Featured image submitted by Eric Lindquist/Worcester Railers HC
Bob Deraney — 16th among the winningest women’s college hockey coaches — finally got Katie Guay — hockey’s glass-shattering zebra — to join his program.
It only took 19 years after his first try.
In between, from 2001 to 2005, Brown University’s Guay scored six points in seven crosstown clashes with Deraney’s Providence Friars. She then found a second act in stripes and armbands, officiating at least one game involving Deraney’s pupils. The two had since taken their respective niches to various international and professional settings.
Then in June — the third month going on four of distancing-induced dog days — the first woman to monitor a men’s Beanpot, minor pro game, and NHL prospect scrimmage was the latest guest on Deraney’s From the Point, a podcast billed as a women’s hockey forum but one that never fails to take the conversation beyond the game.
In this episode’s 17th minute, Deraney tacked a leading rider to Guay’s backstory. Before choosing Rhode Island’s Ivy League chapter, she visited and carefully considered the Mayor’s Cup matchup’s other half.
Hank Morse, Deraney’s podcast partner and a seasoned Boston radio host, smelled one of the fledgling show’s motifs. Like most former student-athletes to come on before her, Guay was nearly but never a Friar.
“Another one that got away,” Deraney chuckled. “You’re right about that.”
“But look,” he marveled, “here we are, friends long after that.”
If there is any common thread among From the Point’s guests, that is it. So far only two Deraney-era Friars — two-time Canadian Olympic goaltender Genevieve Lacasse and current Williston Northampton School coach Christa Talbot Syfu — have appeared.
The other current and former players or coaches either opposed Deraney’s capstone class, considered it before enrolling elsewhere, or both. Other invitees, such as longtime Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, have served the sport off the ice.
But be they allies, adversaries, advocates, arbiters, or authorities at game time, they are associates for a lifetime. So far 11 have joined From the Point since its launch one year ago December 1, and many chats fill multiple episodes.
“What it means to me,” Deraney told Women’s Hockey Life, “is that is our encounters…the short time or the times we spent together were as meaningful for them as it was for me.”
Recalling his perennial aim over 19 years at Providence, he added, “We will be coaching players for four years, but I want to be friends for life. No matter how brief or how long our acquaintance has been, I’m always just a phone call away.”
Those calling in to the pod form a forward line with Deraney and Morse, looking to light lamps above the heads of advice-hungry young athletes, parents, coaches, and other influencers.
“I want it to be informative, I want it to be educational, and I want it to be resourceful,” Deraney said of the podcast’s premise.
Depending on one’s forte, an episode covers any combination of strategy, psychology, strength training, tutoring the game, taming the hassles of student-athlete life, navigating the recruitment path, leadership, or promoting a publicity-malnourished sport.
That last aim circles back to why the 28-year NCAA coaching veteran and one-year coach in the CWHL set up From the Point. After parting with PC, Deraney caught up with Morse, his former Boston University baseball teammate and fellow 1987 graduate.
Morse himself had recently met the end of a long run. His tenure with Boston’s Beasley Media spanned 1998 to 2019, and he had a show for over 30 years.
Morse proposed a lunch meeting, and the two Terriers brainstormed a way to blend their proficiencies. The teacher recalls the talker mentioning the deluge of men’s hockey podcasts and the dearth of women’s, then adding, “I think we could do a better one.”
“You really think so?” Deraney replied. Once convinced, they went for it because, as Deraney told WHL, “In our opinion it’s an underserved community.”
He knows this firsthand from two decades in women’s hockey’s collegiate, international, and professional ranks. Deraney first got involved in the women’s game in 1999, at the dusk of one revolutionary decade and the eve of another.
The former goalie came from the cradle of coaches Jack Parker produced over a legendary 40-year reign. His college teammates included two-time Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins bench boss Mike Sullivan and New York Rangers skipper David Quinn, who previously succeeded Parker at BU.
After briefly playing in the low-level minors, then coaching scholastic programs while sun lighting in insurance sales, Deraney aggregated nine seasons on the Northeastern, Dartmouth, and Massachusetts men’s staffs. While he was starting at NU, women’s hockey was conducting its first IIHF World Championship. Providence legends Cammi Granato and Cindy Curley piloted Team USA to silver in that 1990 breakthrough.
