a new league
a conversation that occurs prior to the start of every hockey season between
Kevin Sneddon and his team. The players state their goals for the upcoming
season and the coach tells them what it will take to reach them. At the
surface, it sounds like a corporate goal-setting session to kick off the
new fiscal year long on lip service, short on substance.
easy thing would have been to let up and say Ok, we knew this was
going to happen. But we decided to not accept it and just keep pushing
them as hard as possible, Sneddon says. We knew that eventually
the culture we wanted to institute would emerge, and thats whats
going to carry you for the long run. When they are really down, you dont
want to kick them down further. But you dont sway from certain core
principles at times like that. The only time I really get on our guys
a little bit is if I dont feel theyre putting everything in
their minds and in their hearts together.
strategy helped the team build to one of college hockeys most impressive
turnarounds last season. The Cats went from winning just seven games in
2003-2004 to posting a 21-14-4 record in 2004-05.
it came time for college, Sneddons father thought the best route
to the pros was to play major-junior hockey, but his mother insisted he
continue his education. He considered Cornell and almost committed to
Michigan, but decided to wait and sign with Harvard. Crimson Coach Billy
Cleary made an impression on Sneddon that he strives to carry into his
own coaching. Cleary cared about the lives of every single player,
Sneddon says. It didnt matter if he was the top scorer or
the kid who never played. He cared about everyone the same.
feel like we have a good shot at some of the best players in the country,
especially now that we had a decent season, says Sneddon. The
challenge is that theres an elite group of recruits that tend to
lean toward the really, really established programs. Weve got to
go head-to-head with those programs and not be afraid to lose those battles.
The coach adds that the change in conference promises to help UVM in recruiting,
as Vermont assumes the rank of arguably the top academic school in Hockey
Sneddons third season rapidly approaching, its getting close
to goal-setting time again. Captain Jaime Sifers says a trip to Boston
for the Hockey East playoffs is definitely a priority and the teams
commitment to Sneddons system is key to making it a possibility.
best word to describe coach is passionate, says Sifers. Hes
real passionate about the way he coaches, how he teaches us, and the way
we perform. It didnt take long to get to know him because he spent
a lot of time with us and made us feel like part of a family.
Proving themselves in the tough Hockey East conference is certainly a first priority for Sneddon and the Catamounts, but the coach will admit to looking a little beyond that. I was fortunate enough to win a national championship and Id love to be able to share that with our student athletes one day hopefully in the near future. But it doesnt have to be a national championship as long as they enjoy achieving the goals they set for themselves. I enjoy that journey with these guys because they put their hearts and souls into it. Thats all I ask.