By Dave Ruden
NEW CANAAN — Few people put more value in tradition and leadership than Bo Hickey, the venerable coach of the New Canaan High School boys hockey team.
So when Hickey named Harry Stanton as a captain last season, it was rippling news.
Stanton was a junior, and juniors rarely are afforded such status. Eclipses are more frequent than the instances when Hickey has elevated a non-senior to the position.
“He’s good with the younger kids,” Hickey said. “He’s a calming influence. He brings a lot of intangibles. He gives all he has every shift. He leads by example. He’s all we need to have around.”
It is a year later, and Stanton continues in his roles as captain and the player opponents fear most. Though better known for his work for the New Canaan lacrosse team — he will be playing next year at Wesleyan — his value to the hockey team in unquestionable.
“He has great speed and quickness,” Hickey said. “With Harry, the heart and the body are about the same size. Harry you can use a man up, a man down. He understands the game and where to be. He takes advantage of mistakes. There is a reason he was All-State as a junior. He plays both ends for you. He’s both a good offensive and defensive player, and his biggest quality outside of his skill is he’s a real good teammate.”
The Rams are off to a 2-3 start with a demanding schedule, but are considered a contender to win their third FCIAC title in five years. The 5-7 Stanton is a key, one reason he is constantly shadowed by opposing teams.
“I like being the guy, but sometimes it’s frustrating,” Stanton said. “This year we kind of have high expectations for ourselves. We have a lot of depth. We have to step up still, but I think we can be a very good team.”
Stanton started skating not long after he was able to walk. His father built a rink in the backyard for Stanton and his three older brothers, two of whom played for the Rams. All four were three-sport athletes; in the fall Stanton played for the school’s soccer team.
“I always get the question from other kids’ parents which sport I like better,” Stanton said. “The answer changes season to season.”
Stanton helped lead the Rams to the FCIAC lacrosse championship last season, finishing with 56 goals and 24 assists, then decided to follow the path of his brother Sam, who will be a senior on the Wesleyan team this spring.
“The process started for me with lacrosse after my sophomore year,” Stanton said.
All of which puts greater urgency on Stanton for his final year playing hockey.
“You come and watch the game and you know who he is,” Hickey said. “It’s like anything else. If you watch a football game you don’t need a roster or anything to tell who the best person is. Harry brings that element.”
Stanton said he still recalls when he first learned he was going to be a captain.
“It was announced during the banquet my sophomore year and I was surprised,” Stanton said. “I wanted to make sure the seniors’ voices were heard last year, but I also didn’t back down. Bo said he had only named one or two juniors before. I felt honored.”
Stanton said he is coming to terms with his final hockey season. He is determined to continue to solve defenses bent on containing him.
“You want to be the one they are talking about, the one they are looking at in the film room the night before a game,” Stanton said. “When you see three or four guys coming after you it kind of gets me going. I think we can go pretty far. We are all working very hard.”
Stanton wouldn’t rule out the possibility of trying to play both lacrosse and hockey at Wesleyan.
“I’ve talked to my dad about walking onto the hockey team,” Stanton said. “I’m not sure yet. I’m open-minded because it is hard to give up hockey after all these years.”