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Episode 19 · 2 years ago

Team of the Week (Chiefs) | Episode 19

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

A little over a year ago Neil Breen took over as the Head Coach and General Manager for the Connecticut Chiefs. Now, as the program gets ready for its 3rd season of junior hockey, Breen continues to set goals for each of his teams. Ideally, each team will win more games and advance further than the previous year, but more importantly, Breen wants to see the program's NCAA Commitment totals grow the most.


"The EHL is a league focused solely on the players," said Breen. "The decisions made by the owners and the responsibilities of the coaches are centered around helping every player reach the next step in their career. I am proud to be a part of it, with a program building each and every year."


Being located right in the middle of the league's footprint is something that Breen believes helps his program, and will continue to lean on that aspect in the future. With a number of NCAA programs right in his backyard, Breen appreciates the fact that his players are being seen every game, and not just during showcase play.

Welcome to the show with Neil Ravn. With over onezero NCAA commitments, the ehl is the proven path to college. Turn it up and learn more about the college placement leader at the division two and three levels. Welcome into the east show. Once again, my name is the Ravenous Episode Number Nineteen, featuring the Connecticut chiefs and the head coach and general manager, Neil Breen. The first time neal and interviewed someone with the same name as me. Welcome to the east show, ha ha. Thank you very much, Nell. It's good to be here. So let's jump right into it. It was probably a little bit over a year ago at this time when you were hired. How do you feel about where you're at this year as opposed to a year ago? I feel pretty good. I mean I think. I mean obviously I've had more time to kind of put the team together. It's under different circumstances, of course, but you know, I kind of I have a better sense of the League and sort of what type of player can be successful at this level. So, you know, we're feeling really good about our situation and and you know, I really like it out here. I started my career in the EHL. I don't think it was called the Ahl back then, but it was the same league and you know, I I was excited to get back here. So it's feeling really good, hoping for many more years. Well, I'm glad that you brought that up because you're from the state of Washington. You've been a connetquet before. However, you want to tell this story, can you tell us how you made it from Washington to Connecticut and then even back to Connecticut again? Yeah, so, you know, so born and raised in spokane. Hockey and spoken is is sort of a it's a minor thing that. I mean they have a Western Hockey League team, the spoken chiefs. That's about the highest level. But...

...if you want to play college hockey out there, you know that's kind of it's not really the route you want to go. So, you know, I ended up playing junior hockey in the bchls sixteen year old, got recruited to Womhall Lancers Com Muhl and then that's out of there. Is when I got a scholarship to quinnipeak university in Hamden, Connecticut. Played there for four years and, you know, sort of stuck around here after Pearl and you'll started working in various rinks around the area that I started working with Curt Therella, believe it or not, with the back then it was the wolf pack, the Hartford Junior Wolf Pack, and so I was there for a few years. I went off and coached them, the Noll in the USA, Chowel and the various other leagues, and then it's found my way back here to Connecticut just last year. So let's pick that apart. We let's look at apart one step at a time. I mentioned this is the first time for me interviewing someone with the same name as me, but we also both went to Quinnipiac. I know from myself personally. I didn't know much about Quinnipiac when I was looking for a college to go to. Obviously the hockey program nowadays is built a pretty big name for itself. How did you even find Quinnipiac when you were from Washington? Well, that's the thing is they I didn't find them, they found me, you know. You know I've decent player. My last year and the USAH I put up. You know, I put up almost seventy points to shy seventy points. I was an...

Allstar my last year, and so I have some options. Like I was talking to quite a few schools and ran peckneld like just would not leave me alone, like he was called me, you know, once a week and really showed a lot of interest in me as a player, versus the other schools are just, you know, they were ever interested, but they didn't seem to really want me as bad as rounded me to come. So, you know, I actually never even visited the campus. I committed the court of the act without even going on a visit. Like I visited a bunch of schools, so I think I was out of visits or something. At the time they had limitations on how many visits you could take. So I never actually visited the campus. Rand goes breeder, you know, I don't know I means anything to you, but you know we have a seven to one girl the guy ratio here a university. I said, all right, let's go on, let's sign me up. So so, yeah, that was that was your first time in Connecticut, as you're saying. So did you did? You kind of fall in love with the state and then you thought to yourself, you know, when the time is right, I have to there's a spot. I want to make it back to Connecticut or New England. Yeah, you know, it's that's actually cool that. Yes, that up like so when I started working in this league, I mean at the time I think it was called the Ej, yeah, and that we and then they had the met league, which is like what the EHLP is, I guess today. Yep. So I really just loved the way things were done. I like the caliber of hockey. You know, I enjoyed my time in the state of Connecticut in college to you know, for I can remember. And but you know, over over the course of time of...

