Editor's Note: We'll be running several features on members of the Wilmington boys hockey team in advance of Monday night's North Division 2 championship game between the Wildcats and Winthrop at Tsongas Arena. Puck drops at 6 p.m.
Players have come and gone. But for the Wilmington boys hockey team one constant remains – the man behind the bench.
For more than two decades, Wildcat head coach Steve Scanlon has been at the reins of the team, leading the locals to perennial success.
“I’ve learned so much from coach, from major lessons to the little things,” said Wilmington senior captain Dalton Rolli. “It’s helped me gain hockey knowledge listening to him. He’s one of the top ten most influential people I’ve had in my life.”
When Scanlon took over in Wilmington about 22 years ago, the program was in rough shape. The new mentor believed he could have the Wildcats in the playoffs within five years, but Scanlon was wrong. It only took four years before his charges skated to a postseason appearance.
Since then, the team has only missed the playoffs one time, and that was the season before Wilmington earned a spot on the TD Garden ice playing for a state championship.
According to Scanlon, it’s his passion for the game and his players that keep him coming back for more each season.
“When your playing days are over, after playing twice a week like that, you really have trouble getting it out of your blood,” said Scanlon. “With coaching, the competition is still there, you just do it in a different way. It’s a lot of fun, and the kids keep you young.”
One staple of Scanlon’s coaching repertoire is that he’s not an easy man to please. Following wins, many times blowout victories, he’s the first to point out ways his team needs to improve.
Wilminton players said that there are two sides to their head coach.
Can he be intimidating?
“Very,” said with a laugh. “If we play a bad period, he comes into the locker room and lets it all out. But what all of the older guys say is not to take how he says it, but what he says.”
Can he be entertaining?
“It’s pretty funny because sometimes he says some very quoteworthy lines that make everyone laugh,” Foley continued. “Overall he’s a really fun coach to play for, and he really knows what he’s talking about.”
said the system Wilmington plays under Scanlon’s watch is a big reason the wins have piled up over recent years.
When any questions come up, all players need to do is look up on the wall of .
“He’s given us what we needed, a system that we can play in,” said Pickett. “You know coming in that he’s done what he’s needed to do. His system works. Even if there are kids from time to time who might say that it doesn’t, it has to. He has so many titles to back it up.”
Scanlon’s team is one win from adding another impressive item on his resume. With a victory on , the Wildcats would provide their coach with another North Division 2 championship.
“I like to see the players mature. They’re young boys when they come in and men when they walk out the door,” said Scanlon, who credited the majority of his own success to the players who have suited up for the Wildcats. “We don’t play a conventional system. It’s unlike a lot of systems, and you have to buy in to be successful. Thankfully most of the kids have.”