Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Terrier alums making their mark in NHL coaching,scouting and management, too

By Neal E. Boudette
Last August, BU assistant coach Scott Young (photo) hopped on a trans-Atlantic flight out of Boston, awoke the following morning in Europe, sat bleary-eyed through a layover and then caught another flight to his destination: Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.
He was there to attend the Hlinka Memorial Tournament, an annual competition of some of the best 18-and-under players from the world’s top hockey-playing nations. But the highlight of the trip came when he arrived at his hotel.
There in the lounge were three former Terriers -- John Lilley, Jeff Kealty and Steve Greeley, all NHL scouts who were also there for the tournament as well.
“Long flight, jet lag, and I end up having a few beers with those guys, talking hockey, ” Young recalled. “It was great. You travel halfway around the world and you’re there with three other BU guys. I’ll never forget it.”
It’s a common occurrence. More than 20 former Terriers are currently working in NHL front offices in coaching, scouting or management positions – far more than any other college hockey program.
Mike Sullivan and John Hynes get the most attention because they are head coaches, of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, respectively.
But the list of others is long. Lilley, a Terrier in 1991-92, is an amateur scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kealty, who played on the 1995 national championship team, is chief amateur scout for the Nashville Predators, whose assistant general manager is Paul Fenton, who played four years at BU from 1978 to 1982.
Rangers’ assistant director, player personnel, Greeley, who played for Jack Parker from 2000 to 2004, was an assistant to Dave Quinn from 2013 to 2015; now, he works for Terrier legend Chris Drury, the Rangers’ assistant general manager. Among Drury’s and Kealty’s teammates on the ’95 national championship team: Mike Grier, Chris Kelleher and Chris O’Sullivan (scouts for Chicago, Minnesota and the New York Islanders). They also played with Jay Pandolfo, a Bruins assistant.
 Working with Pandolfo on the Bruins bench is Joe Sacco, a Terrier from 1987 through 1990. Sacco played with Mike Sullivan on a team that reached the 1990 Frozen Four by upsetting No. 1-ranked Michigan State on the road in a thrilling three-game series (video 1, video 2)..
            A year after that, BU was in the Frozen Four again, with a team featuring Keith Tkachuk, a St. Louis scout, Scott Lachance, a New Jersey Scout and Peter Ahola, the recently named European scout for the new Las Vegas franchise. Their Terrier squad reached the 1991 NCAA title game, losing a heart-breaker in triple overtime to Northern Michigan. 
 “It’s a pretty tight bond that the BU guys have,” Tkachuk said. “It’s probably the passion, the experiences we had at BU. Maybe it’s because we played under a great coach and got ourselves ready for the next level, not just in hockey but all other areas. It’s awesome. I run into Scott Lachance quite a bit. It’s great. Lills, Greels – it’s fun seeing those guys. Anybody who went to BU has good stories about playing at BU.”
A pro scout for the Kings' 2014 Stanley Cup champs, Greeley said he feels a connection to anyone who played at BU, not just the guys he skated with during his four years on Comm Ave.
“It definitely starts with Jack Parker and the influence he had on us,” he said. “It’s a Boston University thing. It feels we all have a connection. We all came from the same place. The BU fraternity is a pretty tight circle. If you look around college hockey or the NHL, it’s flooded with Boston University grads. Once you make the move to work in hockey, as a BU grad, you’ve got that network.”
The most senior former Terrier in an NHL front office is Bob Crocker, still an amateur scout for the Los Angeles Kings at the age of 89. He played at BU from1953 to 1955, and later was an assistant coach who helped recruit the talent for Jack Kelley’s great Terrier teams of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and the winners of back-to-back national championships in 1971 and 1972.
Also on the Kings’ staff is 1965 All-American goalie Jack Ferriera, former GM of three NHL franchises and now a special assistant to L.A.’s general manager.  Mark Mullen, a 2004 classmate of Greeley’s and captain of the 2003-04 Terriers, was Kings' scout for many years before joining the Red Wings scouting staff at Scotty Bowman's invitation.
Buddy Powers, a player on two Frozen Four teams in the ‘70s and an assistant in Parker’s final years as bench boss, now works as an amateur scout for the Dallas Stars. Ron Anderson (photo), a Terrier on those ’71 and ’72 national title teams, had a long hockey career, coaching Merrimack College for 17 seasons in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He’s now the Blackhawks’ director of player recruitment.
Greeley said he thinks so many former Terriers excel in hockey even after hanging up their skates because of the life lessons learned at BU. “You get an opportunity to get a great education at BU. You don’t just play hockey, so a lot of guys are really prepared for when their playing days are over,” he said.
And the connection to BU gives them a network to be part of after leaving school. “Jack Parker created an environment that alums want to remain a part of, and Quinnie has continued it,” Greeley said.
"I didn't play with Kealty or Tkachuk at BU," he added. "But I guarantee, if I’m at a game, that’s usually who I’m standing with.”