...being living in Connecticut, I really just fell in love with the area. I like that, you know, you're close to New York City and you're close to Boston. Then, you know, I'm big into the arts, like, I love theater and there's a lot of theater in the area. So it's just something that I've always liked it out here, ever since I came out here. And and that's exactly it. I said. You know what, if I get an opportunity to come out and work out east, I'm definitely going to do it. You know, like I look at guys like Chris Rala, who has been out here forever and and he's been working in this league for, you know, since since, you know, since I did a lot longer. I just mean he's happy's he's enjoying his time. He's able to help a lot of players move on to the next level. And you know I you know, you know him and I played hockey together. I mean, I respect Christ all very much and so so I just look at how happy he's been and you know, how much he's flourished and and that's what I want for me and my family. So, you know, I think I look at this opportunity in the AHL is is like a gold mine. I'm super happy to be here and it's it's something that you're fortunate to have both on and off the ice. Is when it sounds like yeah, yeah, I mean, you know, I love working in this league. I love, you know, I like a lot of the guys that work in the League. I I respect a lot of the ownership groups and and and and it's just it's really well run. And then, you know, like I'm excited to show up to work every day. I mean it's cool to talk to kids on the phone that are impressed that they're talking to an AHL coach. It's you know. And then I love the area. I mean I think it's a great place for my kids to grow up and stuff. So I'm, yeah, all around happy to be here.

And one thing that you're probably very fortunate that is the staff that you've been able to join with the chiefs. You start with ownership and Brindon Johnson his right hand man, and I corvo, you're the head coach and GM for both teams, Logan will, you're assistant coach John Hassick and assistant coach Bob Lessio, and equipment manager Jose a rest, so that the opt the game day operations. I'm not even naming everyone, but you guys have a full staff that all contributes towards the same goal. How does that make your job that much easier? Oh it's it's unbelievable. Listen, you know, I've been in this business quite a long time in a lot of different leagues and had some interesting ownership situations and and I got to be honest with you, like you know, brandon and I have been fantastic, very much in the same in the same mindset as me. As far as you know, player development, they they think the game the same way I do. I feel like, you know, I've I've been kind of blessed to be here because of that. I mean you got to understand the landscape of junior hockey. There's there's there's owners that get it and there's owners that don't, and these are definitely owners that get it. And then the staff around me is icing on the cake, you know, like I was able to bring in Logan and and he's just just a workhorse, like the guy just works his butt off every day and he wants to learn and be a successful coach himself. So so, you know, he's been doing a great job. And having having bobbed Lessio, as you know, an equipment manager that's been an equipment guy in the show, I mean it doesn't get any better than that, right, like the guys got unbelievable stories and he's a character and we all love them, like it's awesome to have him and you know, of...

...course, that you'll jose does a great job with the Games and you know it's just a perfect environment for a coach like needed focus on what I what I do best, and and grow as a as a coach. I mean, imagine having a guy that put twenty plus years in the NHL, you know, in pro I corvo, you know at your side, you know, telling stories and you know I can ask him, you know, anytime I need to be like hey, man, what do you think about this? And and we get in long discussions about, you know, things and you know he'll make he'll share advice with me, like and he'll see things, which I love. I love. You can never, you can never be a situation where you know everything. If you think you're one of those guys, like you're not going to be friends with me. You know, I love the Camaraderie and the way we share information and and learn together. It's pretty awesome. Like, I learned a ton from Brandon as well. Like brands seasoned coach and he's been out there, he's done it and and just the two of them really have helped me become a better coach. So it's been fantastic. And now, stepping back, we touched on your playing days a little bit, but it's interesting because in between playing and coaching, you kind of stepped away from the game. Did you feel a need to clear mind of sorts or take a break from hockey, or what was it that you were going through? Yeah, I was a little bit of everything. I mean I you know, like you get to a point where you mean do your whole life and then it ends for you and it's like it's like you going to culture shock, like I have to live in the real world now, like do real world things, and that's what I to do. I you know, I was like, well, I got a degree and, you know, communications and theater and stuff like that, so,...

