Every hockey player’s love for the game is built on a foundation of humble beginnings. In the case of Harrison Roy, that love for the sport started when his feet first touched the ice at age 3 and he joined his first organized team at age 5.
I have been in the Boston Bandits organization ever since I was a mite and grew up playing at the Bridgewater Ice Arena. I grew up playing multiple sports excelling mainly in baseball and hockey, but once I touched the ice I had a special feeling about my love for this sport.
That first team you play for sticks with you as a special memory: to be able to pull on that first jersey and see that big team logo staring back at you in the mirror. Although, throughout the course of a young player’s development, especially players with an advanced skill level, they are bound to be scooped up by other local programs; but that wasn’t the case for Roy:
I actually played with the Bandits all the way from mites up until U16 midget hockey. I did have various opportunities to play for other organizations over the years, however my family’s emphasis has always been on finding the right coaches that would stress player development in youth hockey, and doing that as close to home as possible. I was blessed to have two exceptional coaches, Jamie Sullivan (Merrimack) and Rich Alger (Boston University), who understood the importance of player development from a very young age. They wanted to be as competitive as possible, but not sacrifice player development, always having the big picture in mind.
As the years rolled on, Roy had more and more success with the Bandits, 14 points in 14 games for the U14 squad in 2014-15 and 26 points in 18 games playing with the U16 squad in 2015-16. As often happens when success begets more success, the phone calls start coming in from local prep teams and Roy was no exception:
Over these past two years we have had the opportunity to visit schools and talk upfront with programs including Avon, Gunnery, South Kent, Millbrook, Tabor, Milton Academy, New Hampton, and of course Loomis Chaffee among others. Through that process, my family and I decided that the balance between strong academics and strong athletics was the right direction for me. In the end, we selected Loomis. Coach JR Zavisza and Steve Novador were diligent in recruiting me for a long time and built a strong relationship with my family and me. Coach Zavisza impressed us with how well thought out his hockey program was and with his focus on player development but also personal character development.
One aspect that the outside world can sometimes overlook in the process of a talented hockey player choosing his next team is how important that personal development can be. By joining a prep team in particular, it affords players the chance to grow both on the ice and off. Harrison Roy factored every measure of both those aspects into making his choice.
It’s been a busy summer for him as he also attended the National Development Camp for a second consecutive season (U15 and U16).
Being my second year, it was once again a privilege to represent MA hockey in Buffalo. For me I see National Camp hockey as a very fast and competitive game. However, it is a bit less of a team game and often more individualistic than the normal team game I play during the season. As a player, I prefer more of a team game where I can work with my linemates and develop chemistry with them. I have loved the opportunity to meet new players and play with and against the best in the country for my age.
Speaking of that 2015 Camp, he earned his first trip to Buffalo following a strong showing at the 2015 MA Festival among a sea of talented 2000 birth years in MA. It was at that time that the college recruiting process got started:
A few schools began to reach out to him at the Festival and from there he visited two schools in the summer of 2015. Throughout his sophomore year he saw several colleges show interest but it wasn’t until the spring that his recruitment took off. After the Cedar Rapids Camp he got interest from several ECAC and Hockey East schools.
Over the course of roughly a year, I have visited schools including Northeastern, UConn, UMaine, UVM, Providence, Cornell, Union, UMass Amherst, and Yale with significant interest from other schools as well. Before deciding on UMaine, my family along with my advisor and I came to a conclusion in which we narrowed down my choices to UMaine, UVM, Union, and UMass. I am blessed to have received a lot of interest from such great coaching staffs and hockey programs.
Nine visits later: Roy had made his choice to commit to the University of Maine and play his home games at Alfond Arena under Coach Red Gendron. There were numerous factors that went into that final decision to play in Orono, and unsurprisingly: academics were involved.
Although it wasn’t an easy decision, I did have a special connection with UMaine right off the bat. The coaching staff was very honest with me in how they felt about me and where they saw me fitting in as a player. Coach Gendron, Coach Guite, and Coach Leach all have NHL experience which was very appealing. I was also very impressed with the winning tradition of Maine hockey. Although they haven’t done quite as well the last couple years, I believe in Coach Gendron’s ability to bring Maine back to its winning tradition and I feel honored to be a part of it. Finally, Coach Gendron shared with me the core values of the team and how he holds his players accountable to a high standard of character, and that is the type of coach I want to play for. From an academic standpoint I immediately connected with their hockey advisor and the associate dean of business.
For Maine fans (#BlackBearNation in the local parlance) we also asked Roy to describe his game for those who haven’t seen him play before:
I see the strongest aspects of my game being my ability to create plays for myself and my linemates by using my vision, hockey sense, as well as my ability to handle the puck. Before arriving to the University of Maine, I want to continue to grow to become a complete 200 foot player. Therefore, I am going to continue to work on my defensive effort as well as overall strength and explosiveness.
News of Roy’s commitment wasn’t the only major milestone in the young career of this 16 year old from Lakeville, MA in 2016. He was also selected in two drafts: the USHL Draft by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in round 4, pick 64 and in the QMJHL Draft by Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the 10th round as pick 175.
Getting drafted into the USHL was an unbelievable experience. I had been contacted by several teams prior to the USHL Futures Draft including Cedar Rapids, so I had a good feeling that I would be taken at some point. Hearing my name on the live draft feed and getting a call from the RoughRiders after the draft was a moment I will never forget. Moving forward, after having gone to Cedar Rapids Main Camp this summer, I am looking forward to having the opportunity to play for Coach Carlson in the future. I was also grateful to have been drafted by Blainville in the QMJHL. Just like the USHL, several teams from this league had contacted me prior to the draft, with Blainville being one of them so I had a good feeling that I would be selected at some point.
Now that the summer is drawing to a close, it’s time to start focusing on a brand new season ahead in 2016-17 and Roy has his plans and goals already laid out:
My plan for next season is to play for the Yale Bulldogs U16 team and Loomis Chaffee. My personal goals are to continue to develop as a player, including getting bigger, stronger, and faster. From a team perspective, we hope to return to the National Tournament for Yale and are striving to win the Founders League and make a run at the New England Prep Championship.
As has become custom here at Neutral Zone, we like to ask recent college commits for what advice they would offer to the next generation of players evaluating their collegiate options. Here is what Roy had to offer:
My advice to the players who are just starting to get college attention are like my future coach Red Gendron told me, to “control the controllables.” This essentially means to do all that you can to get better and not worry about the things that are out of your control. Stay on your own path and control your own controllables.
Sound advice from a well-spoken 16 year old college commit. We want to thank Harrison Roy for his willingness to share his story.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images