USA Junior Hockey Magazine January 2010 : Page 11

January 2010 • 11 Launching pad Boston Jr. Blackhawks have strong record of college, pro advancement By Joshua Boyd A wedding to be held in the summer of 2010 will be a reunion of sorts for a pair of former Boston Jr. Blackhawks players. These two players have seen their ca- reers reach their peak, whether on the ice or behind the bench. “Hopefully, I’ll see Jeff Pellegrini get married next summer,” said former Blackhawk Rob Lalonde. Lalonde is cur- rently playing in the Double-A pro ECHL with the Reading Royals. He’s also played games in the American Hockey League, one stop short of the NHL. His former teammate, the one awaiting the big day, Pellegrini is the assistant coach for Bow- doin College’s Division 3 men’s hockey program. “I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t play for the Blackhawks,” said Lalonde. “I don’t know what would’ve happened. The Blackhawks gave me a direction that I knew I wanted to go in. I wanted to play at the highest level I could play at. It was a big learning experience.” “We told Robbie from Day 1 what his strengths and weaknesses were,” said pro- gram founder and current general man- ager and head coach Rich Salsman. “He went from 155 pounds to 205 pounds of muscle, and his shot went from 80 miles per hour to 97 in that one year. He is a proud example of what our program can do. “Lots of times you see players who have it all and who just don’t get a break,” Salsman added. “If he gets a break, there’s no telling where he could go.” The Blackhawks have not only sent hundreds of players to college (NCAA Division 1 and 3, and all American Col- lege Hockey Association divisions), but Lalonde is one of 17 former ’Hawks to reach the minor pro ranks. The Blackhawks have even produced one employee of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Peter Ward, the NTDP’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel, has been all through the hock- ey world – juniors, college, minor pro, coaching, playing, and scouting. “I played for the Blackhawks for a year and a half,” said Ward. “Rich goes out there and gets the best kids he can who are available. I was coming out of a lower-end high school, and I didn’t know much about junior hockey, but I knew I wanted to play college hockey. Rich gave me a good opportunity that other guys didn’t. “He let me play and gave me the free- dom to learn and make mistakes,” added Ward, who monitors the top 14-to 16- year-olds in the country for the NTDP. “I owe Rich a lot as far as getting that experience.” Salsman, who started the Blackhawks program in the mid-1990s, said that his team’s mission is exactly what Lalonde and Ward talk about – finding the right Rob Lalonde pushes the puck along for the Reading Royals. Along with close to 150 ECHL games, Lalonde has also played in 28 American Hockey League games since 2005. Photo courtesy Reading Royals place for them, individually. “Our program is there to develop as many players and get them to the next level, and we’ve done a pretty good job with that,” said Salsman. “We help them with their academics, their skills and their overall play so they can play at the higher levels. “The most important thing is trying to help these players to be realistic. They’re not all going to play Division 1,” said Salsman. “It’s getting harder and harder to get to the Division 1 level. The talent level of the college player has never been as strong as it is now. In New England, we’re getting players from all over who want to play at the colleges around here. It’s so rewarding when you can help these kids get to the next level.” Help on the way Joe Pannullo, the 2009-10 Black- hawks team captain, just returned from a week of practicing with the Blackhawks’ affiliate, the Texas Tornado, of the Tier-2 Jr. A North American Hockey League. “I didn’t end up playing with the Tor- nado, but Rich really pushes every player. If you go out and work hard enough, he’s going to advertise you,” said Pannullo. “People have to be looking at our league [International Junior Hockey League], it’s really got some quality hockey.” That quality hockey is actually spread through three levels, the half-season Se- lects (ends in November to allow players to participate in their high school hockey seasons); and the Elite level, which is a feeder to the top level, known as Super Elite. “The three-tiered league approach al- lows more opportunities for guys who aren’t at the Super Elite level yet,” said Pannullo. “I’ve gone down and played with the Elite, as well. I’m a big fan of it. I know kids who are Elite roster play- ers who are really good, like a kid Craig Nielsen, who came up to the Super Elite and scored two goals for us. They’re usu- ally the hardest-working kids.” As for his future with the Tornado, he said that squad told him he needs to bulk up and add more of an edge to his game. “I need to be more physical, even if I have to sacrifice some offense,” said Pannullo. “I’m a [1990-born player], so I have one more year to try to make the Tornado.” “I thought it was, for me, a great ex- perience,” added Eric Erb, one of four players in the Blackhawks Hall of Fame. He scored 133 points in one full season, before moving on to play professional hockey in Germany. He later was a coach for the Blackhawks and a rink manager. “I got a lot of ice time, and you really had to make it all work as a team. In my career, [playing for] the Blackhawks is what I remember most.” For those players looking at a prospec- tive college hockey career, the Black- hawks offer the services of an academic advisor, Erica Kotyluk, wife of Black- hawks coach Kevin Kotyluk. “Erica helps the players every other week, and she’s always available by e- mail if the players have questions about schools, entrance essays,” said Kevin Kotyluk. “She’s another voice and anoth- er viewpoint from Rich and I. She helps them with school and life, and setting goals for the season.” “I think it’s important that she makes the players become aware of how much goes into [getting into college],” add- ed Salsman. “The players get to know that you’re not here to just play hockey. You’re here for academics, you’re here to become good citizens, to mature and move on.” Move ’em on – that is certainly the mission statement for the Boston Jr. Blackhawks.

