Former Wisconsin college hockey standout Pavelski, New Hampshire alum Fornataro find new career shining spotlight on athletes’ training routines
The digital age altered the ways in which people interact with their professional heroes.
It built windows into accessibility through the advent of social media, and the permanently-open door became a viewing point for opportunities to build content.
Anyone with a phone or mobile device gained instantaneous access, and the athletes, celebrities and stars likewise obtained their own ability to respond in real time.
The ability to harness that power emerged as a unique way for hockey to further develop its community axis. A sport widely recognized for its community emotive base transformed into an interconnected universe built by the connections between professional superstars and the next generation. It was a way to give back, and it carried a unique business opportunity.
From land grew TorchPro, a digital website offering unfiltered looks into the off-ice training habits and lives of professional hockey players. The brainchild of former San Jose Sharks captain and current Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski and former New Hampshire captain Matt Fornataro, it’s a link for emerging hockey players to meet their icons on a different level while offering a new way to shape the game through a wide, full bodied range of interests.
“My favorite player growing up was Peter Forsberg,” Fornataro said. “To have any sort of access to what kind of shoes the guy wore, I would have been all over it. And so now there’s access that I don’t think has existed. The more consumers that we can bring to this platform and the more athletes that we can get, the more content we can create to spread our message.”
The idea for TorchPro originated from Fornataro and Pavelski, two former teammates with the Waterloo Blackhawks in the USHL. Both went onto play college hockey and reconnected after Fornataro retired in 2016 from a career spent playing overseas. They embarked on a new endeavor with Kompany39, another digital website founded in 2017, that would streamline the concepts of the more widely-used hockey camps for young players.
Kompany39 was the first phase of a rebranding of hockey’s social media because it extended beyond the physical walls of an actual rink, and it built on a roadmap traversed by both players into professional hockey. The recognizable elements harnessed the community feel of the game and touched on the stories less recognizable than simply goals and assists.
“I had retired and was looking for that next mission that I was going to go on,” Fornataro said, “and there was this market and value to be added for both sides (of our company). We wandered a little bit at times, but we learned a lot of key lessons in terms of marketing and social media and content creation and partnerships. All of those things, five years later, made us hungry and green but willing to work really hard.”
“Looking back, I’m glad I left (to play junior hockey) because I always questioned if I should stay or go,” Pavelski said. “I didn’t know a lot of people that had that experience through my hometown and through my inner circle, but I went to school and went to hockey. Practices were a little longer and information was coming at (everyone). That was something I fell in love with, and that’s what TorchPro is trying to create – to share those experiences. There are kids and families that don’t have resources that can turn to us right away and look for knowledge from people that have done it before them.”
That objective is where TorchPro lives and breathes its content. The site touches on a range of experiences by the athletes in order to allow viewers to live their stories, and the wide lens casts a spotlight on their workouts, training and lifestyle. By operating in those different arenas, subscribers can learn from a playbook developed to establish an unprecedented look at the hockey world from more than just YouTube clips of goals and celebrations.
It centralizes and builds a mass presence for athletes at a time when reaching the masses is a critical piece of digital branding. It breaches the limited capacities of a simple camp and shatters the generic concepts of a hockey tutorial video by personalizing the individual’s approach. There are options for viewers who are more drawn to defensemen over forwards or smaller, more agile players over power forwards, and each player’s individualized touch is the hallmark of their reach and a foundational piece for their life after playing the game.
“There are some good things you can use and learn from,” Pavelski said. “The biggest thing is that there’s an understanding that not everything has to be for everyone out there. Your audience that you’re trying to reach is what you can do a lot of good for. I think the cool thing about this platform is that it dives into more than just an Instagram account and there’s a deeper connection with fans. There’s more learning, and I think the stories go into a little bit more than a simple, quick little clip. That’s what we’re trying to drive home to have that connection that goes deeper than others.”
“(People) roll their eyes because they’ve heard me say it so often but the humble gene in hockey held it back from a marketing standpoint for a long time,” Fornataro laughed. “It’s just a mindset of the best people in sports, but a lot of people outside hockey’s bubble don’t know (about the game) because the players are so humble. I think that mindset shifted because it had to, and it’s just the world we live in, but we’re finding a way to do that while authentically building a team and service that we can provide. Every athlete is already a brand, but too many don’t know or aren’t sure how to build it consistently and authentically.
“The younger generation of hockey players grew up with this stuff,” he said, “so that mindset is starting to change, but there’s still a mentality that it takes some education. It’s a great point that not everything needs to be for everyone, but there are 20,000 kids out there who might have never known how someone like Joe Pavelski trained.”
