In 1985, the Massachusetts towns of Abington and Rockland merged their single youth teams into one team.
Then, as youth hockey became more popular on the South Shore in Massachusetts, it eventually led to the formation of the South Shore Eagles, which now includes players from towns like Bridgewater, Hanson, Middleboro, Taunton, Pembroke, Whitman and Norwell.
But as is the case in any sport, the Eagles have experienced their share of ups and downs.
“I took over the position last July,” President Danielle Larouco said. “Over the past two years or so the Eagles were in a decline in terms of players. We share a rink with the Bay State Breakers in Rockland, so we have a huge competition especially with elite players.
“A lot of our players moved to their organization about two years ago.”
However, in the 2012-13 season, the Eagles have taken flight.
“We were on the downward part of the curve and now we’re on the upward part of the curve,” Larouco said. “The Eagles program has seen an increase in players over the past year, players who’ve come back to the program.
“A big part of the reason people come back is there’s a good, positive vibe because we weren’t held in the highest regard in recent years. Now I think we have a good group of newcomers who realize the program has a lot to offer and cares about developing each and every player.”
What the Eagles program offers is two-fold in nature:
“The Yankee Conference is primarily a C level league,” Larouco said. “Because there were so many kids that wanted to skate at all age levels, it led to the formation of the Yankee Conference.”
The importance of the Yankee Conference Instructional League to the Eagles is underscored by the fact that 21 of 22 players at the Mite level returned for this season.
“We had a 95 percent return rate at the Mite instructional level,” Larouco said with a hint of pride in her voice. “Now, that’s snowballed. Ask any of those kids and they’ll say they love Eagles pride.”
To say the coaches “love” working in the Eagles program would be an understatement.
“We give our coaches warm-up suits,” Larouco said. “They’ll say ‘ “I’ve been coaching for 20 years and nobody ever has given me warm-up suits.’
“It’s the little things that have meant a lot.”
While USA Hockey’s American Development Model couldn’t be classified as a “little thing,” it has meant a lot to the Eagles program.
“We follow USA Hockey’s ADM,” Larouco noted. “It’s a four-on-four program run out of Hingham. It caters to a smaller ice surface with more touches and opportunities to become involved.
“We’ve had great success. Over the last couple of years, the kids who’ve come through the program on the ice have loved it. The end result of what the Eagles provide — and the ADM is part of it — is quality instruction at a great cost.”
Larouco herself brings an inordinate amount of quality experience to the South Shore Eagles.
A Brown University graduate (she played at Brown during a period when the Bears captured several ECAC and Ivy League titles), she also played for the U.S. National Team, served as an assistant coach at her alma mater, and attended several USA National development camps.
“My background definitely has helped me in terms of knowledge of hockey,” Larouco said. “I’m fortunate to be in an area where I can give back to the program. Last year, I was in the instructional league.
“No matter what my business is, we talk hockey all day long. I get along with the guys and we can talk hockey, and I can relate to the boys. At the end of the day, you want to mold the kids, plus I love hockey.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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