...you know, I should do that. And I did that and it was miserable, you know, like I guess it was, you know, like our jobs are hard, like we do, we do hard work as coaches and and recruiters and things like that. I, like it's a hard work, like I'm not trying to say it's easy by any means, but yeah, everything else out there is is really hard work. I guess that I didn't want to do. I hockey is what I knew, and every job that I took. I work for Fox News as an as a master editor and videographer. I worked in a theater as a sound technician. You know, I worked for a sound company installing, you know, big sound systems and things like that. Like I did a bunch of different crap and I hated all of it. It was it was, it was horrible. I A you know, I learned a ton and had a lot of gain experiences, met a lot of cool people, but, you know, I just always kept coming back to hockey. Hockey was my thing. You know. was there like a day they woke up and you were like I got to get back to hockey, I can't do this anymore. Yeah, that was every day. I was like God, this is horrible. Yeah, no, I mean I really try to convince myself that I didn't need hockey to live life. At like every day I woke up and lost that battle. Like I I literally, you know, said to myself, like I got to get back into hockey, and so I took I took it. I took a really interesting turn once I moved back to Connecticut the first time after college. Like I came back and I wanted to coach, but I wanted to learn from the ground up. So I started doing skills sessions and training and things like that and, you know, off I stuff and and on...

...ice, and then I became a teacher because I felt like I needed to know how to deliver a lesson. So I did teach for America, which is it's like Americoris, you kind of they teach how to be a teacher real quick and give you a certification and chuck you and, you know, under performing schools to try to try to help those schools and the kids in them. And it was an awesome experience, but it was very difficult. Anyway, I learned how to learn how to teach and deliver a lesson and then, you know, and then that's when, once I was done with that, that's when Serella brought me on to start coaching and side. I think I really got into it the right way. So at some points I think I you know, I want to jump to the next level. I mean, I don't that could be ten years from now, I don't you know, I don't care, but you know, I I'm kind of approaching this like I did as a player. You know, I want to be I want to try to get as high as I can, I guess. Okay, and before we get back into the hockey side of things, I do have to ask where and how does becoming an MMA fighter fit into all of this? Now, I was trying to avoid that. You know, I like when I was doing a lot of off ice stuff and training clients. You know, I got a lot of this like Oh, bringer, you should be an MMA fighter, like you'd be great, you are such a good fighter and hockey, and it's like, you know, okay, challenge accepted. So, you know, I joined the Jim and fell in love with the sport and, you know, just decided that I was going to go full filt into it. This was four. I started coaching like a lot, so I basically did lessons and trained every day for like six years. Is Crazy. Well, okay, we'll transition off of that,...

...because it shows that. It shows the strength and conditioning side side of you, which is something that you're actually pretty passionate about right now as well. During, you know, this quarantine. I have my pelotone behind me, but you just finished a challenge. I think you the bug at Custon, basically an entire state, right. Can you tell us more about what you did? Yeah, so, so, Brandon Johnson, our owner, has a nephew, Jordan Johnson, who has the Shen muscular dystrophe, which is a terrible disease that really debilitates kids and shortens their lifespan. And you know, his family struggles that every day. And you know, I thought during this CRI quarantine, like I could do something positive that kind of you know, get myself in shape and they'll benefit somebody else. And so I decided to do a Fundra or for the Jet Foundation, which is a primary foundation to support kids with muscular dystrophy and Dishin. And Yeah, so I decided, well, my home state is Washington. It's three hundred and sixty miles wide. I'll just bike across the state of Washington and maybe people donate more money because I'm doing something ridiculous like that. And and and when you know it like I did, I we raised over twozero dollars and I and I biked across the state of Washington and I you know, it's it's awesome, like I mean, I'm I was so tired after doing that. Like it was a lot, but it was worth it, like a little bit of pain, you know, compared to you know, what you know Jordan goes through on a daily basis and what his family goes through is is is nothing really, you know, like it was it was a drop in the hat...