Each athlete works with the company’s full-time employees and more specifically with the production team to introduce strategic branding to an individual person. They build a cross-section of both wants and needs and develop a game plan for publishing content while adhering to the pillars and values of the company. The lessons learned are then applied both retroactively to existing athletes while maintaining a fluid outlook on how to both recruit and enhance the current roster.
“Our production team is a big part of the onboarding and brand-building piece,” Fornataro said. “We use a framework of performance, purpose and person, and we try to really identify how those pillars can fit to athletes that are a little bit different. We’re not trying to put anyone in a box, but we do try to surround them with resources to help them better tell their stories. We feel super fortunate to have our team, and our head of content and production, TL Fielder, has been in the industry for 25-plus years. There’s a definite skill there to make athletes feel comfortable whenever there’s a camera around because we don’t want it to feel forced. But we’re fortunate about the team that we’re building.”
It helped TorchPro gain traction after its rebranding from Kompany39. It recently acquired Morning Blitz, a daily sports newsletter, and began staging its next phase of growth through the professional stars it added. Pavelski anchored the site’s roster from the start, but former Boston University and current Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy joined to produce talent alongside another former Terrier, Brandon Yip. Yip played in the NHL but more recently spent time in Germany’s DEL and Russia’s KHL, and he deepened the bench with longtime NHL veterans Mike Green and Riley Sheahan.
But the company proudly determined itself to avoid boxing the game to just the next generation of NHL men’s players when it added Kacey Bellamy, Annie Pankowski and Megan Keller from the United States women’s national team. Bellamy and Keller were both part of 2018’s gold medal team at the Olympics, but all three are part of an equity explosion currently under development in the game’s current generation.
“At the start of this year, we looked at our values and leaned into women’s hockey,” Fornataro said. “Growing women’s hockey is one of our goals because it’s important, and these ladies finally have a place where they can play and be treated like the professionals that they are. Kacey was the first and best athlete we could ever partner with, and she’s so committed and respected by teammates.
“We want to do a lot of really cool things with women because we support them,” he said. “We’re giving them a platform to share some of the stories that oftentimes aren’t told or don’t have the resources. We’ve been to a PWHPA event to capture a bunch of stuff, and we want to share their voice. It’s a big, big thing for us, and we’re excited about that initiative.”
Newly created Pittsburgh College Hockey Foundation looking to ‘right this wrong,’ bring Robert Morris men’s, women’s teams back into fold
A new entity, the Pittsburgh College Hockey Foundation, released a statement Wednesday evening introducing itself and proclaiming its intentions to bring back the Robert Morris men’s and women’s college hockey teams.
Both teams were cut by the university in May, citing a “series of strategic initiatives.” Following that announcement, RMU men’s coach Derek Schooley said the school’s decision was “affecting people’s families.”
The full statement from foundation president Dan Russell to media members is as follows:
A month ago today Robert Morris University announced that it was cutting the Men’s & Women’s D1 hockey programs, effective immediately.
The decision affects 55 athletes, seven staff members and countless alumni, program supporters and the community that surrounds it.
Two days after that decision a large group of Alumni met on a video call to discuss what we could do. The result is the newly created Pittsburgh College Hockey Foundation.
The goal is quite simple; to right this wrong and bring D1 College Hockey back to Pittsburgh.
We are actively soliciting donations from the public through our GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-rmu-hockey.
We will also be seeking out larger donations from individuals and corporations as well as supporting any efforts that will help to bring D1 Hockey back to RMU.
We are working on receiving expedited approval for tax exempt status from the IRS so that all donations can be tax deductible.
I would like to thank you for all of the support you have shown this cause in your coverage thus far! Rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere!
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts of support please feel free to email me!
Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey alum Tom Kurvers passed away the morning of June 21 at the age of 58.
“The UMD men’s hockey program and all of Bulldog Country send our thoughts and prayers to the Kurvers family,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin in a statement. “Tom will hold a special place in the hearts of his former teammates and all the fans who followed and cheered him on during his impressive career at UMD and beyond. He was the consummate Bulldog and he will be dearly missed by many.”
Kurvers captained the Bulldogs to their first WCHA regular-season and playoff titles as a senior in 1983-84, and won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the most outstanding collegiate hockey player in the U.S. during that season as the Bulldog’s first Hobey winner.
Following his NHL playing career that included 659 games with Montreal, Buffalo, New Jersey, Toronto, Vancouver, New York Islanders and Anaheim, Kurvers went on to hold NHL front office positions with Arizona, Tampa Bay and, most recently, as the assistant GM of Minnesota.
