Boston College’s rich hockey history includes 20 Frozen Four appearances and dozens of NHL greats, like Brian Leetch and Hall of Famer Joe Mullen. The Eagles’ on-ice domination can be attributed to a combination of the finest coaching and premier recruiting. Here, associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh talks about what it takes to be part of BC’s legendary program.
STACK: As a coach, what’s the most challenging aspect of the recruiting process?
Mike Cavanaugh: Probably the perception that it’s easy to recruit at Boston College because we’ve had a lot of success. We’re a good school, but there are a lot of good schools out there.
STACK: What are the biggest challenges athletes face during the recruiting process?
MC: I think the biggest challenge right now is that players get so much pressure to commit at an early age. It’s hard for them to say, “Hey, I’m going to take my time to make a decision.”
STACK: What distinguishes BC’s program from other programs?
MC: We’ve formed a culture in which we’ve graduated a lot of players and been very successful at winning championships. Every kid Coach York has recruited for BC has won a Hockey East playoff title and played in a Frozen Four. We’re really proud of that, and I think when kids come here, they want to live up to the standards set by previous players, such as Marty Reasoner, Brian Gionta and Andrew Alberts.
STACK: What qualities do you look for in potential recruits?
MC: We look for kids who are good team players and have high hockey IQs. Our team has really been based on speed. We’re a very uptempo, fast team.
STACK: Can you elaborate on the meaning of “high hockey IQ”?
MC: A hockey sense—having a great understanding of the game. We feel that if you don’t understand how to play—even if you are the fastest skater or have the hardest shot—you’ll have a hard time playing for us.
STACK: What qualities are turn-offs in a recruit?
MC: Kids who are just concerned with how many points they’ve attained in a year or in a game, as opposed to winning the game or winning championships. Those kids really won’t fit in with the type of program we have here.
STACK: Explain how academics impact the hockey recruiting process at Boston College.
MC: We try to find studentathletes who work extremely hard in the classroom. We seem to be more successful with a kid who works really hard to get a B minus than a kid who does no work to get a B. We look at teacher recommendations, because we feel if you get to college and you work really hard at your studies, you’ll graduate from Boston College.
STACK: What advice can you offer athletes who want to play in college, but don’t live in a hockey-dominant region?
MC: There are so many avenues to get to Division I hockey. We’ve recruited players from public schools, Canadian junior leagues, USHL and prep schools. No matter what, we just want to recruit the best players. And I’m a firm believer that if you’re a good player, you’ll be found. Naturally, a lot of USHL players go Division I year in and year out. In the United States, it’s probably the number-one league for sending kids to Division I, but we’ve taken kids from pretty much every league.
STACK: Any other advice for hockey players who want to play in college?
MC: First, take care of your academics. Put yourself in a position where you have a lot of options for school. Second, it’s always best to dominate the league you’re in before moving up. A lot of kids say, “Hey, I want to go play in this league because it’s the best,” but they’re not ready to play in that league yet, so they get buried on a fourth line, or they’re in and out of the lineup. That really doesn’t help them a whole lot.