Coach Tony Polito leads Riverains M15-AA to victory with a formula for success

Hockey Laval adolescent boys’ team clinches 2023-2024 LHLL series championship

The Ligue Hockey Laurentides-Lanaudière’s 2023-2024 season has been a fruitful one for Hockey Laval Riverains M15-AA coach Tony Polito, as well as for the young players he oversees, and everyone else who provides support.

Coach Tony provides some rinkside tips on strategy to his team’s 15-year-old players. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

To speak only of this season, when the team clinched the 2023-2024 championship in their division, would be to overlook the fact that the last few years have been extraordinary under coach Tony’s leadership, as well as with his brother Manny’s contributions in the past year.

Laval Riverains M15-AA assistant coach David Mollica, left, is seen here with head coach Tony Polito with the Ligue Hockey Laurentides-Lanaudière banner the team recently won after finishing first in their division. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

Action and results

It’s been eight years since Tony Polito joined Hockey Laval as a coach. In the last three years alone, the Riverains M15-AA team of promising 15-year-old players has succeeded in clinching as many as six championships.

In keeping with his action-based and results-oriented formula for bringing out the best in players, Tony is a man of relatively few words while describing how he feels about the team’s latest success.

“It’s humbling, I guess you could say,” he said in an interview with The Laval News late last week just before the team stepped out onto the ice for a practice at the Hartland Monahan Arena in Laval-Ouest. For the last two seasons in a row, the team finished first in the league, making it all the way this year as champions in the playoffs.

‘All for the kids’

A former junior hockey player, coach Tony Polito jumps into the action on the ice during a practice at the Hartland Monahan Arena. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

But at the end of the day, says Tony, everything that takes place in junior-level hockey is volunteer-based. “It’s all for the kids,” he adds, while noting that the big payoff is the deep satisfaction that he and other supporters feel after guiding the players through successive winning seasons.

“I do it for the kids. I do it for the smiles on their faces. It’s all for them.”

With the LHLL season over, the Hockey Laval Riverains M15-AA players are now playing in regionals. Whoever prevails in the best-of-five series will go onto provincials to represent Laval against junior hockey teams from all over Quebec. The prize at the end of it all is the Chevrolet Cup.

All signs point to success

Coach Tony confers with team support personnel during a practice held at the Hartland Monahan Arena in Laval-Ouest last week. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

Tony describes the guys on his team as having been especially “pumped” for winning over the past season, while “handling pressure very nicely and they’re ready for it this year,” which bodes well for more success on the ice.

Laval Riverains M15-AA coach Tony Polito has led the team to multiple tournament victories and championships over the past few years, much to the delight of the players and their parents. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

“This year it was a special group,” he said. “Their dedication, their will to just be better. They come to the arena and it’s just a joy to be with them each time. And I enjoy every second of it. I’m just enjoying the time spent with these kids, which feels really good.”

A collective effort

The players’ parents also get top marks from coach Tony. “They’re a very close group, very supporting,” he said.

“They support us and make sure to be behind us every step of the way. You know, it takes a village. We’re all very grateful for what they do for us.”

With the success of the Riverains under his belt, Tony acknowledges that he recently caught the attention of the Montreal Knights Hockey Academy, for whom he has agreed to coach a U16 “travel” team.

“I got approached with a different opportunity,” he said, while adding, “that’s what I’m going to be doing next year.”