The expectations were high for Downingtown East coming into the season, and the Cougars didn’t disappoint, finishing second in the Ches-Mont and making it to the Flyers Cup AA Championship game.
It was the second year in a row D-East went deep in the Flyers Cup tournament and though it has a lot to do with the players on the ice, it also pays off having a knowledgeable, hockey-smart coach at the helm as well, which is why Dave Hendricks is the Daily Local News All-Area Ice Hockey Coach of the Year.
“He definitely deserves it, especially not just because of this year, but last year and all the four years I’ve played with him,” said D-East captain Jack Magee. “He’s serious every practice and every game, just focused on hockey. He’s a great coach and it has been fun playing with him for four years.”
Not only has Hendricks earned the respect of his players, but also from other coaches in the Ches-Mont and the league.
“Dave is a great guy,” said West Chester Rustin head coach Nick Russo. “(Downingtown East) is one of the few teams where we have one or two more wins, but in the battles, we’re at about .500. He has done a great job and is just a great person. It was really fun being on the bench with him and (Eric) Wolf today.”
Russo joined West Chester East’s Wolf and Hendricks as the coaches for the Ches-Mont All-Stars during Saturday’s Hunger Game, themselves being All-Star coaches for the year.
“He deals with the kids great and he manages everything really, really well,” Russo said. “He’s fun to talk to. I consider him truly a fraternity brother. The coaching fraternity is pretty tight and I can always count on Dave for truth, integrity and character. He’s just a great guy.”
The one constant Hendricks teaches his players is to have a defensive mind to the game.
It’s a big reason why D-East made it to the State Championship last season and the same could be said for the Cougars making it one game short of that this year.
“He always says, ‘Forecheck, backcheck, paycheck’ – that’s his line,” Magee said. “We know to always work hard. We always compete well and usually one of the top teams, so it pays off.”
For any team going against Hendricks and the Cougars, it’s almost a love-hate feeling.
“You look at it like, (crap), he’s going to be prepared and I have to be prepared,” Russo said. “It’s really good stuff. I admire him. There are guys that passed through your life and I truly consider him a friend and I love playing against him.”
Though Russo has to view Hendricks as the enemy at least twice per season, he does see how compassionate his is and the great qualities he brings as his peer and as a coach to the D-East players.
“He just really cares,” he said. “He gives (the players) his heart. He’s honest and it’s not about the most talented kids playing or the politics. He stands by his guns and sometimes that’s tough when you get no support. He definitely has the support of guys like me and guys that have been around a while. He just has our respect.”
Runner-up: Eric Wolf, West Chester East