By Tom Hanson
Copyright © 2005 Naples Daily News
ESTERO, Fla. – Trenton head coach Mike Haviland doesn’t regret growing up in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. As far as he’s concerned, it was an ideal place to be from if you aspired to be a hockey coach.
With a couple of no-nonsense parents, the 37-year-old Haviland has used street smarts and a strong work ethic to become one of the most successful coaches in the ECHL.
As the Titans captured the Kelly Cup on Wednesday night, beating the Florida Everblades 4-1 to win the series in six games, Haviland became only the second coach in league history to capture a title with two different teams.
He led the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies to a championship in 2002-2003 season. But this time around Haviland promises to appreciate it more.
“I’m going to enjoy this one more,” Haviland said as the Titans prepared to pop the champagne in the visitors locker room at Germain Arena. “The first time I won you’re like a little kid in a candy store and things go by so fast. This time I’m going to sit back and watch them enjoy it because they really deserved it.”
For Haviland, having his parents, George and Margaret, in the stands made it even more special.
His mother said Haviland was a quiet and intense kid growing up who always had an affection for hockey.
“He always used to watch and study the game as a kid,” she said. “Hockey was his first true love.”
Haviland certainly has come a long way from Hell’s Kitchen. He also has come a long way since coaching a youth hockey team for four years.
After a stint as a college coach, Haviland got what he called his first break in coaching, running the New Jersey-based American Eagles from 1994-1998. Haviland said working with teenagers gave him a different perspective to the game.
“It gave me a real appreciation for coaching,” Haviland said. “I would have 200 to 300 kids at tryouts and having to cut kids and deal with kids helped me become a better coach.”
Haviland also credits his parents for teaching him the basic philosophy of treating people the same way he’d like to be treated.
With a caring family atmosphere, where he’ll ask players about their personal lives, Haviland tries to be a hands-on players coach. He said showing that he cares helps the players work harder.
“If I’m going to ask them to go out and play hard for me if they don’t believe in me and believe in what I’m going to say how are they going to believe in themselves?” Haviland said. “You can kick them in the butt when they need it but when you do it all of the time they’ll turn you off.”
Trenton goalie Andrew Allen experienced Haviland’s genuine caring approach earlier this season. With his wife, Lisa, unable to leave Canada because of her job, Haviland offered to give him a few days off to spend time with his family.
“When he made that offer it showed me how much he cares about the players,” Allen said. “When you have someone that takes an interest like that you’re definitely going to work harder.”
Now Haviland hopes his hard work will pay off with a promotion. Just like the players in the ECHL, Haviland has aspirations of being in the NHL. But if doesn’t happen soon, he’ll be content with staying in Trenton, showing the patience his parents taught him.
“Our philosophy was always when I was brought up was that you worked for everything you get,” Haviland said. “There are no shortcuts in life. If you have to work somewhere for 10 years then you do this for 10 years and I’m OK with this.”
For many of the Titans, Haviland is more than a coach. Veteran Vince Williams said he’s more like a parent.
“Haviland is like the father of the family, he’s got 22 kids,” Williams said. “You don’t want to let him down and that’s the number one thing if you talk to anybody that’s what they say.”
By winning the Kelly Cup, Haviland is a proud papa and the Titans are one big happy family.