On November 30, 2017, I had the opportunity to speak with Conneciticut native and current University of Louisville Men’s Hockey Coach Brian Graham.
JP: Connect the dots for me. How did a Connecticut raised hockey player make his way to Louisville?
BG: I attended AIC in Springfield, Mass. from 1995-96 after playing hockey and lacrosse for Sheehan High School. I was only playing lacrosse at the time for AIC. I missed hockey and was considering a transfer. A former high school teammate of mine from Sheehan was attending the University of Kentucky and was trying to get me to consider going there. He was telling me about the great times he was having playing D2 ACHA Club Hockey and how we could team up again like the old days at Sheehan. I ended up playing for Kentucky from 1996 to 1999. After graduating I actually coached the Kentucky club team for a few years. I returned to Connecticut for family reasons and coached my former high school team, Sheehan from 2003 to 2006. Since my wife was from the Louisville area we returned to the Louisville area relocating family from CT as well. After missing the game I returned to the bench in 2011-2012 for the University of Louisville.
JP: What do you tell players about the college hockey experience at Louisville to get them to consider the Cardinals as an option?
BG: I tell them that the experience at Louisville is amazing. Tuition is very reasonable compared to other schools in the Northeast. We draw huge crowds and have an enormous following since we are the highest level of hockey in the state. The season consists of two practices and two games per week. We play a total of 35 games per year as opposed to the NCAA clubs playing 25. ACHA also allows for five years of eligibility vs. NCAA allowing four years. It gives our student athletes good balance between academics and hockey. It’s a beautiful campus with major NCAA D1 sports football and basketball to enjoy as well. Finally, it’s far but close only being a 12 hour drive or so from CT.
JP: What is the path most players follow before coming to you to play at Louisville?
BG: We get a pretty even mix. We get players from high school, junior programs, USPHL and D3 players transferring in. I am always using my coaching connections in the Northeast and nationally to help build our program up.
JP: If I am a high school hockey player reading this and want to play at Louisville or any other club team should I reach out to the coach?
BG: Absolutely. I check my email numerous times a day and I am always evaluating talent. If you have a bio and some video online I am always open to looking at it if a player messages me. Coaches are a resource you shouldn’t fear them.
JP: What are your goals for your team?
BG: We aspire to become an ACHA D1 program in the near future. An ACHA D2 championship is always the goal for this season.
JP: Do you guys have any team traditions or rituals? Player of the game etc.?
BG: Yes, we have a championship belt WWE style all blinged out with the Cardinal logo that goes to the player of the game after a win. That player gets to pick who gets the belt until the next win.
JP: What do you miss most/least about CT?
BG: The laughs. Most of all, I would say I miss my family but I would also say Pizza. Bar and Pepe’s of course would be my top two. Least? It's easy… TAXES!
Thanks to Coach Graham for taking the time to speak with me. Follow Louisville Men’s Ice Hockey @UofLHockey or cardshockey.com. Stay tuned for more CTHSHockey player and coach interviews and as always follow me @CTHSHockeyJesse.