There are five rookies featured on the Canisius hockey roster, or an even half dozen, if you count Adam Mair.
However, unlike the others, Mair is anything but your standard freshman.
For one thing, there are all those miles racked up on a 33-year-old body that boasts a collection of suture zippers and a rearrangement of knuckles and nose.
For another, there are the 618 regular season games Mair logged in the NHL, which for the moment (we’re watching you, Cory Conacher) is 618 more big-league tilts than have ever been played by all the Golden Griffins players in history.
Still, there are those things that Mair shares with all the present-day Griffs players. The most important is that sense of starting something new and exciting.
And that’s why, after being brought aboard by Canisius coach Dave Smith as the Griffs’ volunteer director of player development, Mair feels right at home among all those youngsters.
“There is a little bit of a different dynamic,” said Mair, whose duties include both on-ice and video instruction. “But the goal remains the same. My goal [as an assistant] is the same as Dave’s goal is as the head coach of the program, is the same goal as our captain Torrey Lindsay. And that’s to win hockey games.
“We’re on the same team. And to that degree, I don’t think there is a divide. We perform different jobs, just like a goalie performs a different job than a defenseman. We [the coaches] were all players and we’re still players in our heads. And maybe we relate to our [guys] as older players or coaches because that’s the role we’re in. But the goal remains the same, and that’s to win hockey games.”
That competitive fire fueled Mair’s professional career, which began in 1999 as a Toronto farm hand and carried him through big-league stints with the Leafs, Kings, Sabres and Devils.
Last year, while hoping that one more NHL team could use a gritty winger with great dressing room presence, Mair hooked on with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons.
Then in May, when his desire to someday get into coaching became too strong to ignore, Mair, who resides in Buffalo, decided the time had come to stow his skates and began cold calling anyone who would answer in hopes of getting his toe in the bench door.
That hinge opened across town at Canisius, when Smith offered Mair his first opportunity.
“Making the decision to retire wasn’t easy,” Mair said. “But at the end of the day, I’m happy that I am still involved in the game I love. You’re at the rink every day. You’re feeling the losses and celebrating the wins. The feeling is the same. You’re just not out there on the ice performing.”
One element not on the Hamilton, Ontario, native’s resume is any personal history with college hockey. Almost all coaches at every college program have at least some college background, but Mair sees his newness to campus life as a positive.
“That just shows that Dave is open to any avenue,” said Mair, who took college-level classes at Western Ontario while he played major junior hockey. “I have at least a playing degree in hockey.
“I think that the game is so similar and the game is studied so much, that there are no secrets. Whether it’s the NHL or NCAA, they are all playing the same. Everyone sees how you have success. There are skill differences compared to the National Hockey League. But it’s the same game.”
It’s a game that Mair learned firsthand from some of the best coaches in the business, including a impressive list of Jack Adams Award winners that features Lindy Ruff, Dave Tippett, Bruce Boudreau, Pat Quinn and the Hall of Famer Jacques Lemaire.
Mair said he gleaned plenty of wisdom from each one of those successful bench bosses, and aims to bring elements from each to his new career.
“[Those] things that stuck with me as a player,” he said. “The things that those coaches did that allowed our team to have success. I’ve tried to relay those things to our players through our coaching staff. That’s what you do. You learn from people who have had success and you try to build off of that.
“The learning never stops. It’s a good way to try to live.”
It’s a great way to coach, too. It seems that Mair has already caught on to that one.