Toot Cahoon, Jack Arena give Greg Carvel hire at UMass high marks

  • Former St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel, left, directs his team from behind the bench. UMass announced on Tuesday that Carvel will be its next hockey coach. COURTESY ST. LAWRENCE

  • Former UMass hockey coach Toot Cahoon predicted new Minuteman coach Greg Carvel would do well in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Former UMass hockey coach Toot Cahoon predicted new Minuteman coach Greg Carvel would do well in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 3/29/2016 8:29:57 PM

On the day UMass announced the hiring of Greg Carvel as hockey coach, his old boss and the Minutemen’s old coach both predicted the former St. Lawrence coach would be a good fit.

Amherst College coach Jack Arena and former UMass coach Toot Cahoon were eager to praise Carvel Tuesday.

Carvel was just dipping his toes in the water of his coaching career when Arena was his boss.

After graduating from St. Lawrence in 1993, Carvel spent a season playing professionally in Sweden before becoming a math teacher and hockey coach at Canterbury Prep.

While earning his master’s degree in sport management at UMass, Carvel served as an assistant coach under Arena at Amherst College during the 1995-96 season.

Despite spending just one season together, Arena and Carvel developed a lasting bond.

“Our families have been friends since he worked for us,” Arena said. “I followed him when he was out in Anaheim and in Ottawa and when he moved to St. Lawrence.”

Arena recognized back then that Carvel had a future in coaching if he wanted it.

“He’s a very bright guy. He has a terrific hockey mind. Even back then you could tell that he really understood the game,” Arena said. “If that’s the direction he wanted to go you knew he was going to be very successful.”

Arena was excited about the prospect of having Carvel across town after following his friend’s career at more remote outposts.

“It’ll be fantastic. He’s a really quality guy who does things right. He’s such a good coach. To be able to use him as a resource will be great for me,” he said. “I visited him in Ottawa and sat in on a couple of their practices and did the same thing at St. Lawrence. Now it’ll be much easier. For a lot of years, we’ve picked each other’s brains. We’ve talked about the things we do and how we do them and how we teach.

“Greg has a really sharp eye for all those years in the NHL. I can’t wait to sit down with him and his staff and talk hockey,” Carvel continued. “I’ve been here for a long time. I’m eager to help him out and introduce us to some people. He’s going to embrace it. It’ll help us both. I could see us doing a lot of things together.”

Cahoon, who retired following the 2012 season, was UMass’ most successful coach since the program was reinstated in 1993. He thought Carvel was a good fit.

“I think the hockey piece will be the easy part for him. He’s very well-schooled. He’s very capable and he’s really developed his craft,” said Cahoon, who splits his time between Marblehead and Florida. “I think he can get this going in short order. I think they’ll be very competitive again and should surpass anything we even came close to accomplishing.”

Cahoon said Carvel and several other interested candidates reached out to him during the search process to learn about UMass.

Cahoon, who emphasized engagement in Amherst and the surrounding area, thought Carvel would be good at getting the community involved.

“He’s got to be true to himself, reach out to the community and reach out to the student body. He knows he has to really integrate with the community and get to know people in town, Amherst and the whole Pioneer Valley,” Cahoon said. “Greg is very intelligent. He knows that’s going to be essential. Winning for sure, and people will come if you have a nice team, but they’re only going to really embrace the team if you reach out and show a little emotion and a little engagement and show that you want to be part of the community.”

Cahoon said he spoke to UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford as well, but didn’t influence the process.

“Ryan doesn’t need my advice. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. I think he’s got a good perspective for UMass that’s going to help all the programs at UMass, not just a select few,” Cahoon said. “I think that’s going to go a long way toward stabilizing that department. I think this program is poised to be terrific with Ryan Bamford and the new leadership.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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