PC tabbed Deraney one year after seven of its connections helped the Americans to gold in their sport’s inaugural Olympic tournament. U.S. women’s college hockey was still a year away from NCAA auspices. The powerhouses at Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, and Wisconsin that soon supplanted Providence, Brown, New Hampshire, Northeastern, and Harvard as the bigwigs were barely burgeoning. Future three-time NCAA champion Clarkson was inactive.
Another key development in the women’s game during Deraney’s tenure was Hockey East’s formation. Like their men’s counterparts 18 years earlier, PC and a cluster of regional rivals seceded from the ECAC in 2002.
The Friars won their last ECAC tournament before bolting, then garnered the first three WHEA pennants. They punctuated that dynasty by reaching the first NCAA tournament with its current eight-team capacity. Deraney was later a three-time conference coach of the year.
Meanwhile nominal and paid professional leagues arose via the CWHL and NWHL, respectively, in 2007 and 2015. The former expanded from Canada to the U.S. and later China, where Deraney landed with the Vanke Rays three months after leaving Providence.
But as the CWHL’s evaporation one year later reaffirms, there is ample room for progress.
Every former or active player to join From the Point has recalled starting with boys’ teams. The grassroots have grown since then, but Deraney still cites a “dysfunctional” scope of youth sports. As such, From the Point addresses those myriad general problems while assessing the evolution of women’s hockey at the summit.
Being his unassuming self, Deraney dishes his ideas in the form of a question and acts as the set-up man for those presently involved firsthand. Case in point: Alyssa Gagliardi — Cornell grad, veteran pro, and leader of the barnstorming PWHPA’s Northeast chapter — heard him ponder “why couldn’t there be two leagues?” with one as an AHL-type farm system. She diplomatically allowed that her associates and the NWHL’s remainders each have their approaches to growing the game, their reasons, and their convictions.
During Guay’s turn, Deraney inquired about her “officiating philosophy” and happened to elicit her call to “get more former players into the fold.” When the show invited Hayley Moore — another Brown alum and now the Boston Pride president — she agreed to relate her experience playing in Switzerland post-college.
During Lacasse’s appearance, she lent her expertise on the NCAA and how her homeland’s equivalent, U Sports, measures up. Other international staples, such as Team USA’s Kendall Coyne and Brianna Decker, got a platform to talk about sacrificing time on campus for overseas tournaments.
At its most extreme, From the Point tends to be a PG-rated podcast while still letting people speak filter-free. Granted, the coaching co-host’s expressed mission for a “message not to be edited” is a departure from safeguarding BU’s net, then taking care not to let Hockey East reporters know what need not be public. But the approach to the pod suits the scenario.
“We want to bring guests to where people can hear their story and their advice firsthand,” Deraney said.
Public-health conditions permitting, Deraney still imparts his own advice in other, often literal, arenas. After his Vanke tenure ended, he crossed another salty pond to coach South Africa’s men’s team at the 2019 Division III World Championship in Bulgaria. The tournament and preceding training camp and CWHL season plus a vacation to Italy had him touching four continents and six countries over his first post-PC campaign.
Back in his locale, a month after launching From the Point, Deraney joined the ECHL’s Worcester Railers staff on a volunteer basis. That gig was halted when the league curtailed its season in March. But he has also made time to teach youth players between the ages of eight and 18 and to volunteer with a local elite four-on-four league.
In stretches where Massachusetts guidelines put that on hold, the podcast is emboldened as a productive diversion. From the Point has premiered 13 episodes so far in the universal upheaval.
Each installment begins and ends with 15 seconds of the opening riff to the Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching.” That song is generally interpreted as lamenting monotony, but another spin befits Deraney’s doggedness through constant changes of scenery and circumstance.
And the question of whether he would take another full-time bench post — women’s or men’s, pro or college — is an empty net breakaway you have to take anyway.
“Of course I would,” he answered. “I’m a coach. That’s when I’m alive, when I’m on the ice working with athletes.”