In addition, Tom was a fixture at UMD men’s hockey games and events.
His ardent support was always appreciated, reads a UMD announcement.
No cause of death was given by the school, but Kurvers was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma in January 2019.
Hockey East has announced that a new postseason tournament format for the men’s and women’s leagues will be used beginning in 2022.
All 11 men’s programs and all 10 women’s programs will compete in a single-elimination postseason tournament for the Lamoriello Trophy and the Bertagna trophy, respectively.
“This new format for the Hockey East tournament gives all of our student-athletes the chance to compete for a championship, which is undoubtedly the most exciting part of the season,” said Hockey East commissioner Steve Metcalf in a statement. “Hockey East is the most competitive conference in college hockey, top to bottom, and this new format will highlight the importance of every game during the season for players and fans alike.”
The men’s tournament will return to an all-in format after a two-year departure. Seeds six, seven, and eight will host seeds 11, 10, and nine, respectively, in the opening round set for Wednesday, March 9, 2022. After a reseeding, the top three seeds will host the winners of the opening round while the four seed will host the five seed in the quarterfinals on Saturday, March 12.
For the first time since 2019, the semifinals and final will return to the TD Garden in Boston on March 18-19, 2022. Ticket information and game times will be announced at a later date.
For the first time ever, the women’s tournament will feature all 10 member programs. Seeds seven and eight will host seeds 10 and nine, respectively, in the opening round on Wednesday, February 23 while the top six seeds receive a bye into the quarterfinals. After a reseeding, the top two seeds will host the winners of the opening round while the three seed will host the six seed and the four seed will host the five seed.
Semifinals will take place on Friday, March 4 and the championship is set for Saturday, March 5 in prime time for just the second time ever. Details regarding the championship site and tickets will be announced at a later date.
The winners of both tournaments will receive the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Augustana University in South Dakota aiming to add Division I men’s hockey, elevate athletics program from Division II to Division I
According to a statement released on the school’s athletics website, Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., plans to add men’s Division I ice hockey as part of “Vikings Bold: The Journey to 2030,” a strategic plan that is “an effort to provide student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a higher level, elevate the university’s profile and inspire Sioux Falls to enthusiastically embrace Augustana as its hometown team by serving the community and integrating our mission with its needs.”
To facilitate the addition of Division I men’s ice hockey, Augustana will need to elevate all of its athletics program to Division I. Currently, Augustana is a Division II university that is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the same conference that is home to Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State
The news of men’s Division I hockey being included in this expansion was first reported by ESPN’s John Buccigross on Tuesday evening.
BIG #cawlidgehawkey NEWS. Sources tell me Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is set to ice a Division 1 Men’s Hockey Program beginning in 2023. New On campus rink is part of the plan for the Vikings. Excited for the growing community of Sioux Falls. #Growth pic.twitter.com/1V6V5U8gc6
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) June 16, 2021
According to the university’s statement, T. Denny Sanford, owner and founder of First Premier Bank, is providing the lead gift to facilitate this opportunity. Sanford is no stranger to providing philanthropic assistance to collegiate athletics.
In 2009, Sanford made a $6 million donation to help fund the TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota’s campus. His name also sits atop the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, which hosted the 2018 NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey regional and was scheduled to host again during the 2020 tournament. That tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
The university said that plans for the athletics program are still being developed and more will be released later in the summer or in the fall.
Bowling Green, Providence, Wisconsin, Yale to play 2021 Holiday Face-Off event Dec. 28-29 in Milwaukee
The inaugural Holiday Face-Off college hockey tournament will be held at Fiserv Forum, home of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Dec. 28-29, 2021, and will include Bowling Green, Providence, Wisconsin and Yale.
Semifinal play will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 28 with the championship game and third-place game on Wednesday, Dec. 29. Matchups and game times will be announced at a later date.
“We are excited to begin what we believe will be the top national men’s college ice hockey tournament in the country,” said Rick Giles, president of the Gazelle Group, in a news release. “For us to be able to attract four of the most distinguished programs in the nation shows that these programs want to compete against the very best and we plan on continuing to bring together the best teams in college hockey to play at one of the finest venues in the country, Fiserv Forum.”
“We are proud to bring major college hockey to Fiserv Forum as we continue to offer a diverse list of events at the arena,” added Fiserv Forum and Bucks president Peter Feigin. “Milwaukee has a rich history of college hockey tournaments, and we look forward to continuing the tradition by hosting the Holiday Face-Off at Fiserv Forum.”
