After growing up in Norwood, New York, Larry Bruyere moved to California in 1974 and thought there was a chance his time with the sport of hockey was over.
Little did Bruyere know, moving to the Golden State would be just the beginning.
For more than 30 years, Bruyere has worked with countless players in California and has helped launch multiple hockey associations in the southern part of the state. His devotion to the sport is being rewarded this year, as Bruyere is the 2018 Walter Yaciuk Award recipient.
This award, presented annually by USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program, goes to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the program during many years of service as a volunteer.
Though much of Bruyere’s work with hockey has come at indoor rinks, his time on the ice began outside. He played outdoor hockey until he was in high school and then made the shift indoors.
As an adult, Bruyere made the move to California, a state where the hockey landscape at the time was much different than New York. But that didn’t stop Bruyere from finding a local rink.
“One of the first things you do as a hockey player is migrate to a rink,” Bruyere said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. They asked if I had experience. Next thing you know, I’m out there helping.”
From there, Bruyere’s coaching career on the West Coast began. He’s coached every level from 8U all the way to the collegiate level, where he coached the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley club programs.
“Having coached at every level, I keep coming back to 12U,” Bruyere said. “I think it’s the best age to coach. They’ve developed a certain amount of proficiency, but they’re still sponges.”
As a coach, Bruyere has been all over southern California. He started in Burbank in 1989 working with the West Valley Wolves Hockey Association. He then moved on years later to help start the Valencia Express Hockey Club. His most recent role was in Santa Barbara, helping get the Santa Barbara Ice Hawks off the ground. The association now has seven teams.
“The biggest key to getting an association off the ground is getting people in the right places. That starts with coaching in my opinion,” Bruyere said. “You have to have the right mindset to keep the kids coming back and growing the sport.”
Aside from coaching countless teams, Bruyere has been heavily involved with USA Hockey. He has been a part of USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program for more than 25 years. He also served as the Pacific District’s coach-in-chief for 10 years before stepping down within the past few years.
To add to his hockey expertise, Bruyere has become active on the rink management side of things. He has been the rink manager at Ice in Paradise in Santa Barbara for the past three years.
Throughout Bruyere’s tenure in California, the entire state has been a part of a successful hockey boom. Bruyere credits a lot of the state’s growth in hockey to two things.
“It’s been a roller coaster here so far. It continues to soar to new heights,” Bruyere said. “When Gretzky came to the Kings, that was a huge boost. There also was the fact roller hockey was taking off. That really helped the hockey scene.”
Looking at Bruyere’s resume, it’s easy to see how he became the choice for this year’s Walter Yaciuk Award. But for Bruyere, he wasn’t expecting the call to come.
“I was flabbergasted. That was probably the best way to describe,” Bruyere said. “It was disbelief. I’ve been a coach-in-chief, so I’ve been a part of deciding on this award. To be a recipient was very exciting.”
At 65 years old, Bruyere doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. He still plays in an adult league and fills in behind the bench from time to time.
“Hockey has been such a big part of my life,” Bruyere said. “I can’t imagine not being involved as a coach of some sort.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc