OK, I’m exaggerating, but . . . When I first moved to the suburbs from the Como Park neighborhood of Saint Paul I remember being fascinated watching the hockey soldiers organized in every rink. There they stood on the ice, behind the glass, and were in every rink. If you listened closely to the whispers you could just make out phrases like “he comes from a good family” and “I know the father.” At the time I jokingly referred to this intimidating clan as The Minnesota Mafia. The real mafia has three piece suits, tommy guns, and “made men.” The Minnesota Mafia has fancy jackets, expensive composite sticks and even a bit of their own dialect. Tomato, tomahto. . .
This is an easy one. The guy with the cotton balls firmly in his cheeks like Brando is the varsity head coach. The only person who can truly make the offer “you can’t refuse” is the top bench boss at the high school level. And while some varsity head coaches embrace this role reaching down into the program and others do not, the boys and girls varsity coach is the one with the most power should they choose to use it. The associations with an engaged varsity coach running the operation tend to be the strongest because every soldier will be armed with the same playbook and golf shirt knowing exactly how to act if called on to “do a service for me.”
This was the hardest selection. Technically the consigliere is an unbiased confidant who sits outside the normal mafia power structure. With the varsity coach playing the roll of Boss I struggled to think about who his or her trusted advisor would be. Was it a spouse? Was it an assistant coach? Was it an old salty dog behind the scenes? Or was it perhaps the sneaky powerful Ice Scheduler? As I thought about it more and dug into some association websites it seems the roll of consigliere in the Minnesota Mafia is played today by the person with the title closest to “Head of Player Development.” The player development director should be the most progressive thinker always there to give the varsity coach a spark with an idea or some innovation.
Ahh, the underboss. As clear number two, the underboss does the dirty work and knows where the bodies are buried (if they’re not in his trunk). And the person with the most power besides the varsity coach is the traveling director who selects the coaches at every level. Because they’re empowered to fill in the “family tree” so to speak for the Hockey Mafia, the traveling director is our underboss. On the girls side of the coin this position will often be referred to as a girls director or girls coordinator. These positions are the straw that stirs the drink and in the healthiest structure they’ll be well connected to both the varsity boss as well as the capos and soldiers they’ve hired beneath.
Our “capos” are clearly the “A” level coaches and their corresponding crews. And just like a good mafia family if the “A” coaches decide to buy into the program the entire family only gets stronger. Likewise if they’re all doing their own thing the association will never be as strong as it could be.
SOLDIERS & ASSOCIATES
Similar to the caporegime, the “B” level coaches will fill the role of soldiers and the “C” level coaches the roll of associates within the Hockey Mafia.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the comparison, and if you didn’t, well, “Forgetaboutit!”