Not too many people who live in Norwood, Mass., can tell you where Froggies Pond is.
It’s possible that they don’t recognize it as a pond, seeing as it is not; rather, it’s just a small park that the Norwood Fire Department floods when the weather gets cold to give the locals a place to ice skate.
2015 NHL Entry Draft
June 26-27, Sunrise, Fla
Selections: College players and recruits picked
Gallery: College players at the draft
First round: Record three players picked in top eight
Second round: Four Terriers players picked in top 50
But about 14 winters ago, Froggies Pond created an addiction to ice for one young boy who this weekend will begin his journey toward the NHL.
Norwood’s own Noah Hanifin, an 18-year-old defenseman from Boston College, undoubtedly will be among the first players to hear his name called at the NHL Entry Draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
At 3 years old, Hanifin went with his father, Robert, to the pond to learn to ice skate.
Hanifin didn’t have hockey in his blood. While his dad dabbled in the game “to have fun” as a kid, as the younger Hanifin put it, it isn’t a family whose name is associated with the game.
But for Noah, the game quickly became an addiction. By 7, he played for a well-known South Shore Kings hockey program under Neil Shea, himself a former Boston College player from the mid-1980s. He stuck with the Kings until about 12, when he moved on to St. Sebastian’s School, the private prep school that produced players like Mike Grier, Noah Welch and Rick DiPietro.
And while this weekend stands to be a major step forward in Hanifin’s hockey future, it was his past at St. Sebastian’s when he had the realization that hockey might be more than just something fun.
“I always loved hockey and wanted to play in the NHL,” Hanifin said. “But I think that year at St. Sebastian’s I was a 13-year-old guy playing against 17-year-olds and I kind of held my own.
“That’s where I realized I might have the chance to play the game at a high level and, after that year, I began taking it seriously and working real hard.”
That work ethic also benefited from good genes. Hanifin arrived at The Heights last September sporting a 6-foot-3 frame. The media guide listed him at 203 pounds, possibly the weight when he walked out the door in April due to Hanifin being a self-described player who takes his “training and nutrition … pretty seriously.”
NHL scouts have noticed. When the first rankings of the year were released, Hanifin was the top-ranked North American defenseman and was listed behind generational phenom Connor McDavid and Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel. By the time Central Scouting released its final rankings, there was no drop for Hanifin. If anything, remaining third solidified Hanifin’s draft position.
If you speak with Hanifin, you’ll realize that, for an 18-year-old, he is wise beyond his years. Thus the elite ranking hasn’t gone to the blueliner’s head. If anything, it’s motivated him.
That means improving on weaknesses. And that work began almost immediately this offseason.
“Obviously, I want to work on my whole game, but my shot I want to improve a lot,” said Hanifin. “I want to work on it a lot this summer.
“As you get to the next level in hockey, it gets a lot harder as a defenseman to get shots through because guys block shots so well. It’s something I want to work on a lot this summer.”
Sure, a summer of skating, shooting and conditioning has admittedly left “not too much time for anything social” for Hanifin. But it has also brought him closer to this Friday and the first step toward the NHL.
Right now, that’s something Hanifin said hasn’t even hit him.
“I think it will hit me a little bit more when I get to Florida,” Hanifin said. “But I’m definitely starting to get a little nervous and concerned and starting to feel the excitement.
“It’s obviously just the beginning. We have a long way to go after the draft but this has been a moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life so now that it’s about to happen, it’s going to be surreal.”
And to think, it all began on a little known pond called Froggies.