Small states, huge impact
-- continued from page 1 --
"They have the facilities and the ice available to really develop your game and those are the years that you develop the most as a player," says Carney, who played for the University of Maine after his high school career. "You would skate for gym and then you would be on the ice for team practices and everything like that. You're basically on the ice year-round and that was the biggest thing.
"We also had great coaching. Bill Belisle loved what he was doing and he loved you as a player and as a person and that showed through and helped so much in your development."
In many ways, Mount St. Charles is the model that so many high schools in New England try to follow.
Throughout the New England states, hockey is often the king of the winter season, attracting the best athletes to try their hand at a sport that is often treated as a second-class citizen in other areas of the country.
"To play on the Mount St. Charles hockey team when you are at that school is a prestigious thing," says Boucher, who left the school to play in the Western Hockey League before joining the Philadelphia Flyers. "We don't have a football program at the Mount, so hockey was the big thing. It was an honor to make that team and play there."
Other New Englanders will tell of similar experiences at their high schools. New Jersey Devil Jay Pandolfo, who has won two Stanley Cups with the Devils, began his playing career at the Burlington Ice Palace near his home in Winchester, Mass. One of his earliest memories is his burning desire to emulate those players he saw representing the various high schools of the Middlesex League.
"I still remember how big hockey was where I grew up," says Pandolfo, who played for Burlington Prep. "All my friends played hockey and we always were out on the street or at the pond if we were not at the rink. Hockey's so big in the Boston area, not just with the Boston Bruins, but with college hockey and everything else."
There are 17 players from Massachusetts playing in the NHL today, tied with Minnesota for the honor of producing the most current NHL players, according to NHL statistics. New York has produced 16 players and Michigan has produced 15 current players. With 10 current players coming from the other five New England states, this fertile area can claim 27 current players. That pipeline shows little signs of abating. In the previous four editions of the NHL Entry Draft, 50 New England-born players have been drafted. Massachusetts leads the way, as usual, boasting 32 of those selections.
Yet, no school can compare to the sustained success of Mount St. Charles. Even players that have gone on to play at the pinnacle of the sport and represent their country in various international competitions, still revel in their time spent at the Mount.
To a man, they can instantly recall the cramped confines of their childhood rink, the sanctity of their players-only locker room, the demanding closed-door practices of their coaches and the unrelenting pressure sustained by their continued success as the premier hockey high school in New England.
"I still brag about being from the Mount on occasion," Boucher said with a laugh. "When we play against other guys from the Mount, I'll ask teammates if they know where they play their hockey and things like that. I'm certainly proud of where I am from and where I played.
"I'm also proud of the guys that have played there, guys like Garth Snow and Bryan Berard and Keith Carney and those guys. It's a pretty neat thing to have so many guys from one school playing in the NHL. I can't imagine another school having a legacy like ours."