Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel ready to lead Minutemen in right direction

Collegian file photo
Collegian file photo

Greg Carvel has come a long way from playing ice hockey at local rinks in his hometown of Canton, New York, right on the Canadian border, and watching “Hockey Night in Canada” on Saturday nights to working the bench as the head coach of the Massachusetts hockey team.

Carvel grew up in a hockey mecca, and that environment has contributed greatly to where he stands today. Watching, playing and coaching hockey—that’s all the 46-year-old St. Lawrence alum has done professionally in his career.

Right down the street from where he grew up, Carvel played collegiate hockey at St. Lawrence—a Division I school in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Along with being a captain and the first College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American in St. Lawrence history, he was the 1993 Outstanding Defensive Forward award-winner, tallying 38 goals and 85 assists for 123 points in his 131 career games as a Saint.

Life on the coaching bench

Carvel was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1991 NHL Supplemental draft prior to heading overseas to play a professional season in Sweden before hanging up the skates as a player. However, it was clear that his time around the game he loved was not over quite yet.

“I think everybody who plays at a high level wants to stay in. Coaching is ideal,” Carvel said. “It’s not easy. My first job was at a prep school where I was an assistant athletic director but I coached hockey. But that’s the way life works. I fell into it. Every job I’ve gotten in hockey, I feel like it’s come to me. I haven’t chased it.”

Carvel thought he wanted to be an athletic director, which is where his story meets the University of Massachusetts. He went to UMass to receive his master’s degree in sports management in 1998. Carvel then began his career as an assistant athletic director and assistant hockey coach at Canterbury Prep School in New Milford, Conn.

That job was followed with a stint in the American Hockey League as the director of hockey operations for the Lowell Lock Monsters and professional tenure with two National Hockey League teams—one as a scouting and video coordinator turned assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks and the next in the same position for eight seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Each position Carvel has had in coaching, he has sat back and let the calls be directed toward him.

“I was there (Lowell) for a couple years,” Carvel said. “I got a call and they asked if I’d be interested in going to Anaheim (NHL) and then got a call asking if I’d be interested in going to Ottawa and right to this job here. I’ve kind of let things come to me. There was a while when I was in the NHL where I was scouting, I wasn’t coaching. The coaching came to me. This is as close as you can be to the game without playing. It’s a fun profession.”

Carvel continued to climb the coaching ladder in 2012, when he was offered the head coaching position of his alma mater, St. Lawrence. Carvel held that post for five seasons, compiling a 72-63-15 record. It was there he noticed the drastic differences of being a college level coach compared to standing on an NHL bench.

“There’s the stark difference in the commitment,” he said. “At one level they’re professionals and everything in their life is focused on making themselves better hockey players and maintaining and staying in the NHL. It’s pretty impressive to work with athletes at the highest level of their sport. It’s a little transition in working with kids who have to be committed in other areas of their life.

“The talent level is obviously not the same, but it’s not that far off. It’s still pretty similar. Division I to the NHL—a lot of kids are making that leap nowadays. For me, it was adjusting to all the administrative parts of the job and coaching at a different level. The ability to execute is different. There was quite a bit of adjustment.”

Back to Alma Mater No. 2

Coaching the Minutemen never even entered Carvel’s mind back when he was spending his days in the UMass classrooms with hopes of becoming an athletic director. In fact, none of the jobs that Carvel has held he ever thought he’d be occupying. It’s that kind of mentality that makes him appreciate and be thankful for every job he’s been given.

“I could never have imagined I’d be (coaching) in the NHL,” Carvel said. “I never imagined that I’d go back to my alma mater. I never imagined that I’d go back to my other alma mater. When you’re young, you just want a job. You’re not too picky. What I think I’ve done is that every job that I’ve been fortunate to take on is I’ve proven myself and that’s led me to the next job.”

There are obvious draws to UMass for the 14th coach in its program’s history. This is where he spent part of his life, the Hockey East Association boasts the most premiere programs in the country and it presents a new challenge for Carvel, who doesn’t always want to take the easiest route.

“Last year, six teams in the league (Hockey East) made it to the NCAA tournament,” Carvel said. “We had a strong team at St. Lawrence and finished fourth and we didn’t make the tournament. When we recruit against Hockey East teams, we didn’t have a lot of success. Many kids want to play in this league. The travel is a little easier. It’s a higher profile (league).

“I just really felt strongly that there was a vision here. They wanted to make hockey important and successful. To me it was a challenge. As I said at my press conference, sometimes you don’t take the easy route. Like I said, every job I’ve taken I’ve had to prove myself. I looked at this as a challenge where maybe if we succeed the way I think we can that we’ll be an NCAA team and be a team that plays in the national tournament and can win a Hockey East title someday.”

Endless possibilities

2016 starts the beginning of the Carvel era in UMass hockey—a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2007. It is Carvel’s hope that the team will not just win games, but that the program be reflective of the qualities that his kids and the coach represent themselves.

Years from now, when his time on the bench at the Mullins Center has come to an end, Carvel hopes that the members of the UMass community and all those vested in Minutemen hockey look back at his time fondly with a program that is competing at the highest level.

“I hope that they talk about the program,” Carvel said. “That we built a program where kids did things the right way in every part of their life, that we win a fair number of games and became a very respected member of this league. I think more so when I came in here too, (John Micheletto) left with a reputation of a guy that was involved in the community, was affable and was charitable. I want that to be the reputation of our program. I hope that we play hard, we play right and we do things for the right reasons.”

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.

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