Elder Hockey marches on despite roster losses


Coming out of the 2021-2022 Elder Hockey Season, the team seemed to be rebounding from their abysmal previous season, reaching the .500 mark that, to many, signified them as a team worth mentioning on the morning sports updates. They had several league all-star selections and a whole spring and summer to improve for next year. However, something unexpected rose.

Now, everyone knows that when a sports season ends, the seniors are done, and that did not help our case at all, losing superstar defenseman Charlie James, among other seniors that were a vital part of the squad. Yet, that was not all Panther Puck lost. About a week after the end of the season, their head coach, Coach Sovern, announced his retirement. Thankfully, though, a likely hero stepped up.

With the existence of the hockey team hanging in the balance, then assistant Coach John Harvey stepped up to take the head coaching role, which was more than relief for those fellas on the team that were stressing over the fact that they may have to deal with hanging up the skates prematurely.

Panther Puck has now played a solid amount of games as a team, and are still hanging around that .500 mark despite the amount of power and knowledge they lost with the new season’s beginning. We went out to interview some players on the team to find out their opinions on the season, the coach, and the team in general. We made sure to get a perspective from a guy at each position: senior defenseman Andrew Onorato, senior center Charlie Hafner, and junior goalie Ben Brinker.

How are you guys feeling about the season so far, and what are you guys expecting from this season?

Onorato gave the quickest answer to this, saying he was, “feeling great about the season so far. Since I’ve been back, we have been doing quite solid and competing against some very good teams around us. ”

Andrew Onorato ’23 is a senior defenseman for the Panthers and is in his second season as a captain.

Brinker’s answer followed:

“I’m feeling very confident in the fellas this year. ” He said, “The Panthers should run the table this season.”

Charlie’s answer was very to the point:

“We are starting off strong. We are going to run the table this year.”

Who do you feel is the “leader” of the team, and why? 

Brinker couldn’t really pinpoint the role of leader to any one individual. Instead, he took a more inclusive approach, saying, “I feel like you cannot put the label leader on a single individual. I believe the leaders of the team are the seniors: they give their all to the program.”

Ben Brinker is a junior goalie and is entering his second full season as the starter. He got varsity action as early as his freshman year

Hafner and Onorato actually pointed to one another for this fabled “leader” title, with Charlie saying, “Andrew is the leader of the team. He is the captain. Simple as that.” and Andrew following with, “I believe Charlie Hafner is the leader of this team, not only because he is a good captain but because he is our best player on the ice whenever he is out there.”

Tell us about your team chemistry with other players.   


“The team chemistry is great, and it only gets better the more time I spend with the team.”


“Team chemistry is great, and we are moving the puck well as a team”


“I think our team has great chemistry with each other. We all hang out with each other and consider each other friends outside of hockey.”

Thoughts on your Coach and how he has contributed to the team so far.

Charlie Hafner is a senior captain and an electric center for the boys of Reading Road this year. He is a four-year varsity player and currently a top goal scorer in the program.

The guys basically all agreed on the same thing, granted we ignore Chuck’s comment regarding the infamous “upper decky lip pillows” that plague the benches and trash cans at Northland Ice Center. They all consider Coach Harvey to be the right heir to the head coaching “throne”. Each of them mentioned, to some degree, the fact that Coach Harvey is the quintessence of what it means to be a coach. He is an excellent coach on the ice, but that’s not all. He preaches his philosophy of, “Good hockey players but GREAT men”, giving us tips and advice on the ice that can translate to the real world when it comes to jobs and relationships. They all think his transition was seamless: he knew what he had to do and has done it to perfection so far.

With that being said, there are a few things we can extract from this. Coach Harvey has definitely lived up to and probably exceeded expectations. Also, this squad has chemistry that Elder hockey has not seen before. In years prior, the team hid behind the skill of one man, but this year, there are several contributors to the Panthers’ resurgence. This is a group of guys that is just out there to play hockey. They don’t care what anyone thinks when it comes to skill. They have an excellent coach who should be revered for the valuable life lessons he teaches along with teaching in arguably the hardest sport to play as an inexperienced freshman in high school. This group of guys is a sight to see in action. There truly is nothing like the game of hockey when it comes to speed and excitement, and any member of the squad will go toe-to-toe to defend that. Those who disagree should just keep their minds open and head to a game. We think an open ice hit from Hafner or a top-cheddar slapshot from Joe Emmett would change your mind.