College hockey in Milwaukee has a rich history. The city has hosted the NCAA men’s Frozen Four on three occasions – 1993, 1997, and 2006. In 2006, Wisconsin won its most recent national championship on the Bradley Center ice.
In addition, from 1989 to 2003, Wisconsin hosted the Badger Hockey Showdown at the Bradley Center, averaging over 26,000 fans a year during that span.
General public tickets for the Holiday Face-Off will go on sale at noon CST on June 17 with single-day and tournament packages available. For additional information, follow the Holiday Face-Off on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@holidayfaceoff).
Mike Trimboli, who has been involved in grassroots hockey as a player, coach, official and administrator for parts of the last six decades, was elected president of USA Hockey at the Board of Directors meeting as part of the organization’s virtual Annual Congress.
Trimboli, who will serve a three-year term, succeeds Jim Smith, who served the past six years as president and has played a significant role in the advancement of the sport over the past 30-plus years as one of the most active volunteers in the organization.
The Massena, N.Y., native began his formal engagement with what was at the time the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States (today USA Hockey) on the local outdoor rinks as a player in 1970, then in 1979 became an on-ice official and added youth hockey coach to his resume starting in 1984.
Trimboli’s first involvement as a volunteer administrator was in 1996 when he was appointed as a regional vice president for the New York State Amateur Hockey Association and subsequently was elected as a vice president for the affiliate. In 2004 he also took on the role of the District’s player development coordinator.
He was elected to the USA Hockey Board of Directors as a director from the New York District in 2005 and since that time has served as a director representative to the Executive Committee and also been part of the Marketing Council, Junior Council, Player Development Committee and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. He was elected as a vice president of USA Hockey and chair of the organization’s Marketing Council in 2017 and has concurrently served on the USA Hockey Foundation Board of Directors.
Trimboli, a Level 5 USA Hockey certified coach, has served as an instructor for USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program since 1995. He has also been actively involved with USA Hockey’s player development program and camps, either at the district or national level, since 1990. Furthermore, he has also served as a USA Hockey Youth National Championship site director on multiple occasions dating back to 2010.
In addition to his work with USA Hockey, Trimboli, who retired in 2018 from his role in law enforcement with the New York State Police after over 31 years, has also coached public high school hockey for more than 25 seasons over two stints, including from 1990 to 2005 and from 2009 until today, winning a Division 1 New York state championship in 2014.
Longtime Harvard women’s hockey coach Katey Stone has been named the recipient of USA Hockey’s 2021 Distinguished Achievement Award.
The Watertown, Conn., native has had a storied career at Harvard, a tenure that began with the 1994-95 season. The 2021-22 season will mark her 27th at the helm of the program.
Stone has guided the Crimson to 494 victories all-time and counting. Her teams have advanced to the NCAA tournament on 11 occasions, including six appearances in the Frozen Four and four NCAA title games, captured the AWCHA national championship, won seven ECAC regular-season titles, earned six ECAC tournament championships, and won eight Ivy League titles and 11 Beanpot championships.
Additionally, she has coached 24 All-America selections, six Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winners and 13 Olympians.
Stone has played a significant role in the overall administration of the sport as well, having served as a member of the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Committee, NCAA Rules Committee, Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Selection Committee and as president of the American Women’s Hockey Coaches Association during her career.
On the international stage, Stone reached the highest level of the sport in serving as head coach of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team. The first female head coach ever of a U.S. Olympic hockey team, she guided Team USA to a silver medal. Stone also served as head coach of three U.S. Women’s National Teams, leading the U.S. to gold on two occasions at the IIHF Women’s World Championship (2013, 2012) and silver once (2011). She also coached Team USA in five Four Nations Cups, where the U.S. captured three championships. In addition, Stone guided the first-ever U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team to gold at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship.
A 1989 graduate from New Hampshire, Stone was a captain and four-year letter-winner in both hockey and lacrosse for the Wildcats. She helped the hockey team win ECAC championships in 1986 and 1987 and earned All-ECAC honors. Additionally, Stone was a two-time All-America selection in lacrosse and help UNH to the 1985 NCAA championship.
A three-time ECAC Coach of the Year (2008, 2005, 1999) and AHCA Women’s Coach of the Year (1999), Stone was inducted into the New Hampshire Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014, a year in which she also received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award. In 2020, Stone was honored as one of Boston’s most influential women by the Harvard Club of Boston.
Before arriving at Harvard, Stone served as assistant athletic director and coach at Tabor Academy and also had coaching stints at Northfield Mount Hermon and Phillips Exeter Academy.
