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BEST OF THE DAILY DISH: Is Hampton Roads the HockeyTown of the South? Junior Hockey News

Published: Tuesday, 14 Aug 2018  
By: Stephen Heisler,


Perception: a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.

USA Hockey’s Southeastern District generally struggles to hold its own in regards to development compared to the rest of United States. Let’s face reality here; there are not a lot of frozen ponds in the region to cultivate raw abilities.

Well, there is one. Patrick Cavanagh, a New York native, has turned an almost mothballed facility into one of the District’s brightest developmental jewels. The Chilled Ponds Ice Sports Complex, under Cavanagh’s leadership, has morphed itself into a developmental destination for players that have ventured to the Hampton Roads facility from just about every USA Hockey District.

The Hampton Roads area is home to the largest concentration of the United States military installations. Naval Station Norfolk is world’s largest naval station supporting 75 ships.

With such a large local military presence comes an immense number of civil support personal and contractors that make up a large part of the community as well.

Almost 80% of the region’s economy is derived from federal sources.    

The transient nature of the military family is generally not healthy for hockey development. Cavanagh and his staff simply refuse to let that get in the way of introducing the game to the military community.

Programs like “Try Hockey for Free Day” give area children a comprehensive snap shot of the game and even an introduction to skating itself. My own son Tomas participated and has the sore behind to prove it. His first time ever on skates, the United States Premier Hockey League’s Hampton Roads Whalers players and staff were all on the ice lending their support. In the case of my son, he really needed it.

But it’s events like Saturday that fuel to existing hockey programs with fresh blood year after year; even if that does mean that large percentage of participants may take their new interest in the game to an entirely different facility.

WhalerNation, the youth and junior hockey arm of Cavanagh’s organization, does ice nine competitive teams from the Mite B level all the way up to the Elite Division of the USPHL. Combine that effort with the healthy recreational hockey leagues in the facility and it’s easy to see why facility and programs are so highly respected.

It’s my opinion that the key to any highly successful hockey operation has to be leadership along with the ability to retain highly regarded coaches.

"My philosophy and  pursuit for excellence has never altered as it relates to Chilled Ponds or Whaler Nation but our programming is ever-evolving," Cavanagh said on Monday. "We are never afraid to look outside the box or to reconsider new ways to grow the sport of hockey in Chesapeake. It’s a privilege to represent this sport and we all take great pride in our efforts and the impact we have on many people's lives.”  

Cavanagh skated for eight seasons with the Hampton Roads entry in the ECHL after playing junior hockey with a Hamilton, Ont., club in 1989-90. He also logged shifts in the IHL farm teams of the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning.

USPHL Elite Head Coach Rod Taylor played 15 seasons professionally in the AHL (Baltimore Skipjacks) which included nine seasons locally with the ECHL Admirals. He achieved record breaking success throughout his career. Taylor broke league record books during his nine consecutive seasons with the Admirals, racking up 312 goals and 565 points in 528 games played. Rod’s accomplished career in hockey earned him a 2008 Induction into the Admirals Hall Of Fame in 2008 followed by a 2009 Induction into the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) Hall of Fame.

Brad Jones grew up in Michigan finished his junior career as a Whaler and became the first alumni to commit to NCAA college hockey when he committed to the Becker College Hawks of the ECAC Northeast Division III in Worcester, MA.  Brad spent 2 seasons with Becker, posting 13 points in 32 career games while patrolling the blueline for the Hawks before returning to Hampton Roads to take over as coach of the Whalers Junior Development Team.  On top of coaching, Brad is also currently the Whaler Nation Executive Director & Chilled Ponds Youth Hockey Director.

It’s fairly easy to see that Cavanagh knows how to select and retain talent.

One look at all the championship banners hanging from the rafters inside the Chilled Ponds rink that the Whalers call home and it’s very obvious to see how successful the hockey program has been on the ice.

The primary goal of Cavanagh and Whaler Nation is to get players moved to higher levels of play and college hockey.

“My main goal with that group will be the same as always: Be competitive and produce kids that have opportunities to move up, if you stick to that philosophy, your kids are going to develop and come around.” Jones has said in the past. 

Let’s summarize.

Cavanagh is giving players (and even coaches) opportunities to move up to higher levels of play, offering programs like Try Hockey for Free Day, and providing professional level amenities that go way above and beyond what players are paying for. Is the recipe for success? Most other rink and team operators would see the concept as a fast track to financial ruin. Cavanagh sees it as the right thing to do.

And that is working for him.

HockeyTown of the South? That’s the perception of most that know of the program.


Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily the views of does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.
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