Boys Hockey Team Adapts To Changes This Season on and off the Ice

Freshman+Noah+Rubman+handles+the+puck+in+a+game+against+Lyndon.+Photo+courtesy%3A+Kat+Rossman

Freshman Noah Rubman handles the puck in a game against Lyndon. Photo courtesy: Kat Rossman

Alex Wick

It was only 7 a.m., but the gymnasium in the old BHS campus on Institute Road was bustling with activity. The sounds of basketballs bouncing and rubber soles squeaking on the hardwood floor echoed across the campus. The athletes on the court, surprisingly, were not basketball players. These athletes spend the majority of their time on the ice.

The Burlington boys hockey team took to playing basketball in the BHS gymnasium this season to supplant their usual dryland (off-ice) training that was curbed by Covid-19 safety restrictions at Leddy Park Arena. The gymnasium is one of the only areas in BHS with levels of PCBs measured to be well below the safety threshold recommended by the state.

In a normal season, the team’s dryland training consists of exercises such as pushups, sit-ups, and stair running outside of the rink in Leddy Park Arena. This year, the team is only allowed in the arena 15 minutes before and after each practice, seriously curtailing their workouts.

Assistant Captain Parker Ballard (left) and Captain Tido Schulman (right). Photo courtesy: Deb Lichtenfeld

“We didn’t want to do [dryland] in the freezing outside,” Captain Tido Schulman, a senior and forward for the Seahorses, said. “So we were like, ‘Let’s just go do it at BHS,’ and I’m like, ‘Basketball is kind of a fun way to be active.’”

Noah Rubman, a freshman defenseman for the Seahorses, appreciates the addition of basketball cross-training to the team’s routine.

“It’s always good to have more team bonding, and doing something other than hockey every once in a while is always fun, too,” Rubman said. “We always have different teams in basketball, so it’s always different people working together.”

The team has been practicing on the ice at Leddy Park Arena four days a week since winter sports teams in Vermont were permitted to begin practicing in late December. Due to Covid safety restrictions, the locker rooms at the arena are not available for use, hindering the team’s ability to hold in-person meetings.

“We’re probably actually in the locker room all together more than we’re on the ice playing together in a normal season,” Schulman said. “That’s a time that we’re normally bonding and gaining that off-ice aspect, but this year we didn’t have that, so that was an interesting thing to manage.”

The team has been holding Zoom meetings—group video calls—to make up for their lost locker room time. In these meetings, the team analyzes films of their recent games and discusses areas of play in which they could improve. Sometimes, they also watch films of other teams’ play in preparation for upcoming games.

Senior Rowan Wheeler watches junior Finn Riley prepare for a faceoff in Barre against Northfield. Photo courtesy: Jake Rubman

“It’s very helpful to watch film,” Assistant Captain Cannon Poulin, a sophomore and forward for the Seahorses, said. “When you look back, you see all the mistakes you were doing and what you’re doing well, too.”

Another change the team faced this season was in their coaching staff after their previous coach, Lou DiMasi, stepped down after seven seasons.

“Lou DiMasi was our coach for all my time at BHS, so he had kind of built a foundation,” Schulman said. “We knew what practices were like, we knew when to get to games, just little logistical details like that.”

This season, the team welcomed 29-year-old Andrew Bates as their new head coach. Bates was formerly the director of the NHL’s Florida Panthers’s youth development program, where he oversaw 15 youth hockey teams with players of ages eight to 18. This season is his first experience as head coach of a high school hockey team.

“It’s nice just to worry about one team and kind of just dial in to what we want to do in our goals as a team,” Bates said. “It’s been a great experience.”

This transition in coaching provided new opportunities for leadership on the team. “[Coach Bates] had never coached high school hockey before, so I felt like one of my jobs was just kind of helping him get acclimated to it,” Schulman said.

Bates appreciated the help he received from Schulman, Poulin, and the other assistant captains, senior defenseman Ethan Vincent, and senior forward Parker Ballard.

“I was able to lean on [the captains] to kind of help me figure things out because the biggest thing when you’re a new coach is there’s so many things to figure out—little things like jerseys and socks, what we have, what we don’t have, or who played together last year, who didn’t,” Bates said. “They did a great job. They’re all smart. They’re all successful. They’re all really good kids, so for me personally, using these guys was extremely important.”

Ballard has been on the team since his sophomore year. He said he used his leadership skills and experience on the team to keep the morale high through all of the changes this season.

“I understand a lot of what’s going on, the dynamics of the team, personalities on the team, and how we really mix,” Ballard said. “I tend to use that to my advantage… I give people pointers and stuff that I noticed when they’re on the ice, and I just kind of try to fire people up and get them going. That works in practice, and that also works in games.”

“You have guys like Parker who are really motivating and super dedicated, and they kind of set the tone,” Bates said. “I think a lot of the younger kids, they see them working hard and they follow.”

Some of the changes the team faced this season have actually been beneficial and could become a permanent part of the team’s routine. Bates believes that the change from locker room meetings to Zoom meetings could be here to stay.

“Back in the day, we just had to stay at the rink for another hour or two and look at film and sit in the locker room,” Bates said. “I think this is something that’s going to stay for a long time, doing [Zoom meetings].”

2020-21 Burlington Seahorses Boys Varsity Hockey team photo. Photo courtesy: Tido Schulman

Another change this season that could become routine for the hockey team, according to Bates, is basketball cross-training.

“We’ll probably do [cross-training] if we can [next season] and, you know, switching up workouts to keep it fun,” Bates said.

With all the basketball the team has played thus far, is the team any good at basketball?

“We stink at basketball,” Ballard said.

“Our team might be the worst at basketball if you took every team at BHS,” Schulman added.

Regardless of the team’s skill level, Schulman says cross-training could become a part of the team’s routine in future seasons.

On Sunday, March 14th, the Seahorses beat U-32 8-4, their first playoff win since 2010. Earlier this season, U-32 beat Burlington 10-3.

“The first time we played U-32, it was definitely a rough night,” Bates said. “I remember after the game, I was like, ‘Oh God, what are we going to do?’”

Team parents cheer as the team bus arrives at Leddy Park Arena after their win against U-32. Photo courtesy: Tido Schulman

Yet Bates said the team’s work ethic and positive attitude throughout the season enabled the team to improve and grow to be able to beat U-32.

“From that game to this playoff game, the way we look and the way [our team is] playing, you can just tell that they’re confident and they’re having fun and they really bought into the team,” Bates said. “They’re just really grown as a team, and a lot as players too, so I think a lot of it has to do with their work ethic and growth throughout the season.”

The Seahorses have advanced to play at Brattleboro in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 17th, at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the Brattleboro Youtube channel.