NHL experience has helped shape Greg Carvel’s coaching style

  • University of Massachusetts athletic director Ryan Bamford, left, introduces Greg Carvel as the head coach of the hockey program at a press conference Thursday at the Mullins Center. DAN LITTLE

  • Greg Carvel speaks at a press conference as the new head coach of the hockey program at the University of Massachusetts Thursday at the Mullins Center. DAN LITTLE

Published: 4/1/2016 9:50:36 PM

BOSTON — Greg Carvel said his goal was always to become a college hockey coach.

But the 12 years he spent in the NHL as an assistant with the Anaheim Ducks and the Ottawa Senators shaped who he is as a coach.

“When you’re at the highest level working with the best people in the world, you can’t help but get better,” Carvel said. “I feel like I have a Ph.D. in hockey for working 12 years (in the NHL) and the experience that I had there.”

Carvel’s intensity and competitiveness come from within, but how he channels them is modeled after Mike Babcock, the current Toronto Maple Leafs coach who was his boss in Anaheim. He’s patterned some of his approach to relationship building within his team off the style used by then-Senators coach Bryan Murray.

“I learned different things from different people,” he said. “Mike Babcock is an extremely intense, energetic and motivated guy. Then I worked with Brian Murray (in Ottawa), who taught me the importance of relationships.”

Carvel doesn’t believe in long, grueling practices or overusing conditioning drills as punishment.

“We don’t practice long, but we practice hard. I rarely put my kids on the goal line and blow my whistle and make them skate,” he said, pantomiming a back-and-forth drill with his left hand. “That’s old school stuff. You skate in drills. If you’re out here for an hour there’s no reason you can’t get conditioned. I believe strongly in recovery. More than anything on Friday night, I have to do everything in my power to make those kids feel energized and feel like they’re prepared. At St. Lawrence I thought we did a great job of that. We don’t kill ’em. You need them to be ready on Friday night.”

But he demands any time his team is playing or preparing to play that it does so with vigor.

“I think if you asked my players they’d say on game day I’m pretty intense. I expect a certain level, whether it’s practice or a game. I’m pretty fierce competitor. I try to keep it masked as much as I can,” Carvel said. “When practice starts until practice ends, or a game or a video session, I’m all in. I’m pretty high intensity.”

Carvel said his NHL experience helped entice players to St. Lawrence.

“It’s a huge asset in many ways. I’ll start with recruiting. It’s easy to tell kids you coached (Ottawa defenseman) Erik Karlsson. It’s easy to say ‘I coached (then-Ottawa defenseman) Zdeno Chara, I think I can handle you,’” Carvel said. “I learned a tremendous amount (in the NHL). ... What I do now, is I run my program like an NHL team. The way we practice, the way we train, the way we do video and preparation. My kids I had at St. Lawrence, when they go pro, they say it’s the same thing, maybe even not as good. That’s how I run things. And I think, kids these days, that’s what they want, that’s what they need.”

Carvel said he’s better able to counsel a player considering turning pro because of that experience.

“I have a very good feel and understanding of when a kid is ready to turn pro,” he said. “I’m just aware of what it takes at that level. My time in the NHL was tremendous and it serves me very, very well.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage

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