Giving Thanks On Turkey Day

Thanksgiving Wishes from Coach Bernstein

As another Thanksgiving holiday nears completion, I wanted to take a moment tonight to both extend my warmest holiday wishes to everyone in the Vanderbilt hockey family and also share with you the many things I remain thankful for in 2011. It continues to be my pleasure to coach, manage, and learn from our group, and because this is the season for sharing thoughts of appreciation with those that you respect I thought, “Why not proclaim our good tidings from the social media mountain tops … or at least” So here I sit in front of my computer ready to do exactly that. (Caution: Anything that follows that you find objectionable, whether it be on the basis of grammar, vulgarity, incoherence, or some combination of the three, can be blamed on my present tryptophan-enhanced state of moderate obesity. My mother- and father-in-law did tremendous work in the kitchen today … thanks Mr. and Mrs. B!)

In no particular order, …

I am thankful first and foremost for the players who have come out for the team this season. As you know, participation this year has been unprecedented with nearly 50 players initially showing interest in the program and approximately 40 committing to be a part of the club. Throughout the tryout period and into the heart of our season, you guys have continually demonstrated class and leadership beyond your years. Across the ranks of both the Vandy Black and Commodores squads, I want to thank you for making coaching this team such a pleasure.

I am thankful for the stars, moons, asteroids, comets, suns, blackholes, etc. conspiring and aligning in such a way that we’d have the pleasure of welcoming such a tremendously talented group of sophomore transfers to campus this fall. Eliot, Ben, Kyle, and Brad – it’s been great having you on the team and I look forward to a phenomenal rest of the season with you guys on the ice.

I am thankful for a large crew of sophomores and our resident senior citizen MBA getting wise to the virtues of Vanderbilt hockey and deciding to come out for the team after sitting out last year. Joey, Teddy, Connor, Jim, Mike, Henry, and Mr. Weekes – smart move boys, life is always better with a little hockey sprinkled in. I know I speak for the rest of the club when I say the experience is better for everyone with you guys in the mix.

I am thankful for the delightful musings of Mr. Cory Reno, (soon-to-be) Esq. Nothing more to say, the man is an inspiration.

I am thankful for the contributions of our parents, including (but by no means limited to) Mr. and Mrs. Oliver for supporting the team in a number of ways including a special surprise that they have in store for next semester, Mr. Kaminsky for taking part in said stealth undertaking, Mr. and Mrs. McCallum for covering the cost of the charter bus to Arkansas in two weeks, Mr. McCann for designing and printing helmet decals for our players, and the many others who have found ways to support what I call our “little boot-strapped start-up on ice.” You are the angel investors making this tremendous experience possible (keyword: angel) and words cannot express how much the boys and I appreciate your support.

I am thankful for Brenden Oliver’s generosity in not only committing so much time and effort to the team as a captain and the club’s president, but also for offering me tickets to the Country Music Awards as a thank-you-for-coaching gift, tickets which I in turn gave to my wife and her friend Katie. As many know, “Mrs. Coach” is the one who makes the real sacrifices on behalf of the club (e.g., Honey, would you object to my floating money on behalf of the team to cover the cost of the charter bus to South Carolina?; Beautiful wonderful darling soulmate, would you be so kind as to give me a pass on going to ____________‘s engagement party so I can go to Atlanta with the boys? It’s a critical weekend for us, we’ve got UGA and Florida …”) so your contribution was both appreciated and strategic. Nice work.

I am thankful for seniors Matt Kaminsky, Tom Trepanier, Brenden Oliver, and Jack McCallum who have shepherded the VU hockey flock through a terrific fall 2011. Gentlemen, you have stuck with a program that has always had a powerful spirit but perhaps not always the strength in organization. Now that we have the infrastructure in place to keep the club on the tracks and chugging along in a positive direction, it makes me incredibly proud to see you working to help the younger guys raise the bar for years to follow. I look forward to making the rest of the journey even more exciting for you four in particular.

I am thankful for Coach Gatlin’s brilliant directorial efforts filming, editing, and producing videos for our home weekend games versus Memphis and Georgia State. Ben, talk about efficiency in planning, you were smart enough to pick the two weekends where the boys scored 39 goals in 4 games, thereby yielding a season’s worth of highlights in less than 6 cumulative hours of shooting. You’ve heard this many, many times already but it needs to be said again: tremendous work, I know the players and their families appreciate your working to archive such enjoyable moments and memories.

I am thankful for Coach Ware’s efforts to make our game days feel more like game events. Rusty has set up the operating system for an outstanding fan experience, complete with welcome announcements, starting line-ups, music, and goal reports throughout the game. He has also brought on an intern, current Middle Tennessee State student Shane Clore who we’re thrilled to have aboard, to help raise the bar even further. Rusty, particularly for your BCP (Business Continuity Planning), the team and I cannot thank you enough for your efforts.

I am thankful for Coach Holston deciding to move to Nashville to both (1) work for our company edo Interactive and (2) coach hockey at Vanderbilt … and because of those decisions catching a bit of flack for each. On the work front, he has been subjected to being called “Holstein” on account of our working together so closely day-in and day-out (i.e., when we’re not white-boarding UI designs for the development of new and innovative marketing technology products we’re white-boarding drills and systems for the development of new and innovative hockey strategies). Couple that with the heat he felt upon leaving his official positions with the University of Alabama Frozen Tide program and we should all take a moment to thank Jonathan for the sacrifices he’s made to be a part of our club.

And finally, I am thankful for being a part of a team experience that far surpasses the many I’ve enjoyed in my life. Stacked up against pee wee in-house leagues and high school varsity teams, consulting engagements and technology start-ups, Vanderbilt hockey sets the bar amongst all of them for three simple reasons: (1) We have outstanding people across the club; (2) as a team, we know who we are, we know what we want out of the experience, and we know how to meet and exceed our expectations for having fun and competing at a high level; and finally (3) we “go big” wherever, whenever, and however possible.

I’ll conclude with a word about this third item and, in doing so, transition from feelings of appreciation to those of anticipation. To players, parents, fans, coaches, staff, administrators, and citizens of Nashvegas – I thank you all for your efforts to help us go big in 2011. We certainly did achieve “bigness” over the last 11 months when you consider all that we’ve enjoyed: the I-40 Face-Off, an awards ceremony, Senior Night (starring Anderson Funk), feature film documentaries, founding a second team for the club … the list goes on. That said, we cannot and will not rest on our laurels folks, not when there is hockey to be played, genos to be scored, championships to be won, and incredible hockey excitement to relish next semester and beyond. I thank you for your continued commitment to the organization and, on behalf of the boys in Black and Gold, wish you and your families a very happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: Follow @pucksandpixels on Twitter (, the author of the awesome “Hockey Turkey” image featured above. They have some awesome t-shirts and apparel which you can check out here!

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