Boston Junior Blackhawks

Joshua Boyd

Launching pad<br /> <br /> Boston Jr. Blackhawks have strong record of college, pro advancement<br /> <br /> A wedding to be held in the summer of 2010 will be a reunion of sorts for a pair of former Boston Jr. Blackhawks players.<br /> <br /> These two players have seen their careers reach their peak, whether on the ice or behind the bench.<br /> <br /> “Hopefully, I’ll see Jeff Pellegrini get married next summer,” said former Blackhawk Rob Lalonde. Lalonde is currently playing in the Double-A pro ECHL with the Reading Royals. He’s also played games in the American Hockey League, one stop short of the NHL. His former teammate, the one awaiting the big day, Pellegrini is the assistant coach for Bowdoin College’s Division 3 men’s hockey program.<br /> <br /> “I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t play for the Blackhawks,” said Lalonde.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know what would’ve happened.<br /> <br /> The Blackhawks gave me a direction that I knew I wanted to go in. I wanted to play at the highest level I could play at. It was a big learning experience.” “We told Robbie from Day 1 what his strengths and weaknesses were,” said program founder and current general manager and head coach Rich Salsman. “He went from 155 pounds to 205 pounds of muscle, and his shot went from 80 miles per hour to 97 in that one year. He is a proud example of what our program can do.<br /> <br /> “Lots of times you see players who have it all and who just don’t get a break,” Salsman added. “If he gets a break, there’s no telling where he could go.” The Blackhawks have not only sent hundreds of players to college (NCAA Division 1 and 3, and all American College Hockey Association divisions), but Lalonde is one of 17 former ’Hawks to reach the minor pro ranks.<br /> <br /> The Blackhawks have even produced one employee of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Peter Ward, the NTDP’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel, has been all through the hockey world – juniors, college, minor pro, coaching, playing, and scouting.<br /> <br /> “I played for the Blackhawks for a year and a half,” said Ward. “Rich goes out there and gets the best kids he can who are available. I was coming out of a lower-end high school, and I didn’t know much about junior hockey, but I knew I wanted to play college hockey. Rich gave me a good opportunity that other guys didn’t.<br /> <br /> “He let me play and gave me the freedom to learn and make mistakes,” added Ward, who monitors the top 14-to 16- year-olds in the country for the NTDP.<br /> <br /> “I owe Rich a lot as far as getting that experience.” Salsman, who started the Blackhawks program in the mid-1990s, said that his team’s mission is exactly what Lalonde and Ward talk about – finding the right Place for them, individually.<br /> <br /> “Our program is there to develop as many players and get them to the next level, and we’ve done a pretty good job with that,” said Salsman. “We help them with their academics, their skills and their overall play so they can play at the higher levels.<br /> <br /> “The most important thing is trying to help these players to be realistic. They’re not all going to play Division 1,” said Salsman. “It’s getting harder and harder to get to the Division 1 level. The talent level of the college player has never been as strong as it is now. In New England, we’re getting players from all over who want to play at the colleges around here.<br /> <br /> It’s so rewarding when you can help these kids get to the next level.” Help on the way Joe Pannullo, the 2009-10 Blackhawks team captain, just returned from a week of practicing with the Blackhawks’ affiliate, the Texas Tornado, of the Tier-2 Jr. A North American Hockey League.<br /> <br /> “I didn’t end up playing with the Tornado, but Rich really pushes every player.<br /> <br /> If you go out and work hard enough, he’s going to advertise you,” said Pannullo.<br /> <br /> “People have to be looking at our league [International Junior Hockey League], it’s really got some quality hockey.” That quality hockey is actually spread through three levels, the half-season Selects (ends in November to allow players to participate in their high school hockey seasons); and the Elite level, which is a feeder to the top level, known as Super Elite.<br /> <br /> “The three-tiered league approach allows more opportunities for guys who aren’t at the Super Elite level yet,” said Pannullo. “I’ve gone down and played with the Elite, as well. I’m a big fan of it. I know kids who are Elite roster players who are really good, like a kid Craig Nielsen, who came up to the Super Elite and scored two goals for us. They’re usually the hardest-working kids.” As for his future with the Tornado, he said that squad told him he needs to bulk up and add more of an edge to his game.<br /> <br /> “I need to be more physical, even if I have to sacrifice some offense,” said Pannullo. “I’m a [1990-born player], so I have one more year to try to make the Tornado.” “I thought it was, for me, a great experience,” added Eric Erb, one of four players in the Blackhawks Hall of Fame.<br /> <br /> He scored 133 points in one full season, before moving on to play professional hockey in Germany. He later was a coach for the Blackhawks and a rink manager.<br /> <br /> “I got a lot of ice time, and you really had to make it all work as a team. In my career, [playing for] the Blackhawks is what I remember most.” For those players looking at a prospective college hockey career, the Blackhawks offer the services of an academic advisor, Erica Kotyluk, wife of Blackhawks coach Kevin Kotyluk.<br /> <br /> “Erica helps the players every other week, and she’s always available by email if the players have questions about schools, entrance essays,” said Kevin Kotyluk. “She’s another voice and another viewpoint from Rich and I. She helps them with school and life, and setting goals for the season.” “I think it’s important that she makes the players become aware of how much goes into [getting into college],” added Salsman. “The players get to know that you’re not here to just play hockey.<br /> <br /> You’re here for academics, you’re here to become good citizens, to mature and move on.” Move ’em on – that is certainly the mission statement for the Boston Jr.<br /> <br /> Blackhawks.

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