By Ed Niser
GROTON — Ten years ago, Brendan McCann donned the red, white and blue sweater of North Middlesex Regional as a defenseman. Now, the 28-year-old Assumption College graduate is the newly hired head hockey coach at Roy Conference rival Groton-Dunstable.
McCann will be assisted by the likes of Ron Zadrozny, looking for confirmation on first name Jeff March and Howie Hunter.
Having been the last one cut from the Greyhound hockey team, McCann tried out and made the soccer team as a goalie. That is when the urge to return to hockey as a coach hit the Pepperell native.
He has post-high-school hockey experience playing with the Fitchburg Junior Huskies of the now defunct Empire Junior Hockey League. McCann spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Division 3A state champion Nashoba Chieftains.
McCann now works and resides in Boston, which makes for a long commute to the Groton School rink where the team plays its games and practices.
But he says it’s well worth it.
“I have always had interest in the area,” McCann said. “I played Groton Youth Hockey growing up. I have been keeping tabs on jobs opening up throughout the area. A couple of the coaches in Central Mass knew about my desire to be a head coach and they helped steer me toward this job at G-D. Luck had it that this one was available. I think it’s going to be a fun season.”
It is not the first stop for McCann at Groton-Dunstable who was an assistant coach on the 2010-2012 Division 3A state championship team. Groton-Dunstable has made strides to get back into the top ranks of Central Mass since a sectional final loss to Wachusett in overtime back in 2013.
“There is still a good amount of talent out here,” the coach said. “North Middlesex and Groton merging their youth games will make for a more fun game between the two of us when those kids get to the high school level. It will make for a more competitive youth program. It can only be a positive for area hockey.”
On day one of practice, the Crusaders saw roughly 45 kids turn out, a number that surprised the new head coach.
Pleasantly, of course.
“You never know what to expect from the kids with a new coach coming in,” McCann said. “To see the kids’ energy and enthusiasm makes me excited to be back out here on the ice.”
McCann prides himself on being a defense-minded coach.
“The biggest challenge for me is that I typically like to be involved on the defensive side of things,” he said. “I am a defensive-first coach and then I like to bring the offense in later. I’m going to probably hold a little more responsibility than possibly what has been held the past few years in the defensive zone. It will be a little challenging getting the systems in place. But like I said, I’m excited to see that transition meld into what I hope to be a successful season.”