THE #ESHOW
THE #ESHOW

Episode 23 · 2 years ago

Team of the Week (Rangers) | Episode 23

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Finding a positive out of the way things ended was hard at first for Rich DeCaprio, the Head Coach and General Manager of the Rangers, but he eventually found the silver lining. The EHL wasn't the only league that had to pull the plug, and simply put, the Rangers organization won the only two trophies that were up for grabs last year. Each team won as much as they possibly could.


Now, turning the page, DeCaprio is hitting the reset button with a handful of returners as well as a group of players climbing the ladder from the EHLP to the EHL. While the Rangers success speaks for itself, DeCaprio also gives a lot of credit to the league his teams play in.

Welcome to the e show with Neil Raven. 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 to the east show, presented by the penalty box foundation. The foundation's mission centers around their daily motto we take care of our own as they help all those within the hockey community who have experienced a catastrophic event. Learn more at penalty box foundation dot Org. Once again, my name is Neil Raven. This episode at Number Twenty three and for the second time in the revamped version of the PODCAST, let's welcome in rich to Gaprio, the head coach and GM of the Boston junior rangers. Are you don't back on the podcast again? Much, much different from the first time. I think the date for the first time we had you on was like January second or something like that, and at that time the world was a little bit different since then, that's for sure. Yeah, you won two regular season championship since then, but you never got to really see things all the way through. So I want to ask this first difficult question right now so we can move past it. How have you found a way to just turn the page? Well, I mean obviously the easiest part of it is just understanding that it wasn't just it wasn't just us, so the whole world, so you know, all the other leagues, all the other players that were in the same kind of position that we were never got to really play for a championship in the playoffs at least, and you know, so it's a little comforting knowing that it wasn't just something that happened on our end, but at the same time it's the what if is there. But you know, I tell the guys there was only two trophies available and and we won them. So it's you know,...

...it feels good, I mean that, that we want as much as we could this year and no one else won anything more than we did, and so you know, we're okay with it. But definitely, you know, the returners are itching to get back and kind of finish, finish the deal this year, hopefully, but it'll be tough. But we're looking forward to the season for sure. And you say to trophies, obviously EHL and EHLP regular season chance. That really hadn't been done before. So do you find motivation with those returners to say, all right, you need to finish the job that those guys started. Sure, I mean we the ninety nine that are all, you know, all moved on. We're still in a group text and even with some of the return earning guys were in the same groups and we talked about winning it for them and you know, it's definitely motivation to do it for the ninety S. and, like I said, we got a good core guys coming back for both teams and some guys are moving up and you know, so that the expectations are there. They know what it took to get to the point that we did this season and you know they're coming back with the hair across their rear ends too, because they're upset and they want to win the whole thing. So so it'll be interesting. We're excited, that's for sure. And coming up this year, every year that I've been in the League you've also been the lead guy with the Boston junior rangers. You took over in the in the GM role the two thousand and fifteen sixteen season, the same year I did. Every year the program is taken another step forward, whether it's the regular season championships in the AHLP. This past year definitely the best you've ever had at the EHL. How do you feel now, another offseason here? How do you feel now, looking forward to next year, about where you're at? I feel really good.

You know, like I said, we've got we've got a good core of returning two thousands from from the UHL team. Some guys have had really big, big years for US last season. That'll that'll be back and then, you know, some guys moving up from our premier team that had monster seasons down there and some guys returning for our for our premier team, that that are good players too, and and some new blood coming in that I'm really excited about. It's tough to say, but I think, I think will be be a mirror teams what we were this year in terms of offense, defense and goldending. Well, a lot of the ass that like, when did you know you had a special group last year? I guess we're starting with the EHL, like when did you know? All right, this means something different, I think after after that win streak, you know what, at the after we hit like that number, nine straight, it's just watching the team pregame practices in the gym. The leaders kind of took control of that team and I honestly just sat back and let them do their thing and they were very self motivated in the gym and guys in the Connerby's all, who's he's coming back this year will be a captain for us like He. He was a guy that guys looked up to. He was never spent every day in the gym after practice, before practice, and guys just kind of fed into that and they were always together and training and it was just a special group for sure. I mean it was not one thing I can say that maybe think this was a special group. It was just a bunch of different things combined that, you know, made me and Keith the coin think that, yeah, this is a this is going to be a special year. And then for the EHLP team, kind of a similar slower start, but then at the end of the year, like that team, was...

