Camden Cacolice graduated from Westfield State in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. During his time on campus, he also played hockey for the University’s intramural team, along with its club team counterpart. He is now the head coach for the club team and has coached for three years since graduating. Additionally, Cacolice also coaches the Westfield Youth Hockey Association’s “Learn to Skate & Learn to Play” program, which teaches beginner skaters from the ages of 4 to 13 how to skate and play hockey.
“It’s a big passion project of mine,” Cacolice said. To supplement the number of volunteers, Cacolice encourages those he coaches from the University’s club team to participate. “We’ve had players from all over. Kids from Colorado, St. Louis, Hawaii, New Jersey… one thing ties them together besides being student athletes at Westfield State. They all started off learning how to skate. Someone was volunteering their own time, so we make sure to pass on the passion for the game.”
Michael Shea is the current President of Westfield Youth Hockey Association (WYHA), where he’s served for four seasons. Some of his duties used to consist of scheduling ice time on the skating rink as well as spearheading the learn to skate/learn to play program, which Cacolice is now a part of. “It’s been a great partnership,” Shea said about the collaboration. “Cam and his players have been awesome. They come with energy and compassion. Some kids can’t even stand up on their skates, and these guys are teaching the kids those basics.”
The WYHA was founded in 1969, and services cities and towns such as Westfield; Southwick; Blandford; Chester; Granby; Granville; Huntington; Middlefield; Montgomery; Russell; Suffield; Tolland; and Worthington. The association is also a member of the Greater Springfield Hockey League. The association practices and plays their games at Amelia Park in Westfield.
The Learn to Skate & Learn to Play program runs from the beginning of September to the end of February and involves the coaches and players to rise at early hours on the weekends.
“Not a lot of college kids want to get out of bed in the morning at 7 or 8 o’ clock, but it’s been a great program, and we love that Cam and his guy do that for us,” Shea said. “The University’s players really gain an emotional connection with these kids. I think that speaks to the value they bring. It’s unbelievable. To have the coaches and players who have those skills and are willing to come out and volunteer their time… you can’t put a price on that.”
“It takes a village to raise a child and leave hockey better than it was,” Cacolice said. “The program makes a huge impact on the kids’ life, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to do that.”