Created in 1991, the USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award is presented annually to a United States citizen who has made hockey his or her profession and has made outstanding contributions, on or off the ice, to the sport in America.
USA Hockey announced Wednesday day that Wisconsin forward Cole Caufield is the Jim Johannson College Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season.
Established in 1994 to recognize the accomplishments of the top American-born player in NCAA Division I men’s college hockey, the award is presented annually by Bauer Hockey. In 2019, it was renamed in honor of the late Jim Johannson, who played at Wisconsin and spent two decades as an executive at USA Hockey.
Caufield led all players in NCAA Division I in 2020-21 with 52 points in 31 games, including a nation-best 30 goals. The Badgers sophomore also earned the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top player in college hockey.
Caufield, a unanimous choice as the Big Ten Player of the Year, helped the Badgers to the Big Ten regular-season title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. He became the first player in Big Ten history to win the league scoring title in consecutive seasons.
The Stevens Point, Wis., native also played a significant role in helping the U.S. National Junior Team win gold at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship where he contributed five points in seven total games.
After the season, Caufield signed with the Montreal Canadiens and is currently in the Stanley Cup semifinals.
As part of receiving the Jim Johannson College Player of the Year Award, The USA Hockey Foundation contributes $5,000 from the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund to the USA Hockey youth association of the winner’s choice. Caufield has selected the Stevens Point Area Youth Hockey Association.
USA Hockey announced Thursday that Northeastern goalie Aerin Frankel has been named the 2021 Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season.
The award is named in honor of the late Bob Allen who was an ardent supporter of women’s hockey throughout his career.
After an abrupt ending to the 2019-20 collegiate season, Frankel returned for her senior campaign in 2020-21 and helped Northeastern to a 22-2-1 record and national runner-up finish, the best in program history.
Serving as an alternate captain, she assisted in leading the Huskies to their fourth straight league postseason tournament title after completing the regular season as the top-ranked team in Hockey East.
Frankel closed out her final campaign earning the 2021 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. She also garnered many other accolades, including being named Women’s Hockey Commissioners Association Goalie of the Year, Hockey East Player of the Year, and Hockey East Goaltender of the Year, as well as earning a spot on the NCAA All-Tournament Team and being named NCAA Goaltender of the Month (January) and WHCA National Goaltender of the Month (January).
She led the nation in nearly every statistical category, including GAA (0.81), save percentage (.965), goalie winning percentage (.891), and shutouts (9). Within the conference, she paced the league in goals against average (0.65), save percentage (.971), and goalie winning percentage (.912).
In March, the Chappaqua, N.Y, native was named to the 2021 U.S. Women’s National Team that was set to play in the IIHF Women’s World Championship in April. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world championship was postponed until late August.
Twelve athletes, staff and supporters of the Wisconsin Athletic Department will be inducted into the organization’s hall of fame in 2021, Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez announced on Tuesday.
“Every year it gets harder and harder to select our inductees into the UW Athletic Hall of Fame and this year was no different,” said UW director of athletics Barry Alvarez in a statement. “This year, we will induct 10 individuals who had outstanding athletic careers as Badgers as well as two individuals who have served the Wisconsin Athletic Department with their time and dedication. I am very excited for all of these individuals and can’t wait for them to join our prestigious Hall of Fame.”
The 2021 UW Athletic Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony on Friday. Sept. 10. All inductees will also be recognized during the Eastern Michigan football game on Saturday, Sept. 11 in Camp Randall Stadium.
Two hockey players are among the 12 in Meghan Duggan (2006-11) and Blake Geoffrion (2006-10).
Duggan’s accomplishments include:
• 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner
• 2011 First Team All-American
• Aided the Badgers to three NCAA championships
• Captain of the 2011 NCAA championship squad
• Ranks second in UW history in assists (130), third in points (238) and third with plus minus rating (+164)
• Captain of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team that won gold
• Captain of the 2014 U.S. Olympic team that captured silver
• Member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team that won silver
Geoffrion’s accomplishments include:
• 2010 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner, the first Badger honored
• 2010 First-Team All-American
• 2010 First-Team All-WCHA
• 2010 ESPY nominee for male college athlete of the year
• 2010 Wisconsin Male Athlete of the Year
• 2010 USA Hockey College Player of the Year
• 2010 NCAA West Regional Most Outstanding Player
• 2010 WCHA Final Five All-Tournament Team
• 2008-09 co-captain; 2009-10 tri-captain
• Helped team to 2010 NCAA runner-up finish
• Played for NHL’s Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens
• Florida Panthers assistant to the general manager
• First fourth-generation player in NHL history
• Managing director of BHMS Investments