The sound of skates carving through the ice and sticks dangling hockey pucks; all normal sounds at Cicero Twin Rinks in November but this isn’t your typical practice.
“Monday night (practice) is about skills and how hard they want to work. We’re not really yelling at them (nor) pushing them super hard. So, this is a fun night for them,” says Scott Montagna, the President of the Midstate Youth Hockey Association.
It just so happens that Scott is in charge of the fun at MYHA. As president of the organization, and as the coach of the 2006 Syracuse Nationals, Scott has provided results. Over two dozen players from the Nationals have played division one college hockey and a number of those have reached the National Hockey League.
Scott is particularly proud of a video produced by the Vegas Golden Knights. On a road trip where the team allowed the players’ fathers to travel, Alex Tuch, a former National standout, and his father played a version of the Newlywed Game.
The question: Who was your son’s favorite coach as a kid?
Carl answered correctly… “Alex’s favorite hockey coach growing up is Scott Montagna.”
“Nice, very nice. Look at that,” Alex said with a smile of his face. “That was good. A nice little shoutout for Coach Scott.”
It’s that kind of kinship with his players that has made this place so successful. But on this night Scott spends most of it canvasing the arena. With a large coffee from Dunkin Donuts in hand, Scott helps out other coaches and talks with parents. Which at times can be tedious, but it’s all part of a process that helps develop the program’s talent.
“Honestly, it’s really three things: the kid, the parent and what our culture is here,” Montagna said.
And that culture is everchanging. As Scott shows off all the facility has to offer, he shares his dream of possibly turning this into a hockey academy. One that would bring the best talent, local and nationwide, to Central New York to train.
Some of that talent is already here.
As this tour heads back to the rink, we stop by the locker room to meet some of the potential new stars of the program.
That’s where we meet Monte Wood. A 6’4” 14-year-old who is getting his stick ready for practice. As he shares his story, he talks about how’s he away from home for a second-straight year. Monte, a Vermont-native, moved to CNY after playing last season in Florida. He stays with a teammate’s family in Baldwinsville.
“It’s definitely a bit of a culture shock… it’s different because I can’t see my family, but it’s definitely an experience and it has been a lot of fun.” Wood says.
Due to COVID-19 that situation has become even more difficult. With the state travel restrictions, Monte’s parents can’t quarantine long enough for a visit.
It’s not a unique situation in the world of junior hockey, but it’s not the case for most of the talent that suit up for the Nationals.
For Nick Shaw, this Fulton-native makes the trek down 481 three-times-a-week to work this organization.
And it is work that is paying off.
Nick is catching the eyes of scouts everywhere. Not just because of his game, but because of his size. Standing at 6’5”, and playing the center position, Nick has the potential of making it big.
“The amount of people coming out of this organization is inspiring,” Shaw says. “To (have) the opportunity to be the next person in line for that, it’s pretty fun.”
Obviously, not everyone will end up making the NHL or play at the college-level. But if you take one look at the setup of the MYHA and the results, it’s not hard to see why this has become a premiere place for CNY players to pursue their dream.