When Jeff Hebert was little, he used to watch his dad play for the Cranston Hockey Club.
Don Hebert was a standout at Brown University and then became a solid player for the senior amateur hockey organization based in Cranston, Rhode Island.
The Cranston Hockey Club was popular in the early 1970s because it took on a number of big-time teams from outside the state. However, in the late ’70s, the club was discontinued.
In 2005, Jeff Hebert had a thought: Let’s revive the team with new members. That’s exact what Hebert did, and he added a few guys whose dads played on the original Cranston Hockey Club.
“I had a lot of pride doing it, because a lot of people wanted it back,” said Hebert, 47.
Hebert reformed the Cranston Hockey Club with some teammates he had played with as early as mites and all the way up to high school. He also played against a number of the guys at various levels. Many of them went on to college and professional careers.
“When we started in 2005, we beat a lot of young teams,” Hebert said. “We got a lot of notoriety from the men’s league world because we beat some young teams. But we had a lot of talent.”
The Cranston Hockey Club — which plays in the Cranston Senior Hockey League, generally in the Over-30 division — is comprised of guys who range in age from their 30s to late 40s. About half of the 15 rostered are the core players who started with the team in ’05.
Paul Connell, who played with Hebert in squirts, started with the Cranston Hockey Club in 2005 but moved to Ohio for three years. He always had an itch to get back playing with his old team.
“Jeff and I kept in touch and I told him, ‘I’m in whenever I move back,’” Connell said. “The second I got back I called him up. … When I moved back, I hadn’t skated in about three months, but I was thrown back into the fire, which was great.”
Connell, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1988 and had a short stint as a professional, didn’t quite move back to Rhode Island. Connell lives in Connecticut, and on league nights he drives an hour both directions to play with the Cranston Hockey Club.
“The main reason is I have known these guys for so long,” said Connell, the team’s goalie. “These guys come to play — some teams, there are guys that don’t come to play, and for a goaltender it’s very hollow and not a fun place to be in. The draw is that these guys just love being together.”
The Cranston Hockey Club players rave about their camaraderie on and off the ice, and all the players still have the competitive drive to play well.
“I think our competitive level is very high,” Hebert said. “The last couple years we’ve gotten older but we’ve made finals in tournaments and leagues, but it still hurts when you lose. As we’ve gotten older we’ve learned to let it go a little bit.”
Playing for so many years together, all the guys have familiarity with each other. They never skip a beat when they hop on the ice.
“We know each other’s habits,” Connell said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I have that comfort level knowing that my defensemen know what to do and manage the puck, and I can work with them very, very well.”
Communication is key on the ice for the Cranston Hockey Club. Stick-to-stick passing never hurts, either, along with strong offensive weapons.
“We’ve got some firepower out front, but we’re defensive-orientated as far as coming out of our own end,” said Hebert, who plays right wing. “We’re a well-rounded team, very disciplined in all zones. It all starts in the back end, though, good goalie and four Ds.”
“Compared to other men’s league teams,” Connell said, “I would say we’re defensive-minded, but we have such a good offensive team as well.”
Getting the Cranston Hockey Club back together following the long hiatus has worked out perfectly for Hebert. He couldn’t ask for anything more.
“It’s like one big family, just like the original team,” Hebert said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.