Worrell Tapped By Florida Atlantic In Hopes Of Tapping Program Potential
NHL veteran takes helm of Division 3 team with high hopes.
The Florida Atlantic University men’s club hockey program is one that assistant coach Scott Grosky feels has untapped potential, and he sees former NHLer Peter Worrell as the guy who can possibly be the catalyst for a big jump onto the national scene.
Grosky cites the size of the student body -- nearly 15,000 full-time students and another 13,000 part-time students; the location of the institution -- Boca Raton, Fla. near the Atlantic Ocean … just up the road from sunny Miami; and the climate of the area as the three main factors that can be leveraged for recruiting purposes.
As an assistant coach the past three seasons Grosky admits the program may have come up short on its potential in terms of hockey. Apparently some of the players felt that way also as – unbeknownst to Grosky – they went looking for a new head coach last year after the season ended. “(The former head coach) and I were not aware of the fact the players were in search of a coaching change. As a club sport, the guys (players) are in charge. They felt they were looking for a different type of situation on the ice.”
Enter Worrell, who played six of his seven NHL seasons in a Florida Panther uniform. His last NHL season was in 2003-04 with the Colorado Avalanche. After the strike year of 2004-05 Worrell played a season in the ECHL with the Charlotte Checkers before retiring from the professional ranks. Worrell played in 319 NHL games and piled up 1554 penalty minutes as one of the top enforcers of his era.
However, Worrell could also play the game as a power forward. While with the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League he helped lead the team to two QMJHL titles and the 1997 Memorial Cup awarded to the playoff winner among all three major junior leagues in Canada.
The Saveology.com IcePlex, where FAU is based, is also the practice facility for the Panthers. When Worrell’s playing career ended he wound up back in sunny Florida where snow-shoveling is non-existent. Grosky knew Worrell from around the rink and the fact they were both coaching high school hockey in the local league.
So when Worrell approached Grosky about the job it made the players’ situation a little more settled. The players were getting a former professional player as their coach and the club was getting a person who could help it achieve its potential.
Out of the gate, the rigor of Worrell’s preseason training camp was a sign that things were going to be different, just like the players wanted. Some of the biggest changes for the players are the simple things according to Grosky. “They step out on the ice in practice – we have one hour of practice twice per week -- and they don’t hit the ice with intensity. They have to work themselves up to an intensity level which is unacceptable to Coach Worrell. He wants them in the groove mentally and physically when they step on the ice.”
Overall Grosky and the players felt Worrell would bring good marketability to the FAU program, but they have gotten the whole package. “Besides his name recognition he brings a lot to the team,” said Grosky. “It’s a very systems-oriented coaching style. We had an absence of systems last year. We’re being introduced to set plays and designed systems on a regular basis that are becoming committed to habit and drilled accordingly.
“I would say that all the players have bought in verbally, but some have yet to demonstrate that buy-in on the ice. It’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because they haven’t trained like this,” said Grosky.
The buy-in has been good enough for a perfect 3-0 start for the Owls this season after sweeping Emory and defeating the University of Tennessee. There is also some time to work on more systems and more “little thigns” heading into the October 22-23 home-and-home match-up against local power and conference foe Florida Gulf Coast University.
Not to overplay the two games against FGCU, but Grosky and the FAU players see their cross-state rivals as not only a model program but one that FAU can match in all aspects. FGCU has reached the Division 3 national finals twice, in addition to reaching the national semifinals last year and spending most of 2009-10 as the top-ranked team in the ACHA South Region. FAU was ranked between Nos. 7 and 13 for most of the season.
Right out of the gate the FAU squad will be tested as to how far they’ve come and possibly how far they have to go with Worrell at the helm. “We’re trying to improve every part of our program,” said Grosky.