(Photo from left: Colby Athletics Director Tim Wheaton, Former Colby Hockey Coach Jack Kelley, current Colby Men’s Hockey Coach Blaise MacDonald and Pittsburgh Penguins Video Coach Andy Saucier)
When it comes down to the final buzzer, and hockey’s holy grail is hoisted high, all eyes are trained on the players. A roster full of now grizzly men, capturing the title that almost all hockey players hope to one day covet: Stanley Cup Champion. But as the cup travels from jersey to jersey, it’s the staff in suits and polo shirts that deserve a portion of the credit, the men and women who work tirelessly throughout the season to bring coaches and players stats, equipment, and video.
Perhaps one of the most underrated positions in an organization, an NHL video coach is a key piece to the puzzle of success. Working tirelessly to piece together requested video bytes and compilations of plays into a neat little package for viewing at practices, pre-game, postgame and every flight in between. It is often this faceless title to fans that allows star players to have the visual foresight for success game in and game out.
On a hot summer day in Waterville, Maine, a city approximately 15 minutes north of the state’s capital of Augusta, Waterville native Andy Saucier arrived at the Alfond Rink at Colby College with some pretty substantial hardware; Lord Stanley. For those unfamiliar with the name, Saucier has played a key role in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization since 2012 as their video coach. In addition to his time with the Penguins, Saucier is also working as a video coordinator for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.
Though he played youth hockey at the Alfond Rink, his hockey ties run deeper. Saucier is the grandson of Colby hockey coaching legend, Jack Kelley and the nephew of Colby graduate Mark Kelley, the vice president of amateur scouting for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“My grandfather,” said Saucier. “He was in hockey for a very long time and he kind of instilled in us how hard it was to win this thing.”
A homecoming of sorts, there couldn’t have been a more appropriate place for Saucier to share the cup with the public.
“It’s great, I never really thought I’d be able to do it, [bring the cup to Waterville], growing up, I played youth hockey here and high school hockey,” said Saucier. “I never thought I would have the opportunity to be a part of a Stanley Cup winning team and to bring it back is super.”
No stranger to championships, Saucier has been part of not one, but four Beanpot crowns (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009) as a video coordinator for Boston University. In addition, a pair of Hockey East regular season (2006, 2009) and playoff (2006, 2009) titles, capped off by the 2009 NCAA championship.
The energy was abundant throughout not only the spectators, but the staff at the arena as well. However, it was current men’s hockey coach Blaise MacDonald that felt Stanley’s presence may have left a little extra luck for his team this upcoming season.
“I believe in karma, and this is really good karma,” said MacDonald.
“When you have a championship trophy in your building and there’s a good connection there with Coach Kelley and his grandson, I think we’re going to have a very good year. This will be the first year that we have all of our recruits here and we’ve got a very good team. I think this will serve as good inspiration as well to do everything we can to have hats and t-shirts and trophies thrown at us this March.”
For those unfamiliar, Colby College and the community that surrounds it, are a special bunch. A beautiful city, with a bustling youth hockey program, having Lord Stanley visit the area is not only memorable, but helps to encourage hockey dreams.
“It’s so wonderful for this community,” said MacDonald. “It really shows some of the young players the importance of following their passion for the game. Hockey brings out the best in people in that particular emotion of the game. Once it gets into your fiber, it’s really hard to get rid of it. In this area, we have so many young kids playing hockey, we want to continue to grow it. I think having the cup here will serve as a great opportunity for kids that want to continue to play hockey.”
Hundreds of eager hockey fans lined up for the chance to pose with the cup. For many across New England, it has been seen before, but for Maine fans, the cup will make a second appearance in the coming week. On Tuesday, August 9th, Pittsburgh Penguin and Biddeford, Maine native Brian Dumoulin will be honored with a short parade, beginning at 10:15 am and a public viewing from 10:30 am to 1 pm at the Biddeford Ice Arena. For fans in Boston, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan will have the Stanley Cup tomorrow at Boston College High School, with a public showing from 1 to 2:30 pm.
If the chance to see Stanley in person eludes you, there’s always next off-season. Remember, October is only a few puck drops away.