For Bruce Driver, being a self-proclaimed “student of the game” was something he was known for during his 15 year career in the National Hockey League. But now, the former Devils captain is behind the bench, rather than on it, serving as the Head Girls Ice Hockey Coach at Morristown-Beard School
Driver began coaching the team in 2000 at the team’s inception as a club team, and the team quickly earned status as a Varsity program. Driver says that he always knew he wanted to be a coach.
“When you play professionally as long as I did, you miss some of your children's sporting and school events,” Driver explains. “Getting into coaching allowed me to spend quality time with both of our children, while teaching them the game that I loved growing up.”
“My son and daughter began playing hockey in the same year,” Driver says. “I volunteered to coach in the Montclair Hockey Club program and still do so today. Even though both of our children have grown older and left the programs that I coached, I still enjoy coaching both girls and boys.”
Driver notices some differences between the boys and girls games, but that the competitive edge remains the same.
“The big difference in the game is that there is no checking in girls’ hockey, but there is some body contact. Girls are every bit as competitive as the boys,” Driver states.
Playing in the NHL showed Driver, who remains active with the Devils and at Prudential Center
as part of the Devils Alumni Association
, that there are many differences between coaching and playing. Driver says he enjoyed making the transition from being a student of the game to being a teacher of the game. “As a player you can channel any frustrations by being physically competitive on the ice,” says Driver. “As a coach it's important to stay calm and collected on the bench and not show any frustration. Also, as a player you always try to focus on your game, to do your best for the team. But as a coach, you are responsible for the development of every player on the team.”
"I enjoy watching each player improve over the course of a year or in high school over their career. I feel satisfaction not only in having a hand in the development of the ones who go on to play in college, but also in those who do not." - Bruce DriverBeing behind the bench instead of on the bench has put a great deal of perspective on Driver’s view of the game, and it has given him a feeling of fulfillment to see his players grow and succeed. "I enjoy watching each player improve over the course of a year or in high school over their career," Driver says.
Playing in the highly competitive Woman’s Interscholastic League of the Mid-Atlantic, the Morristown-Beard team looks to once again compete for a title this season after going 18-1 and capturing their third consecutive championship last season. They are currently 11-1-2, riding the strong play of seniors Brette Brier, Laura Loeser, and Allie Aiello, whom the Star-Ledger regards as the “state's top returning girls hockey player,” junior Kelly Dolan, Sophomore Kendall Cornine, and Freshman Eliza Mell.
Driver’s Morristown-Beard team has had success since he began coaching, but in recent years, the success has been even greater. Nevertheless, Driver always sets the bar high for his girls, and keeping their eyes on the prize is something he takes great pride in.
“We've had a lot of success over the last three or four years, but the expectations are always set high,” Driver explains. “The girls who join our program know it's tradition. Many of the girls who I've coached aspire to play hockey in college so they remain focused on improvement each and every day.”
With the growth and success of not only his own team, but many teams around the state, Driver believes that both boys and girls youth hockey in New Jersey will continue to grow, and girls’ hockey in particular, with continued exposure, will become even more popular.
“We do see a few more girls playing with boys in high school, but the growth of girls hockey overall will come with the success and exposure of Woman's College Hockey, the Olympics and World Championships.”
For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.