...peeking at the highest that they possibly could. When did you know that team? So it's pretty much the same. I mean I didn't spend a lot of the times. You know, Keith obviously is the head coach of that team and he kind of steers that ship he did a really good job of keeping those guys motivated and you know, it happened. The offense that that team had, I mean it was very deep, but Molton, drew, glow and Bailey each have an over a hundred points. We knew we could. We could. If we had to get into a shoot out, we knew we could probably come out on top. But it was again, it was the group. It was the guys in the locker room, the culture, the character. There was no clicks, you know, on either team. Every guy was kind of, you know, on the same team. You know, whether you were the premier team or the HL team, the guys were all two times. So it was it was one big this year and that definitely factored into the success for both teams. And I want to touch on that, that pipeline that you guys have more because obviously we we try and pumped the EH LP to Ehl to college hockey pipeline as much weekend as a lead. But it's big for you as well. And let's start with the coaches. Obviously, as I mentioned before, you've done five seasons of this as the gem of the whole program and you've only had two assistants during that time. That can be somewhat rare just because of the nature of that role. So let's start. First you had Ryan Blair. Can you talk about how how much easier your job was? You know, you take on the GM roll and he got Blairzie right there with you. How much easy did you make your job those first few years? Blairsie was great. I mean he again like his I remember his first year with us. He wasn't even really supposed to be a coach. He was more hired to run the gym and you know, I was going to be kind of handling both teams and we had another guy in the building that was going to going to...

...help out, but I asked lazy to come out on the ice one day to run a practice early in the training camp and he he was just coming out of playing, so he wasn't really into coaching and he fell in love with it and I right away. So I, Oh my God, like this guy. He knows knows what he's doing. He's a natural and from there on, I think it was November that first year, I was kind of running both teams and I I pulled the team aside with Blairsie and I said, hey, where's he's taken over from here. I'm not. I'm not going to be on the ice for practices. It's going to be Blairsie. He's a guy now out and and he just took took off from there. He was awesome. He's a natural. I He's obviously coaching these coast league I think he's going to be a division one head coach pretty soon. He's good. He helped a lot and he was awesome. He was great in the Jim with the training because he's yours certified and all that stuff, and in coaching wise he was just like I said, he was a natural. Knows how to communicate and motivate. So it was I was great, great. I learned a lot from him, be honest with you. And it was three years together and then he went back to his Alma Mater as the director hockey operations for ums Lowell and then this past season was his first year down in South Carolina in the Echl as you mentioned, and obviously, I'm sure for you was probably a little bit bitter sweet when he chose to go back to Lowell because obviously you knew in the back of your mind where he was heading, as you started to allude to there. You think he's a Future Division One head coach. But it created a role that you had to now avoid. They had to fill and you go and you heat the coin. Can you first on you need touch on what some people don't know, the fact that you guys go all the way back to your high school days. Yeah, I mean, so when Keith was playing over in Germany for Red Bull, you know, we were going to bring him into to...

...run a full season, you a teen team when he retired, and and that team never really we never really got into it and filling it and, you know, never put the effort into it. So, you know, I didn't think Blairs he was going to be leaving right away and he because Blairs. It was late in the summer. It was July when Blair's he called me and today bad and right away I was thinking, you know, Shit, what I'm going to what am I going to do? And I just called Keith and you know, Keith was more than he was home. He was retired. He was doing sales and I like, like you mentioned, Keith and I went to high school together. We want to stake championship together for Chumpster High School and so I've known keiths since I was sixteen years old and you know, he he quit his his sales job, took a pay cut to come coach full time with us and take over the premier team and he's done a great jobs. I mean he loves it. You know, the guys love them. I mean obviously the experience that he he had the player and playing in the NHL and coming out of division three hockey. You know, he's a he's a great story and the kids, the kids eat it up, you know. And since being being high school friends, it's also it's also nice to have that in the locker room and and you know, just having a friend that's coaching with me, and I touched on earlier, you know, coming off the best year and EHL history for your team. But what maybe goes on notice at times it's just how successful the EHLP team has been. I know that there's met Ley championships and we can go on about that stuff, but just in the ehl he history, three straight regular season championships, two of the four playoffs championships that have been played out, you guys have won. You've been in three of the four and then go on on them. At the pipeline that you guys it feels like...

...you make an effort to bring seven, eight, nine guys up every year from the EHLP team to the EHL team. How important is that first development year for some of the players that you guys have in your organization? Yeah, it's huge and it's definitely, you know, something that we strive to do and it's something that I feel we do pretty well. You know, there's a lot of players out there. Obviously that want of every player wants to play at the highest level and chasing the North American league. And when you get a young player that's coming out of high school hockey or maybe it's a a you a team, it's not that they're not skilled enough to play at the ehl level, it's it's more of a strength thing. Like you look at. We just take Johnny Mound, drew clow, who set the records, is here four premier goals and he's an old one and you know he he's definitely good enough to play in the HL. He played the six six games last year in the UHL. We call them up, but just the physical, physical strength wasn't there yet for him. You know, and I remember the last game we called them up. He ended up getting the concussion and we were kind of like guy, we're not that's a that's it for that. Like he's just, you know, got to stay down and keep playing and getting stronger and being in the gym and you know he'll come back this year as at a one and he'll be a very good ehl player. He can score, he's going to be stronger, he's had all the time in the world to be in the gym and so you know, those guys like the Ryan Bailey was a two thousand. He had a hundred points. He's moving up. Shepherds moving up, she's, Stevens's an no too macin. There's a lot. I mean it's probably seven guys moving up from premiers and tears will. So the guys at all had really good years. But the thing is is you need to put up for you to translate to a good ehl player. You'd got to put up sixty, seventy points minimum in the in the premiere. You can't, you know, be a twenty...

...point guy in the premiere and then expect to be a good ehl player. It's hard. It's a big jump and I wanted to ask you about that because you know, I go to a premiere showcase and there aren't as many scouts, there more parents, and I find that parents will say to me, look at this scorer on the Boston junior rangers, like why isn't he playing EHL? And it's like well, they have a process they want to work through there. And can you touch on that more what you just started to say? You have to, it's really mature, for a full year and put up those points to see a translate over to the AHL. Yeah, I mean it's again it's not so much a skill thing, especially for like the mount drew glow, like the smaller guys. It's more of a strengthening and if you're a goal scorer there's no reason to change your role to play at a higher level. So, you know, if I'm a now drew Colo and I can play on the PHL's as a fourth line guy, maybe a third line guy last season, that's great, but he's not going to score sixty goals. He might score ten, you know, but if he does that year from here and get get used to the junior hockey style, the sixty minute games, the physicality of it, the the whole process of the off ice, the mental preparation. It's not just go out and play hockey like we, you know, we train our guys off the ice and the whole preparation thing and it's the nutrition part of a gut things that these guys have never had to really deal with and learn. So it's it is a huge process and, you know, luckily for us those guys, you know, they buy into it and once they get in here and and see what we have to offer facility wise and just the culture that we have, they never want to go. I mean those guys are better moving up. are going to have good years for us on the HL team. But that one year is huge. Some guys need two years. It's all depends on the age and you know we have an old three coming in this year. He might play two years premiere and then and then move up to the...

