“I was impressed that they were honest about their mission and that they were good at it. As I finish my fast learning curve, I hope a lot of the experience I have outside of juniors will be relevant.”
Sorabella is confident in that.
“We just thought there were a ton of opportunities to draw from Joe’s experience,” he said. “Ultimately, it will benefit the league and the players.”
The specific areas in which Bertagna will be able to help the most remain to be seen.
“It’s pretty fluid, but it includes playing a significant role in the vision of the future of the league, working with the college community to help represent us as a brand ambassador of our league and then to play a role in improving our product, working with our coaches, working with Director of Hockey Operations Ken Hodge Jr.,” said Sorabella, who owns the Boston Junior Rangers. “Really concentrate on the quality of the product and making sure that everyone is focused, not only on running their own program, but also on the betterment of the league as a whole. I think he’s in a unique position to have that influence over our room.”
Along with Hodge, the EHL office includes Neil Ravin, who is entering his sixth season as director of communications. Ravin got started in hockey while at Quinnipiac University where he covered the school’s team and served as video intern for Hockey East while it was under Bertagna’s leadership.
In his EHL role, Bertagna is learning about roster differences with trades and protected lists that differ from eligibility issues and the limited roster movement that takes place on the college level.
“A lot of college hockey is marketing to crowds,” Bertagna said. “We spend a lot of time in college hockey trying to get our games on television and national streaming contracts and regional television contracts. The junior teams, their audience, the crowd they want is a rink full of coaches to help showcase their kids to.”
That means considering issues like different starting times, including weekday afternoons when more college coaches may have a chance to observe.
Bertagna said one idea he intends to discuss is the tolerance of fighting in juniors compared to how it is punished on the college level.
“Why would you allow this if you’re trying to prepare kids for a level where it’s not tolerated,” said Bertagna, whose experience includes college rules committees.
The way Bertagna looks at that issue is that it is just another part of the junior hockey role in developing players for the “demands, rigors, culture and maturity required to play at the college level.”
As he blends into his new position, Bertagna, who resides in Massachusetts, is aware that, for at least this season, issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic are part of planning.
“Our 18 teams come from nine different states,” Bertagna said. “We’re dealing with scheduling issues, not knowing what the conditions are going to be as each of those states goes through its various stages.”
As the EHL faces the potential of difficult decisions needing to be made quickly on the fly, it will do so with an experienced hockey administrator playing a vital role.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.