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Dec. 31, 2016, forcing Hynes into a day of meetings with the organization’s front office the next day.

The Marauders had more luck two years later. They arrived at Prudential Center midday on Sunday, just in time to watch the Devils practice ahead of a 1 p.m. game against the Vancouver Canucks the following afternoon. The practice left a mark on Dodds — it lasted only 40 minutes and was run like a well-oiled machine.

“The skill of these players was mind-boggling,” Dodds said. “To sit there, front row, and watch what they do, how fast they do it, how much they communicate to one another on the ice, all the drills they understand. There’s no drill records, it was so fun.

“We told the kids we’re going to do the exact same practice they do. We took their drills, and we got the ice right after them.”

Awaiting the team after practice in the locker room was serving of burritos from Chipotle, thanks to Orford native and Dartmouth College graduate Ben Lovejoy, who is in his third season with New Jersey. Then Hynes visited the locker room, taking more than a half-hour to discuss his background in hockey and his coaching career and to take questions from the Marauders.

“Coach Hynes came in and gave us 30 minutes of his time, 30 minutes to a public high school,” Dodds said. “He could have stayed a minute, could have stayed two minutes. He spoke for a little bit, then opened up for questions. Our kids nailed it. They were engaged. He stayed through every single one.”

It was the one-and-one with Hynes, and the time he took to address the team, that left the Marauders with a lasting impression.

“It was really valuable to the guys, to have an NHL coach in the room, to talk hockey with him. It was so cool,” said Hanover senior forward Charlie Plottner. “It was cool because Coach Dodds is always trying to teach us about connections, staying in touch with people. You’re, like, asking Coach Hynes about how he got to where he is. He said, ‘Connections.’ ”

Added Hanover senior Hans Williams: “It was crazy to have 30 minutes to an NHL coach when they’ve got such a busy schedule. I was really interested in how he got to become an NHL coach. He played public high school, just like us.”

Hanover went back to the arena for practice the next morning and took in a Devils game that afternoon, an eventual 4-0 win over the Canucks, from a suite at the Prudential Center. Dodds tasked some of his players to watch specific Devils, see how they do things with and without the puck, to study their game and report their findings on the bus ride back home later that day.

“I think it just shows you that you want to strive for perfection, always,” Williams said. “These guys have gotten so close to being perfect, that’s why they’re in the NHL. It just shows you that the little things in practice … you always have to strive for perfection and never be satisfied.”

The Devils signed Hynes to a multi-year extension last week, a sign of confidence from the organization’s front office as it continues the team’s rebuild. Cashman hopes it’s an opportunity the Marauders can continue to provide in the future.

“(Hynes) has always been willing to help,” Cashman said. “He’s thought of very highly in the USA Hockey world. Anything to help grow the game, create passion, create some new fans.

“It was a great team bonding experience I think they’ll always remember.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.