February 23, 2012

From NEHJ: Sunny outlook for California kids at Proctor

By Justin Churchill

When you visit tiny Proctor Academy in Andover, N.H., the last thing that comes to mind is the sun and surf of Southern California. 

Proctor sophomore goalie Merrick Madsen (Photo: Brenda Godwin)

But for Ryan Glantz and Merrick Madsen, that’s exactly what they thought. And that’s exactly why the pair of California kids chose to attend and play hockey at Proctor.

Glantz is a junior forward from Tarzana, Calif., and Merrick is a sophomore goaltender from Acton, Calif. They grew up about 45 miles apart on opposite sides of congested I-5 in the sprawling suburbs of Los Angeles.

Although Proctor (enrollment: 345) is seemingly a world away from the nation’s second-largest metropolis, the school’s laid-back style has made the California teens feel right at home.

“First, I started looking at schools in November of last year,” said Glantz, who chose Proctor from among a number of other small prep schools. “I went out to visit Proctor, and I just loved the school because it has a California vibe to it. They let students express themselves while still being a college preparatory school.”

Glantz also was a big influence on getting Madsen to join him at Proctor.
“Merrick heard that I was going to go at the same time he was looking for schools. Proctor showed up on his list as well, and my dad recommended it to him,” Glantz said. “We set goals for each other to come up here and get the most out of the prep school experience — coming in here and meeting new people and learning to do things on our own. We have grown here a lot.”

A lot of that has to do with Proctor coach Mike Walsh — a former St. Sebastian’s and Colgate standout who played eight pro seasons in Europe, the AHL and NHL, where he appeared in 14 games for the New York Islanders in the late 1980s.

Walsh now is in his 16th year as a prep hockey coach, having coached eight years at Tilton, where he won three consecutive New England titles. His experience and style have been positive influences on both Glantz and Madsen.

“He has been a really good coach for us because he pushes us hard,” Madsen said. “I think he has done a good job of managing the team.”

Walsh’s system of recruiting has found talent from all over the country.

“There are a lot of kids out there,” Walsh said. “The challenge is finding the right ones. In California, they can play some pretty competitive triple-A hockey, but by the time they get to be 14 or 15 years old, it really breaks down because kids leave.”

Walsh helped bring Glantz and Madsen to Proctor through a unique connection from his hockey background. John Devereaux, a Boston College alumnus, coached both Madsen and Glantz on the ’94 California Heat AA midget team. 

Proctor junior forward Ryan Glantz (Photo: Brenda Godwin)

Devereaux had high regard for Walsh’s team and helped persuade the boys to consider Proctor.

“He used to play for Boston College in the ’80s,” Walsh said. “We used to skate together, and I had communication with him through the process.”

After finding the kids in non-traditional hockey locales, though, the challenge is helping them make the transition to a new environment away from home and new styles of play.

Walsh said the transition from California to Proctor, though, has been smooth, especially for Glantz and Madsen.

“They meshed pretty good. Proctor is a little more laid back then your traditional jacket-and-tie prep school,” Walsh said. “We have had a few California kids over the years, and they seem to do pretty well. They really fit in.”

For Madsen, the move east also had a lot to do with furthering his chances of being noticed by Division 1 schools.
“I liked it because there is not a lot of hockey colleges on the West Coast,” Madsen said, “and I thought coming here to Proctor would help me get recruited.”

Madsen is starting to receive some attention as one of the top goaltending prospects in the country. In addition to his impressive size, standing 6-foot-4, Madsen displays quick hands and poise in net, attributes that have caught the attention of several Div. 1 schools in the Northeast.

Meaning he might just be staying in New England to prove that California kids can play hockey.

“California hockey has really come a long way,” Madsen said. “I think California hockey is becoming a hotbed in the country, and I think schools are starting to notice that.”

Although the talent may be equalizing, Glantz says, the passion for the game in California doesn’t measure up yet.

“It is not as big there yet as it is here in New England,” Glantz said.

For now, though, Glantz and Madsen are just glad to be soaking up the experience and prep school atmosphere in New Hampshire.

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Justin Churchill can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com