UHL. And he started to take away from the next note that I have here. We touched on your role as the GM. We talked about Blair Z Keith to coin, the guys that have worked alongside you. The one constant that's been there the entire time you have, though, is ownership. Mike's Robella has owned the Rangers from from the time that they ehls for him till right now, and he's also the executive chairman on the on the board of Governor. So he is numerous, you know, if you will, amongst all the board of Governors. With with him having a role like that, do you feel like there's more pressure on the Boston Junior Rangers to be successful? I don't think so. I think no matter what Mike's roll is within the league, like he's just as competitive as myself and Keith and he wants to win and he wants to have the best teams on the ice. Regardless of what he's doing. He's a great owner. He he's a big reason of the success that we have. He allows Keith and IDA kind of do our recruiting how we like and he's very hands off. He I think he trusts us and you know, he gives us every tool to be successful and he's been great, but I mean huge reason why we've been so successful as well, and he puts you guys in. But I can answer your question. I don't think. I don't think it. Like I said, I don't think regardless of if he was executive chair or whatnot. He he's competitive and wants to have the best product on the ice every single year, no matter what. Fair, fair point. I just the Rangers the last few years have been one of the most successful teams at both levels and and maybe maybe it's an outside perspective, but you wonder if people do keep an eye on the rangers more because of his role and and it only helps that you guys are successful. But, as I was starting to get to next, there is he helps what you guys, as you mentioned, to in in a facility that you can get a lot accomplished. You know well.

What I like about the rink there in Tooksbury is it feels like your section of the building is almost kind of private and all to yourself, because you have the two locker rooms that are connected, plus the huge gym and the offices. It's kind of like its own section of the building just for the junior program can you touch on what that does for both you guys as coaches, but as well for the players? Yeah, I mean it's a facilities awesome. It's going under another renovation. They did a lot of work with it last year, painting and putting in new boards and they've done a lot more this offseason. Since the rinks have been shut down. They've had a lot more time to kind of do some things and they it is. It's a private rink right, so it's not like a public facility, you know, it's privately owned. They really take care of us with the locker rooms and you know, on game days we've got some high school teams that play there and we've got our youth program and the Girls Vipers Program, which is very good. But they leave us, you know, a lot of privacy when it's when it's a game day, we got the gym to ourselves. It's blocked off two hours before the game. No one can go in there. It's just it's just for us. No one can go down our hallway. And practice is obviously with the hl where at ten am, so it's nobody's in the rink. I have the keys to the rink and I open the rink and and the guys are in there. It's just us, you know. And then premier skates at three hundred and fifty. Nobody's on before them. So they're kind of private too. So it's a great facility for that part of it. And then with the gym being right outside our locker room, I mean you can't that's the selling point. Guys Walk in and they said, Oh my God, this is it's huge, mean really, really nice equipment. You can fit both teams in their training at the same time and and not feel crowded to mean that's how big it is. Tenzero square feet. And then you get the synthetic rank that's in there for the...

...shooting and so the guys, guys just never leaves and that's a big part of their development because they they can get off the ice after practice instead of going home and sitting on the couch. They can shoot pucks for an hour, they can lift, they can do what ever they want at the rink and make themselves better. And with each team of the week feature that I've done, I've reached out to, you know, numerous alumni to try and get testimonials talking about the program that they they progress through and advanced to college hockey with, and I felt like when I reached out to the Rangers players, every kid responded almost instantly and what I was trying to do is find some sort of common theme amongst them, and almost all of them mentioned how you key blas, the ownership made them a better player both on and off the ice. We've talked a little bit about the on the ice side of things, but then off the ice, can you touch on more of what you guys try and teach your players to focus on when they're, you know, away from the facility? Yeah, I mean it's more about being a respectful and responsible person. Right. So, you know, we're big on character, we're big on sportsmanship, we're big on, you know, doing the right thing when you're back at your apartment and and being accountable. And you know, I get at these guys are, you know, nineteen, twenty years old, and I know you know, I know how I was the nineteen twenty year old I was from my father, if I was petrified to do anything that would affect my hockey and my dad always remind to me you can't be drinking, you can't be doing it, or it's going to hurt your hockey. It's going to hurt your hockey. So I never did it and I try to tell these guys same with Keith. Keiths was the same way. Keith never you know, high school a lot of kids are drank and are going on party. I never did it and a coin never did it, and we try to, you know, pass that down to...