...compared to that. So, I mean I felt compelled to do something like that and you know, I think I'm going to do it again, like I'm going to do something like that again. I'm going to go across another state to benefit something else, and I think, you know, I like the fact that you like it's almost like you're forcing yourself to work out because you like all man do it, if the kids you know. Yeah, and it's like guilty into into doing it, but at the same time, like it's a really positive thing to do and it makes you feel good about yourself and you getting to help out a really good foundation. So three hundred sixty miles, man, I maybe how many days that take you? Did you have a goal of a certain number of miles per day, or did you just say yeah, take a month? Yeah, the goal was so the goals are raised too. Well, initially it was three rays a thousand dollars, and I made that in the first twenty four hours, like people just don't even like crazy, and I hadn't even stepped on the bike yet. So I was like Whoa, okay. So then I up the money to two thousand dollars. Hold on, people, like, let me actually get on the bike, like you're foiling my plan and then I decided that I was going to try to accomplish it in thirty days or less. Okay, so on Day twenty nine is when I when I finished. I like I had like six miles to go. On Day twenty nine, I had ridden like basically every every day, but a couple of days I rode like fifteen to twenty miles, which is like it's now that I think about that, like that's the same. And you know, there was never a day when you're like am I going to make it or not? No, you know what there were sometimes when I was like man, like I have you know, like in the middle of it, like I have like two hundred...

...plus miles to go, like I don't think I'm going to make it. Yeah, like my legs hurt so bad and you know, but like at the end of the day again it's like, you know, I was like man, I gotta finish because, you know, I if I don't like a I look like an idiot. You know what I mean? Like I'm saying I'm going to do all this for for Jordan, and you know, and his and his mom and dad are so cool, like, you know, there's such good people in supporters of the chiefs, like there's no way I was not finishing, like I had to do it. You know what I mean. So, so, now let's return to your coaching. You you mentioned how, after, you know, a brief time the way, you wanted to get back into hockey. You couldn't take anymore from the Wolfpack to time spent in the Na us a shell back in the EHL Western states league. You've you've come into probably hundreds of different ranks across the country. Ei there any? Oh, yeah, are there any ranks that you've come across? That doesn't matter what league. Maybe you can even mentioned one from our league that you've come across and you like. You know what, I love going to that rink. That's a good one. I don't you know I mean. I I mean obviously there's so many drinks, like they all blend together at this point. Well, I will say this then, for me, for your rank, if the best snack bar in the league. Right, I think everyone tell that's that? So it's unreal. Yeah, no, I see, it's terrible for fat guy like me to write like going to work every day with that, with that there. It's unbelievable. You know honestly, like I mean, I don't I don't think there's one particular that I'd be like in our league that I'd like, Oh, I can't wait to go there, like I mean they're all they're all pretty you...

...know, they're all pretty good and and like, you know, there's not anyone that stands out as being horrible. So, like, you know what I mean, like there's no I would say, like the rink that I really like to go to when I come out here is, you know, quinnipiacs arena. Like I like, I don't know, like in a small way I feel like the boys, you know, myself and all the plays like Chris and and, you know, all the guys I played with the Quinnipiac like in a small way I feel like we helped build that facility. So there's an element of pride that goes into to it when you walk in that building, like you're like, I helped build this, you know. So I think I think that's probably the yeah, and I got a banner in there and stuff, which is this always kind of cool to Brag, you know, like when my kids are old enough to realize, you know, hey, look the let's look three names below Christ Ala. There, there's my name. Yeah, I think I gonna bring up Whin PX rank because, like we're mentioning earlier in the in the podcast, the program wasn't as big when you play in it, but it's grown over the years. Ran Peck notes been there the entire time and now they have yeah, multimillion dollar facility on top of the hill overlooking the whole town of Hamden. So for those that have not driven through him and before, I can speak to it as well. It's a rank that you're going to remember, because we don't. When you walk in, it's bright, it's clean, it's brand new with sparkling, it's shiny and it gets kind of loud to well, it's not real. It did a great job with the design of it and, believe it or not, like the sound company that put into the Stereo System in that place, I work for that company. I'm I'm kidding.

So like hey, breeder, you got a job today. You're going to love it, and I'm like what, you're going to put in a speakers that corn piag university. What? Okay? So any really did help build it. You really did literally literally helped build build so back to the EHL now, as we begin to look forward towards the two thousand, two thousand and twenty one season. They're coming off your first year in the League. Obviously you're going to look to make a step up from this past season, not that it was a bad year by any means, but you learned a lot, I'm sure, in your first year and then and your conference and how tough it was. Did you ever come across any players or any any teams and you were said to yourself, you know, in the future, I'd love to have a player like that on my team. Yeah, you texted me that question earlier and I was like man, that's the like way in depth question. So so, I mean there's a bunch of different I mean a bunch of players that like that would jump out of me, you know, like I really like the young you know, he played in the EHLP last year, the young kid in Boston, the melt melon, Drinko, Mel Melin, Drucolo, Mellen, drew clow, the little little there's a bunch of letters in there. Yeah, yeah, like I really like there's a kid that, you know, I'm sure Richie's like excited to work with this kid right, because he's willing to to develop through the system, you know, play on the younger team and work his way up. Like you know that. That's an exciting player to work with. Young tons of skill, you know, kind of an empty canvas as far as the grit...

