Winthrop native, Eric Troisi, has been on the ice every day in the winter since he was five-years-old. Hockey is an integral part of his life. Now the 55-year-old grandfather of six lives with his wife, Kim, in Alaska, where he has been sharing his love of the sport with youth throughout Matanuska Valley, a town 45-miles north of Anchorage.
“I’m trying to teach kids life skills,” said Troisi. “If you’re a team worker, and work hard, you will be successful. I love the speed of the game. You have to be smart. As a coach, hockey sense and awareness are some of the hardest to teach.”
Two months ago, Troisi overheard members of his 12 major team — The Valley Thunder — discussing “Miracle,” a 2004 movie about the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team. They did not believe that Troisi knew Mike Eruzione, a U.S. hockey gold medalist in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid.
On February 18, while visiting Massachusetts to compete in the February 19-21 CCM Boston Ocean State MA/RI AA/AAA Tournament, The Valley Thunder family eagerly met Eruzione while practicing at the Lawrence Larsen Rink at the Mike Eruzione Center.
“I think the mindset of a hockey player is you’re a team from day one,” Eruzione affirmed. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. You bond together.”
Eruzione explained how understanding one’s roles and responsibilities on the ice will lead to victory.
“You don’t want to walk off the ice or field knowing you could have played harder,” maintained Eruzione. “Know in your heart that you played as hard as you could. Sometimes the puck bounces the wrong way. Sometimes you make an error in the game. Have fun and work hard.”
Troisi believes that the most rewarding aspect of being a coach is the lifelong hockey relationships he has built during his over 30 years of teaching.
“Everybody involved in hockey is great, like Mike Eruzione,” Troisi exclaimed. “While working with kids and their families, you get to be part of their lives.”
Troisi is thrilled that families have been able to explore Boston while visiting Massachusetts – attending a Celtics game, touring Fenway Park, and walking along the Freedom Trail.
The 1984 Winthrop High School graduate moved to Alaska at 18-years-old after receiving a hockey scholarship to the University of Alaska, where he studied elementary education and business.
“Back then, it was unusual for someone on the East Coast to go that far away to play hockey,” noted the recently retired school teacher, who has been coaching clinics since he graduated from college.
Troisi has traveled to small, remote villages to conduct hockey clinics, flying in planes during white out conditions.
“I love Alaska – the hiking, the fly fishing, flat tire winter biking,” explained Troisi. “You have to get outside; even in the winter in Alaska. One of the greatest things to me about Alaska is the outdoor recreation. I’ve taken a lot of hockey coaches that come up for hockey clinics to fly fish.”
The athlete has cycled through Italy and France; and, four years ago, across the United States in 28 days. Troisi will be participating in the Race Across America on June 18. His four-person team will begin their 3,000-mile journey spanning 12 states in Oceanside, California, and end in Annapolis, Maryland.
“I was 13 when I saw Mike Eruzione win the gold medal, and that really made me want to become a hockey player,” revealed Troisi, who was delighted to return to the rink of his hometown, where his family still resides. “It feels great. Everything is better when you’re retired.”