Relationships Built through the Mentorship DraftDec 22, 2015
This season, the AHL’s Utica Comets have teamed up with the Utica Jr. Comets Elite program. The Elite program has two teams – one at the 2004 level and one at the 2006 level. Prior to the start of hockey season for both organizations, the Utica Comets hosted a Mentorship Draft. During this draft, members of the AHL’s Utica Comets selected a player(s) from either the 2004 or 2006 team to serve as their on-ice and off-ice mentor throughout the hockey season. The program has been active for just over two months, and there has been nothing but positive feedback from both the youth players and families as well as the Utica Comets organization.
The original idea behind the Mentorship program was for the AHL players to have at least five interactions throughout the hockey season with their youth player; however, it turns out that there has been much more communication than that. Lou Falvo, father of 2006 Elite player Anthony Falvo, says “Anthony and Carter (Bancks) have exchanged numerous text messages. Anthony used to just follow the Comets home games, but now he is always asking about the away games. When he finds out Carter had a good game, he often texts him about it.” It’s clear that the Mentorship program has transformed the relationship into more of a friendship. “We all used to be youth hockey players just like these kids, so for us to be able to help them on the ice and hang out off the ice is pretty special,” says Bancks. One night, Carter picked up Anthony for dinner and practice and Anthony got to meet Jordan Subban as well. Anthony told his father later that night that he got to ride shotgun while Jordan had to sit in the back! Falvo went onto say, “Later that week, Anthony asked if he could try a salad – Carter told him he needs to eat something “green” sometimes.”
While the off-ice interaction is special, it is clear the impact that the professionals are having on the youngsters. “On the ice, Anthony is starting to take practice more seriously. I think he realizes the work that the Comets have put into their careers and he is now focusing on trying to learn the game,” Falvo explains. And there might not be a better representation of hard work than Carter Bancks.
Carter Bancks isn’t the only Comet whose work ethic is wearing off on some of the youth players. Alex Friesen has also played an integral role in the development of 2004 Elite team captain Peyton Kimball. Danielle Kimball, Peyton’s mom, said, “We’ve seen a change in Peyton, where he has a determined drive to become a stronger hockey player because he sees first hand the work ethic put in by Alex.” It has become evident that, despite being much younger, the youth players are grasping just how hard they need to work to make it to the next level. The young players are seeing how hard the professional players work and ultimately want to train just as the pros do. “We all had mentors growing up or someone we tried to model our game after. If we can be that role model for these young kids and help them achieve their goals, then we are more than happy to be a part of this program. Our whole team has really enjoyed this experience as well,” said Friesen.
The relationships created through the Comets Mentorship program extends way beyond the youth players having a new favorite player on the ice. Danielle explained, “We feel this program has been very influential to our son. It is nice to see him have a role model in hockey that he is now inspired to become and is able to interact with on a personal basis instead of just from the stands.”