...in the defensive part of the game. Like he obviously needs to work on some of that stuff, but like that, I like, I like that type of player, like somebody that you can really help because he's got a ton of potential, right, like the kids going to do really well this year and Ehl, if he can figure out the you know, the physicality part of it and learning how to use a smaller like I had to do that as a player, right. I was smaller and had to learn how to use my body the right way. So it's cool to work with kids like that. I mean, I that's the best example I can come up with them. Sorry, it's not very excited. That's IT'S A it's different than the fur other ones that had had so far. Right. That's that. Yeah, I mean I go of backque he's yeah, I mean I could easily say, you know, like list a bunch of guys that, you know, produced a bunch of points. But, you know, I think I like the development part of the game. So I feel like I feel like that was a more robust answer. And now, as we continue to turn the page, do you have any short, tour term goals and long term goals that, you know, are written on a board in your office that you say, this is where I want our team to be this season coming up and here is why I want our team to be in three years? So yeah, so, I mean I have like a like a the mental all the x goals in the you know, I have like some some journals that I write in and stuff like that. You like, this year I want to be, you know, I want to be in the top, you know, three, four I want to you know, as a team and and be super competitive and playoffs. You know that. I mean that. I mean obviously I'd love to win right but you know, like I realistic, realistic, like I want to be. I want to go as far as possible at the club and then, you know, the following year I want, you know, I want to bring in a team that can that can take it, that can run, you know, and...

...then, you know, by our fourth year we're turning over you know, twelve to fourteen NCAA commitments, you know, a season, and it's, you know, kind of like a Well oiled machine at that point. I mean I think we're it next year. Ultimately, the ultimate goal for for every years could continue to up our game with NCAA commitments. Right, you know, we got a couple more coming through the pipeline here, but you know, when all is studden done, this year will have like three or four NCAA commitments. Next season we plan to have, you know, eight, nine, ten NCAA commitment, somewhere in that number, and then I'd like that number to continue to improve year by year. But then, you know, I think I think that's a realistic goal. I think, you know, that's the ultimate goal of the League and that's that's what we want to do, is move kids on to the next level, you know, and I wouldn't mind their being some tier to movement as well, like, you know, kids moving up to tier two and tier one, like I think that's if we're recruiting the right kids. Like that's going to happen year by year. You know what I mean, and I think it's important for people to know that too about our league. Is. We're not trying up hold on there's at all. If a kid gets an opportunity at tier one or tier two, like, we want them to take that opportunity. So, you know, so for any of the listeners out there, like, that's a that's a goal of ours to we talked about it as coaches all the time. So, yeah, right, well, I like it. It's a onestep at a time mentality and it kind of reminds me exactly of what the seahawks hockey club has done over the years with bills and a bony. Every year. He said, how do we get a step further than the year before? Make the playoffs, then when a playoff game, then the frozen finals, then title. At the same time, the commitment number nonstop, continues to grow. Yeah, that's that's the ultimate goal over any...

...of the other stuff. Like, as long as we're churning out college hockey players on a yearly basis, like you know, we're doing our job. Like, yes, I want to win, yes, I want to go to the frozen finals and everything, but at the end of the day, like the number one thing for all of us, I think. You know, I think any of the coach in this sleep. Would say that we want to turn out in DAA hockey players every year period. I love it well here. I'm looking forward to receiving those upcoming future commits of years. Obviously we have a couple already in players that are going to trinity and a post and obviously going through a really weird time right now, but I appreciate you coming on the podcast. I wish your family the the best here as we stay safe and hopefully work back to normal here soon and go up with the rest of the recruiting. Thanks, Buddy. I see your Palaton back there. Get on, I will all right, take care of thank you very much for having me. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the e show. Learn more at Eastern Hockey League Dot Org and follow us on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Youtube. Also, be sure to subscribe and get notified when next week's PODCAST is released.

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