A native of Camillus, N.Y., Andover Boys Hockey Head Coach Paul Tortorella ’80 picked up hockey at an early age when he joined the youth hockey program in his hometown. He continued his hockey career by playing goalie for his local high school before enrolling at Andover in 1979 as a Post-Graduate. At Andover, he was granted the Smith Award, an award given to the team’s most valuable player.
After graduating from Andover in 1980, Coach Tortorella went on to play Division I hockey at Yale University for four years. He was later drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and continued his hockey career in the NHL. Before returning to Andover in 2001, Coach Tortorella also coached at Nichols School in Buffalo, N.Y., where he served as athletic director. Coach Tortorella explains that his extensive background in the game of hockey has allowed him to cultivate a powerful coaching philosophy.
“The most important thing I want to get across to the kids is that they are playing a game. The game that they are playing is a team game, and you really have to trust and help each other to do well. In order to win the game, you have to work together and you have to be excited about your teammates successes. Everyone makes each other better; you cannot do it alone,” said Coach Tortorella.
According to Christian Powers ’19, Coach Tortorella has accumulated a wealth of knowledge from his prior coaching and playing experiences that he imparts onto each of his players.
“He played at Yale, so he has a lot of connections and he knows the game really well. I always try to listen to him because he knows a lot. It’ll be little things that he’ll tell you that really make a difference, like where to put your stick on the power play or where to be positioned in certain circumstances,” said Powers.
Coach Tortorella puts a large emphasis on team play in order to ensure that his team is playing as a single cohesive unit, according to Powers and Carter Giampietro ’19.
“The big thing Coach [Tortorella] stresses in the room is that, as a team, we always have to be together. When we are down or something is falling apart, we always come together in the middle of the room or the ice, and we all chant, ‘One, two, three, together!’ He also [emphasizes] that everyone has to be with each other and act as one group and one program,” said Giampietro.
Powers said, “Coach [Tortorella] emphasizes unselfishness and team play a lot. He is always stressing on us to make sure that we are playing with our head up and making the right pass and the right play. He makes sure that we play the game right way and help the team win as much as we can.”
On the bench, Coach Tortorella reminds his players to stay positive, trust one another, and control what they can in all situations.
Giampietro said, “He is very positive especially if we are playing well but are down. He emphasizes that we can always have the best period of our lives. That is a big thing to hear from a coach because we play together, and if we all believe that we can have the best period then it leads to more confidence on the ice.”
According to Charlie Archer ’20, Coach Tortorella’s care for his players extends beyond the ice and into their lives as students on campus.
“He cares so much about our team [and] our success on the ice and in the classroom, but also how we develop as people. He wants everyone on the team to broaden their horizons, try new things, [and] meet new people. He wants us to be well-rounded people,” said Archer.
Giampietro said, “A big thing he has taught us is to manage our lives, and even when something doesn’t go right for us, to make sure that we handle it and are responsible. Especially that we are responsible with work and academics and are not using hockey as an excuse to get out of things in the classroom.”
Tortorella hopes to have a successful season and is thankful that he is able to coach and spend time with his athletes.
“Our smallest goal would be to make sure that we have really valuable practices, and the biggest goal would be to win the Elite 8. Our speed and our hockey IQ as a team along with the players’ dedication to each other is very exciting. My favorite part about coaching, however, is coming home on the bus when the team is singing, and, like all other coaches here, I feel lucky to be working with great kids,” said Coach Tortorella.