Vio's Journey

Written by Austin Violette, Mariners Video Coach/Assistant
Intro by Michael Keeley, Media Relations & Broadcast Manager


You may have noticed an unfamiliar face behind the Mariners bench during the final few Mariners game of the 2018-19 season. That face belong to Austin Violette, a homegrown hockey product who turned a career-ending injury into a future as a coach along his journey with the Mariners in their inaugural season. "Vio," as he is known by the players, fellow coaches, and myself, found himself in a rapidly increasing role over the course of the season. What began as cutting video for home games, grew quickly into on ice assisting, and game planning. Suddenly he was riding the bus and flying to Canada with the team. Vio's story is one of perseverance, opportunism, hard work, and most of all: not giving up on a dream. The following are in the words of Vio himself: 

GROWING UP WITH HOCKEY DREAMS

I was born in Portland and raised in Gorham, where I have lived my whole life with my mom, dad, brother and sister. Being the baby in the family, I was dragged to all of my brother’s hockey games while we were growing up. I quickly jumped on the wagon and the next thing I knew, hockey was the center of my life. At the age of 15 I moved away from my home for two seasons to play for the Northern Cyclones (Hudson, NH) 16U and 18U Tier I AAA program. I then returned home to play juniors closer to home in Exeter, NH with Seacoast Spartans Prep. I battled with concussions and head injuries for most of my playing career and a about month into my first junior season I suffered a severe concussion and had to stop playing for good. Hockey has always been what I loved most. I would (and still do) watch every game I could that was on TV at night and then wake up in the morning and watch the highlights of the games I couldn’t watch.

Growing up just outside of Portland, going to Pirates games were my favorite thing to do. I was also playing for the Jr. Pirates for most of my childhood so we had a lot of connection with them too as our rink was also where the Pirates would practice every day. I remember watching them practice and their games all the time and I always wanted to be one of them. Playing in front of all those crazy fans, in the amazing Cumberland County Civic Center was a dream of mine since I went and saw my first game. It’s crazy to think about all of that considering where I am today!

When I stopped playing I quickly got into a job in data analytics and marketing consulting. I quickly learned that I was not made for a desk job sitting in an office behind a computer and that I needed to be in hockey in some way.

It’s every kid dream to grow up and play professional hockey and in the NHL, and my dreams were no different. I wanted to go to college and get my education before going on to make a career in hockey. I felt moving away at 15, even though some may see it as a crazy thing, was the best thing I could have ever done. I am beyond thankful for everything my parents have sacrificed for me to be able to chase my dreams and supporting me with every decision I have made, even to this day. When I got the news that I couldn’t play the game anymore, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen for a while. But I knew that everything happens for a reason. While I was playing, I always considered my hockey sense one of my best attributes and I think that allows the transition into coaching to be a little easier. 

FROM PLAYER TO COACH

I never really considered coaching to be completely honest. I always saw myself as a player for as long as I could and then maybe coaching after that but never planned too far ahead. But life changes and sometimes you have to adjust on the fly. For a year or so after I had to stop playing hockey I was going through a rough time. All these plans and dreams I had for myself and my life came to a sudden end and I had to readjust my life from there on. I had met Riley Armstrong before we started to work together here in Maine. I had skated with him in past summers and was actually going to play for him on a U18 team he was putting together as his first coaching job after retiring from playing pro. Even though I had only met Riley a couple times to this point, I like to think that I had made a good enough impression on him that he knew how lost I must’ve been without hockey and he was quick to reach out to me after he was named Head Coach in Maine. There wasn’t much “recruiting” to be done. He simply asked if I wanted hockey back into my life by being a part time game day only video coach to just cut and mark the games as they were going on. Of course, I said yes and was just going to see where this road would take me, and man, am I happy I jumped on board.


Starting the season, I was brought in as a very part time guy who was going to come in on home game days and help the coaches out by live clipping the games. I then began to come in on days before games to pre-scout our opponent that was coming in and help create our pregame meeting video with Riley. I started to go to road games and road trips and before I knew it, I was going into the rink every day and going everywhere with the team. I started going on the ice for practices and pregame skates. Riley had me get up to the board and draw out and explain some drills to the guys. Bohnsey (assistant coach Anthony Bohn) and I would run morning skates with the defensemen and skate our scratches. Riley, Danny [Briere] and I have talked about next year and how my role is going to be more important. I intend to take care of most things that happen off ice day to day to allow Riley and Bohnsey to focus only on hockey at the rink instead of all other distractions. I think my relationship with Riley, Bohnsey, Danny and all the guys is only going to help me in my second year in this. I feel I have made a good impression in what was my first season (half a year) and now I am going to show them what I am capable of doing.

PART OF THE TEAM

Vio (left) got a chance to be on the bench in the 3rd period
Riley and I room together every road trip so there is really never a dull moment. From him waking me up from a deep sleep on the bus just to ask me if I have any snacks (only to be disappointed when I offer him anything other than candy), to him making me fall asleep with the TV volume all the way up. Nothing but memories on the road. The game days are always the same thing. Up at 7:30, shower, eat and head to the rink, pregame skate at 11, back to the hotel for team lunch, get all of our pregame video clips set up and organized for the guys, hangout/nap, get ready, head to the rink, final touches on video clips for individual guys and our team meeting, and then live clip during the game. In between each period Riley and Bohnsey come in and whatever they want to see, or if I saw something, we look over the specific clips and make adjustments for the next period.

In my first year as a coach, I learned everything. From how to talk to the guys in the room to how to present yourself at the board and tell guys older than me what to do. I think the relationship Riley and I have is what makes this work so smoothly. When I see something happen during the game that I know he'll want to see I mark it and have it ready for him before he even asks for it. Coming into this job a year ago I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be or do in the coaching world. But now being a video coach is a career that I am looking to stick with.


Heading into year two I think everyone on the staff is excited for what is to come. Falling just a few points short of the playoffs last season wasn’t the way we wanted it to end. Heading into year two we are all on the same page: get into the playoffs and make a run for the Kelly Cup. Personally I am also excited to see how much more I can get involved and help make this season more successful than last. Going in, I know I am going to have more responsibilities right off the start and I am excited for the opportunity that I am going to have. There are nothing but great things for the fans to be excited for. I’m excited to get back behind the bench (in the 3rd period) in front of the rocking crown at the Cross Insurance Arena. Lastly I would like to thank Riley and Danny for the opportunity they gave me last season. Coming in and allowing me to make an impact and help bring hockey back in Portland. An opportunity I can never express how thankful for I am. Bring on year two!

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