...our guys and say, look at like when you guys get the college, like it's different and then you're twenty one, you can do these things right, like you got to get there and you want to make sure that when you get the college you're playing hockey, like you don't want to just go to college and be a student. It's nothing wrong with that, but I'm assuming you're, you know, spending money to pay to play hockey so you can play in college. So if you want to be a good college player, you can't be dilly galleon with stuff that's going to be a distraction and staying up till one o'clock in the morning. And you know, you've got to be responsible. And the other thing is, you know that last year we went to children's Hospital and they stailey foundation and you know, met with a lot of young kids that are that are struggling when, you know, don't have the life that these guys have and just to put things in perspective and teach them about about being compassionate and and life. So it's you know, it's the whole, the whole kitenkaboodle. I guess right. It's hockey in life and hockey career ends at some point and then you got to be be a man and start a family and have a life and and kids and and you have good values. And I probably got like twenty different players that reach down provided that what they wanted to say to the League about their experience with the Rangers. And obviously I'm sure you're proud of every single one of these kids that's off playing college hockey right now or heading to college hockey. But there was one name that that's always just stuck out for me. I'm sure it's stuck out for you, and that's blake bride. You've touched on for you know, developing a maturing at the level and then moving on. It felt like he mastered the Eh Shell and then mastered the Na and then mastered the USA Shell and now is at the Air Force Academy. Can you just talk about his story and how he probably could have gone a step further each year than he where he was at, but because he chose to take his time and stay patient, in the long run it worked out the best...

...for him. Yeah, for sure did. I mean I found him at the CCM showcase out in Denver's Colorado. Kid. He was playing high school hockey. Yeah, I watched him for five minutes. I look through the stat book. I usually go through the books and I'll look at points and you know for forwards and stuff, and this kid had monster points and like Cheeth, I got to go see what this kid is. They go over it. Literally stood there for five minutes. I watched two ships and I was like this kid's good. It was more of his Iq, because he wasn't he wasn't big, but he could competed, he was skilled and he just he just saw the game. So he offered him a spot and and you know kind of told them, you know, be patient with it. He he, I think the first seven games he had one point, maybe because I told him, I said, you're going to be going to take you a little time to adjust, but you're going to get it, you know, because he's just his hockey IQ was off the charts and after the eighth game he exploded. I think he ended up with like forty something points over the next thirty games and you know, he just kept growing and growing and he got bigger and stronger and he had the gym and we put them on a meal plan and because he needs the game weight, and he followed it to a tea and, you know, awesome for him to go on and play in the North American league and in like you said, he got that too. Like it just takes time. With guys that are the Iq, they can figure the game out and they can figure out the pace and they know how to be where the PUCK's going to be and how to avoid contact at times and and he knew all that stuff, indirect plays and stuff that guys. He was making plays in practice. I remember saying a players heam like man, like no one, no one on our team can do that like like. He just did it naturally, you know, it's, you know, obviously the USHL and he's that air force. So he he was great. He was. He's a special player and we knew he had that the one possibility and he put the work in and he made it happen. So it was great, great for him and just to hammer your playing...

...home even more. From his quote, I won't I won't read the whole thing because it's almost like a paragraph, but one sentence in particular, I thought I was going to be able to do whatever I wanted to and put up points. No questions asked. You just said if first seven games or so he didn't really do too much and then over time he learned and developed into a guy that year and we touched on the wins and how successful both the EHL and EHLP teams have been for your program. But more importantly, it's the players like Blake a commitment for you. Since the EHL was formed, you guys have eighty six commitments in the years that you've been m that the numbers just pop right off the charts. Ten, the first year, nine, the second year sixteen, the third year thirteen, the fourth year fourteen. So far this past year, consistently, always in double digits. Is that a goal that you kind of set? We have to hit at least ten or you know. What's your thought process? Well, well, it's more about how many a jokes we have. So you know, and we typically will have an older team. You know. I mean I feel like that's the best way to win. I recruit a lot of junior players, so I'm I'm big on picking up a guy from the USPHL that might not be happy there, but guys that have that junior experience in a lot of them are going to be those a joke guys. And you know my goal every year is just to get all my age jokes committed. And you know it's to it's hard to get every guy committed. Some guys had offers and they didn't like the school and they didn't commit. Some guys set the bar a little bit too high and which, you know, I let them know that, but they some of them don't listen and they keep thinking that they're going to get something better and they don't and then they end up with, unfortunately to a couple guys that didn't get the commitments that they wanted. And but you know, it's definitely my goal is to get every every age...

