By Zach Leitchman
Nearly two decades ago, Michael Mullaney began coaching hockey in Oyster River’s youth program for his seven-year-old son Kyle. What began as a simple way for Mullaney to have a closer relationship with Kyle has now propelled him to be one of the most influential figures in the local hockey community, and allowed him to create connections with hundreds of players throughout the years.
Mullaney’s commitment to teaching life lessons through sports is a key objective of his, which he feels is best done by creating individual connections with his players. This process is also among the most rewarding for him, particularly when former players express their appreciation for their experience with Mullaney long after it’s ended. Mullaney is honored that former players will still refer to him as “coach”, or reach out to him for advice or assistance on things both hockey and non-hockey related. “With each of the players along the way, I’d like to have moments where I can help individual players mature as people,” he said.
The countless hours Mullaney has put into coaching at various levels throughout the years with Oyster River (along with multiple roles on the organization’s Board of Directors) has provided him personally with so many enjoyable and unforgettable moments. These memories include many that happened on the ice, like winning state championships, but even more beyond that, like staying at a hotel that he dubbed “the most disgusting place I’ve ever seen in my life” for a hockey tournament, or getting an entire group of players and parents lost leading the way on a pre-GPS road trip.
The extensive preparation that Mullaney has put into his practice and game plans through the years have not gone unnoticed by his players and fellow coaches, and neither has his consistently long list of superstitions. He jokingly described his obsession with these quirky routines as “the worst” and “ridiculous”, from strategically placing game pucks on his work desk days in advance of his team’s next game, to preparing a designated water bottle for himself on the bench. For those that know him, this quirkiness and joy that Mullaney brings to coaching is what has made him such a beloved and impactful member of Oyster River hockey, and has helped grow ORYA’s hockey culture into one that provides a unique camaraderie, allowing friends to play together with the guidance of caring and knowledgeable coaches.
Mullaney will remain coaching at the Bantam level for Oyster River this upcoming year, and continue developing the relationships with his players that has allowed him to be such an important part of our hockey community.