A dream has finally become reality for Endicott College and its athletic director Brian Wylie. The school has unveiled plans to elevate its hockey program from club to NCAA Division III and to build an on campus hockey facility.
"We're thrilled that we've been given the go ahead to move our men's and women's hockey programs from club status to NCAA Division III," said Wylie.
It was a process that took place over several years. A lot of hard work and dedication to seeing the promise of an NCAA hockey program come to fruition has finally paid off for the small college by the sea.
"It was a long time coming. It's something we've been thinking about seriously for five to six years. We went back and forth, but now to have it finalized, we're very excited," explained Wylie, a former player at St. Anselm College.
Endicott, a small liberal arts college in Beverly, Mass., has seen the stature of the entire school rise in the past decade. A once all-girl's college has blossomed into a coed school with a growing number of academic programs for students to choose from.
With that has come success on the athletic fields, including trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament for both its baseball and men's lacrosse programs this spring.
"Athletics has grown with the institution. We have 2400 undergrads now. The academic profile and the facilities have grown dramatically," boasted Wylie.
The college hockey world is a small fraternity that is always very welcoming of new programs, but the Gulls' new facility will also benefit the surrounding community, especially Beverly.
Well known hockey names to call Beverly home include 1972 US Olympian and former Merrimack assistant Stu Irving as well as former UVM head coach Mike Gilligan.
Another Gilligan, Bob, led his Beverly High School Panthers to the Massachusetts High School Hockey Division 2 State Championship at the TD Garden this past winter.
"We're working closely with Beverly High School. I've spoken with [Beverly] athletic director James Coffey. We've been contacted by many different local youth hockey organizations on the North Shore. It will definitely be a community facility," said Wylie.
To say the area is rich in hockey tradition would not be an overstatement. Endicott will look to build on that as well as incorporate local youth and high school teams in its new riches.
The school, led by Wylie, worked tirelessly to raise the necessary funds to elevate the men's and women's program as well as build the on campus rink. "There was a lot of fundraising involved. We had some generous donors to get it going," said Wylie.
A new head coach will likely be in place by the end of June so he can start recruiting and preparing for the transition to Division III. Many coaches, some veteran and some just getting started, have applied for the opening.
"We have a lot of quality applicants. We anticipate having a new coach in place by early to mid July so he can get started," said Wylie. "We're looking for the right fit. We want somebody who understands the importance of academics and community. We want to be competitive."
One veteran Division III head coach speaking on the condition of anonymity said, "Endicott is best suited going with a young coach eager to show his worth. The school needs to hire someone who will work hard, be willing to go all-out on the recruiting trail and have a passion for building the program."
There are certainly quite a few coaches who are qualified for the opening, but Wylie and his search committee would be wise to consider two young coaches with pedigree and a passion for the game.
Dan Gordon, a former player at UMass and Southern Maine, works as a coach in the USPHL for Pete Masters' Boston Junior Bruins. The son of former Merrimack player Mike Gordon, Dan got his start in coaching as an assistant for Jeff Beaney at USM.
Gordon played minor professional hockey for a short time in Europe and stateside before turning to coaching. A former high scoring forward at Pingree, a nearby prep school, he would bring expertise, especially in the area of recruiting and would have the ability to galvanize the community behind the program.
The second name to be considered is former University of Maine student assistant and current Canisius College Director of Hockey Operations Tyler Walsh. The son of legendary Black Bears head coach Shawn Walsh and grandson of recent US Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Ron Mason, the second winningest coach of all-time in college hockey, hockey certainly runs in his bloodlines.
Walsh, who has also worked for USA Hockey at several international competitions as a video analyst, is a tireless worker. He understands the game tremendously well and can hash out x's and o's as well as any young coach.
Whoever is hired as the first coach of Endicott's fledgling Division III program will have the support of his athletic director and the whole school as the Gulls welcome another addition to an already growing school.
Wylie will do all in his power to see that the hockey program puts its best foot forward. "Our plan is to break ground on the rink by the end of June. We'll play club for the upcoming school year and then hit the ground running in the fall of 2015. We'd like to have the rink completed by August of 2015."