...oke guy committed. So like this year with all of our two thousands, I think, you know, I think we're going to have at least fifteen of them. You know, my goal will be to get every every guy committed and you'll hit a hundred from the from the history of the Rangers there. So that'd be a cool number for for you guys to hit. Yeah, and I texted you yesterday to kind of give you a heads up on this one. I didn't want to catch you fully off guard because there's been a lot of good players that that have come through your program in the last five years. But focusing on the five years of particular, how I've kind of been framing this question with the previous coaches is pretend we're in Providence, March of two thousand and twenty one. You can use whoever you want to start over time of a game against who ever. But focusing just on on the teams that you've had it in the EH shell. Let's get your three forwards to d and a goalie that you would send out there well. So, yeah, it's tough because you know there's a lot of good he said there's a lot of good players. At Center. I would put Eric Zohabs, who's he's playing at Fairbanks Alaska Division One. A lot see and he was my first year when I when I took the team over, he was he was a central scouting kid. He was he was really good. He went, he did the whole thing and a ush old. Now he's done so I put him in the middle, I put bride on the right and I'd probably put Rickett on the left. Honorable Mention, I'd put old Chennikov and my returning guy, be'se all. I think he's he's going to be a really, really special kid. I love him. So those are my those are My, you know, honorable mentioned guys for the forwards, and then for the D I would put a Rougo. Even though I picked him...

...up late, I still he's still a ranger to me. I'd put a Rugo on the left and hate on the right, and then honorable mention, because I have to do it just in case these guys are listening. As Grin valds in burness, those two guys where we're great for us. Then in goalie, Jeez, I mean there's two of them right Gerardin A. They're, you know, both the same. I could pick either one. I'd go with Gerard just because he's the newest one. But then obviously honorable mentioned was Mike Robinson, but that was when we were the AJ but he's starting goal at Nh. I had a feeling that there'd be some some players like that, so I wrote in my in my notes here lineup continued. Didn't know there's be some other names that you wanted to mention. But we kind of have your first and, if you will, second line. Then yeah, yeah, well, yeah, yeah, yeah, there's there was a lot of good players. I mean it's you know, they're all all good kids. And Yeah, I'm really excited for for some of the two thousands coming back. I think they're going to have really, really good years. Nathan young and Shaefer, he's all, and Matthews, those those forwards are going to really, really do well. So we're excited. Plus the new blood. And not to get too far ahead, but I would have to say, like you know, four goals for next year. Is the bar now set a you have to win both regular season championships again and then finished, finish the job in both divisions. or where? What's the ultimate goal? Well, I mean the regular season championship isn't it's obviously you want the end of the season, right. So, you know, for us this year we weren't really looking before covid and all that crap, like we weren't really like all we go to win the regular season championship. We were just like, you know, what's we just focus on let's speed first place. Let's, you know, try to get a first round by in the playoffs. You know just so happens. We win the regular season championship,...

...great, but the ultimate thing is going to providence and win and there. So you know our goal. That will be our goal this year. It's not. It's not going to be win the regular season championship. If that's stop on the way, great, but it's really we got our eyes on Providence and that's all we're going to be focused on. And I'm sure for for many teams just still apply. But if somebody was to ask me if it applied to one team more than another, I would say for the Rangers there is no better tagline right now than unfinished business, based off the way that the year and it's so I hope that you can enjoy the rest of the offseason and these, as you mentioned, very weird and and crazy times, and good luck with the rest of the recruiting and we'll talk to you soon. All Right, thanks a lot now. 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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