How a Revolution in NCAA Hockey Recruiting is Unfolding in Vermont


atrik Laine always laughed a little when Todd Woodcroft repeated the promise: One day the coach would learn to greet the young sniper in Finnish. Laine surely knew that his mother tongue is almost comically inaccessible to those who didn’t grow up speaking it, but Woodcroft is a man of his word — in a few languages. At the time, Woodcroft was an assistant to Paul Maurice’s Winnipeg Jets staff and one day, while the two coaches were having lunch together at the team facility, the players started arriving. and I said ‘Hello to you. How are you today?’ in French,” says Woodcroft. Then it was Marko Dano, who received a greeting in Slovak. Woodcroft then exchanged pleasantries with Dmitry Kulikov in Russian, followed by Tobias Enstrom in Swedish. Finally, Woodcroft trotted out his Finnish for Laine, who just laughed in passing. By this time, Maurice had stopped his consumption of cereals. “He had his spoon down and he said, ‘You’re Jason Bourne,'” Woodcroft recalled. “He’s like ‘How many passports do you have?'”

Woodcroft has never had to escape gunfire by jumping from a third-story balcony, but this scene from around five years ago illustrates why, in his current role as head coach of the Catamounts of the At the University of Vermont, he is well positioned to win recruiting battles on a relatively new front. The number of Europeans playing NCAA hockey has tripled over the past decade, and Woodcroft, now a third year behind the Cats bench, has built the most international roster in college hockey.

But it’s not just the kids crossing the Atlantic that are changing the dynamics of locker rooms in Vermont and across the United States. Division 1 men’s hockey is expected to have 64 programs next year, up from 62 this fall and more than ever before. In short, the college game is growing in every way, and while nothing comes easy in this ultra-competitive world, Woodcroft and his staff are working around the clock – and around the world – to advance his team.


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