Andover head coach Mario Martiniello has noticed the looks on the faces of his players when assistant coach Scott Lachance speaks up.
"They really look up to him," said Martiniello. "You can tell when he has something to say, everyone has their ears opened. They know he has been there and done that before."
No one can question Lachance knows his hockey. After all, the 35-year-old played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League, as well as representing the United States in the Olympics.
"Scott Manty is an assistant coach at Andover who I knew from (Boston University) alumni events," said Lachance. "He called me up out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to help coach."
Beginning to excel
For Lachance, high school hockey is an entirely new experience.
Like many blue-chip prospects, when he reached high school age he opted for junior hockey, playing for the New England Junior Falcons, based in Connecticut, in what is now the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
"It wasn't really a league back then," said Lachance, who grew up in Bristol, Conn. "We played all prep schools and college JV teams. It got us acclimated to different campuses, and it was quite an experience playing against 22-year-olds."
He then moved on to play one season (1990-91) for Boston University, scoring five goals and recording 19 assists in 31 games as a defenseman. He also met his future wife, Jacqueline, daughter of legendary BU hockey coach Jack Parker.
His time at BU was brief, as he was selected with the fourth pick overall in the 1991 NHL draft by the New York Islanders.
But before he embarked on his professional career, he received more dream news. He was chosen to play for the US hockey team in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France.
"That is one of the those experiences you will never forget," said Lachance, whose team finished fourth. "I was 19 and traveling was overwhelming. But once you got into the Olympic Village and go through the opening ceremonies, it's just surreal. You learn a lot. That was back when the game was still for amateurs, not NHL players."
The Big Time
Lachance kicked off his NHL career later that year, playing in 17 games for the Islanders during the 1991-92 season.
He spent the next 13 years playing for the Islanders (1991-99), the Montreal Canadians (1998-2000), Vancouver Canucks (2000-02) and Columbus Blue Jackets (2002-04).
"It was an experience every kid dreams of," he said. "It was up and down, but it was amazing to play at that level.
"In Vancouver, we played in the playoffs both years I was there, and it was such a great sports town. Those were my most memorable years."
In all, the defensemen played in 819 games, scoring 31 goals and adding 112 assists.
Lachance spent the 2005-06 season playing for Kloten of the Swiss-A league. He then played the first half of the 2006-07 season with the Lowell Devils, the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. But, during that season, he made the toughest of decisions.
"I had three bulging disks in my back for a while and I could always come back," he said. "But I had it fixed and it didn't respond. Knowing that, and my bad hips, I just felt like that was my body telling me it was time to go."
While with Lowell, Lachance fell in love with the area. And his family - consisting of his wife and sons Jake (7), Shane (4) and Ryan (22 months) - moved to Andover after his retirement.
Going behind the bench
But Lachance wasn't away for hockey for long. He received the call from Manty in the fall, and after a lunch with Manty and Martiniello, he agreed to work with the team.
"It's been really fun, but it's been a learning experience," he said. "I try to do more teaching and leave the disciplinary stuff to Mario. I think it's an assistant's job to stay level-headed and work with the kids on-on-one. But it's hard to stay calm on the bench."
With his help, Andover has opened the season 4-2 and made its first trip to the final of the Salem Blue Devil Holiday Classic. In their three wins, the Golden Warriors have allowed one goal per game.
And he hasn't left the NHL completely behind. He currently works as a New England scout for the Devils. He also occasionally works with the defensemen for Lowell Devils and other affiliates.
He also finds the time to coach his son Jake's youth hockey team.
"I am really happy to be able to spend time with my kids after moving around for so many years," he said. "Down the road I could see (coaching) as something I would like to do. But I don't know if I would want to coach outside of high school. It's nice to be able to grow into something. I like where I am now."
Central Catholic faces controversy
The MIAA is currently looking into whether Central Catholic used an illegal player for the first three games of the season.
"They have formed a subcommittee," said Raiders head coach Mike Jankowski. "They will decide whether or not he can play hockey. If they say no, it can still be appealed through the MIAA."
According to Jankowski, the player in question spent his freshman season of high school at Brooks School, then repeated his freshman season when he moved to Central. Now a senior, this would be his fifth year of high school. However, he did not play high school hockey until last season.
"I feel good about the committee," said Jankowski. "It's unfortunate we didn't catch it. This was overlooked by a number of people. ... He happened to mention it to a (non-hockey) coach and he mentioned it to the (athletic director)."
If he is ruled ineligible to play high school hockey, the Raiders may have to forfeit their first three games, wins over Bishop Rice, Notre Dame and Austin Prep.
The Scott Lachance File
Hometown: Bristol, Conn.
Weight: 209 (playing days)
On the ice: Played on year for Boston University. Was a member of the 1992 US Olympic Hockey team. Spent all or part of 14 seasons in the NHL, scoring 31 goals and adding 112 assists in 819 career games.
Coaching: In his first as an assistant coach for Andover High hockey. Also works as a scout for the New Jersey Devils.
Family: Now lives in Andover with wife Jacqueline and sons Jake, Shane and Ryan. His father-in-law is 35-year Boston University hockey coach Jack Parker.
Hockey Fab Five
The Eagle-Tribune's ranking of local boys high school hockey teams:
2. Central Catholic%4-2
Honerable Mention: North Reading 4-3-1, North Andover 4-3