Ryan Close followed a different path to become the Westbrook High boys’ hockey coach.
It began in Sacramento, Calif., where Close started playing hockey when he was 9 years old.
“Hockey is huge in northern California,” Close said
“They don’t have high school hockey in California but I played pee wee, squirts, bantams and midgets.”
When he was a senior in high school, Close moved east to live with his mother in Vermont, where he played center for the high school team in Waitsville.
“When I came out for the team I had bleached-blond hair and, you know, I looked like a kid from California,” he said. “I showed up for tryouts for the team and everybody kind of laughed and joked, but I made the team. I could play.”
Close knows his way around a hockey arena.
“When I was a kid, I actually used to work at the ice rink in Roseville, Calif.,” he said. “I (was) a skate guard on the ice all the time, and I was teaching learn-to-skate programs. Then as I got older I coached mites and young kids, and started working in the pro shop sharpening skates. The one thing they never let me do was drive the Zamboni.”
Following graduation from high school, Close spent a prep year at Hebron Academy, where he played football and hockey. Then he went to St. Joseph’s College in Standish, where he played hockey on the school’s club team.
For the past 41/2 years, Close, 27, has been a member of the Westbrook Police Department and is in his second year as the resource officer at the high school.
“It really strikes me how much you can push kids, especially young men, to really challenge themselves mentally and physically to become something more than they are,” said Close, who also serves as an assistant football coach at Westbrook.
“I don’t care if we win a state championship or lose every game as long as these kids become better young men and learn something in the process. That’s what it’s all about.”
BOYS’ HOCKEY appears to be alive and well at Portland High.
“We had 34 or 35 kids come out for hockey, and I was expecting mid-20s tops,” said Chad Hart, in his first season as head coach of the Bulldogs after serving as an assistant coach the previous two seasons.
“We’ve got a big freshman class and we got a couple of kids from Deering.”
In September, the Maine Principals’ Association granted a two-year waiver so Portland could join with Deering to put a co-op boys’ hockey team on the ice.
“There were a few kids that hadn’t played hockey before that skated with us and tried out,” Hart said. “In the past I knew they would end up on the team only because we couldn’t make cuts because we wouldn’t have the numbers, but in this case I had so many kids I had to let go of some of the guys.”
Hart, who grew up in Waterville and received the Travis Roy Award in 1999 as the state’s top Class A senior hockey player, kept 27 players.
“We don’t have a full junior varsity program, but we’re definitely going to schedule some (junior varsity) games,” he said. “Most of the kids who are not playing much are freshmen and they have potential for the future, so I want to keep them and develop them.”
“Maybe next year, if the numbers are still decent, I hope to have a full (junior varsity) program.”
DENIS COLLINS resigned as the Bangor coach over a controversy following his refusal to allow a bathroom break on a three-hour bus trip.
Collins, last year’s Eastern Class A Coach of the Year, told the team there would be no stops en route to a Dec. 11 game at Presque Isle because the starting time had been moved up by 15 minutes and he was worried about arriving late.
Bangor Principal Paul Butler had been investigating.
Collins told the Bangor Daily News that in hindsight the bus should have stopped for a restroom break. He said he resigned “to remove any continued drama” that could distract the team.
PLACE TO BE: Saturday night is Big Rivalry Night at the Colisee in Lewiston. At approximately 6:30 p.m., St. Dominic will meet Lewiston in a girls’ hockey game. At approximately 8:10 p.m., the schools will meet in a boys’ game.
THE ANTICIPATED girls’ game between undefeated Scarborough and Greely, the defending state champion, will be played at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Red Storm (6-0) will first play at Portland at 4 p.m. Thursday. Greely (5-2) is at St. Dominic at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Greely has lost a couple of close games, to Leavitt/Edward Little (2-1) and to Lewiston (4-2).
– Staff Writer Kevin Thomas contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: