Science teacher Jon Rice, now a few weeks into his tenure as head coach of the varsity hockey team, said he has settled into the role and has seen great dedication from the team in offseason workouts.
Rice was selected as the successor to Mike Bartley in late September.
“I’ve been impressed so far with the turnout. This season’s captains’ skates have had a great turnout in comparison to other years. The guys are great and they are committed,” Rice said.
Asked about the transition from his role as an assistant to head coach, Rice said that while the title may be different, the mindset is the same. “I’ll have different responsibilities now that I’m head coach. I’m the same person, though, and the players are the same, and the goals are the same,” Rice said.
Rice is not overwhelmed by his new role. He is excited at the opportunity to replace Bartley, whom he believes has been central to the team’s success.
“It is hard to picture Shaker Heights hockey without Coach Bartley on the bench. There are very few hockey players in Shaker who have not been on ice learning the game from him either at one of his hockey clinics, on the Mighty Mites team or on the high school team,” Rice said in a Oct. 3 interview. “We won’t have Coach Bartley this year, but we will have Shaker Raider hockey.”
For the first time in 37 years, Bartley and his trademark red blazer, a staple in Thornton Park since 1976, will be absent from the bench with the coach’s retirement from hockey.
Bartley leaves the program with an all-time record of 640-346-36. The former coach holds four state titles and is the winningest high school hockey coach in Ohio history.
Bartley thinks Rice is a great choice. “Coach Rice has been a dedicated student of the game during his tenure as an assistant coach and is more than ready to become a head coach. As an educator he has the philosophy necessary to have a positive impact on the athletes and he will be an excellent role model. I am very pleased that the team will be in good hands,” Bartley said.
For hockey players, the absence of Bartley may feel strange, they believe that the coaching change won’t change the team’s systems, attitude or goals.
Senior Emmett Sweeney believes the transition from Bartley to Rice will be smooth. “Since he’s been in the program a while, it’s unlikely that we’ll have to change our systems and plays. That makes it a lot easier because I’ve been running those systems for three years. Coach Rice knows what he’s doing,” Sweeney said.
Senior Ryan LaMonica is pleased and relieved that a member of the Shaker program was chosen.
“I’m very happy with Don [Readance]’s choice to stick with a coach already in the program . . . He’s very aware of the routine Bartley ran last year, and I would much rather stick with what we know works than get a new coach who uses a completely different style,” LaMonica said.
In terms of success this winter, Sweeney believes there will be little change from 2012. “With our schedule and the group of guys we have, I’m expecting a very successful season,” Sweeney said.
Rice will look to lead a new-look varsity squad that is without the senior class that helped it to win its fourth state championship. The former senior class, including captains John Longman, Jacob Shick and Connor Siwik, is considered to be one of the most talented groups to ever have gone through the Shaker hockey program.
A version of this article appeared in print Oct. 29, 2013 on page 21 of The Shakerite.