Freddy Meyer never thought he would play in the National Hockey League.
A kid from small-town New Hampshire, even college seemed like a stretch.
Undrafted and undersized, the odds were never in his favor on his climb to the professional ranks. But after overcoming injuries and making the most of every opportunity along the way, he did just that to the tune of seven years and 281 games.
Today, Meyer, who has since moved into coaching after an abrupt end to his pro career, is in his first year as head coach at the Rivers School, a prep school in Weston, Mass.
Now 39, Meyer joined the latest session of The Rinks Shrinks podcast, alongside co-hosts Brian Yandle and Mike Mottau, to discuss his NHL career, the positives of prep school, as well as several other helpful topics for up-and-comers in the game.
Born in Sanbornville, N.H., Meyer didn’t take the traditional high school route. Instead, after playing youth hockey in Rochester and Canaan, N.H., he was added to the U.S. NTDP’s first-ever class in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
From there, it was on to Boston University for four years under the legendary Jack Parker, before several seasons in the American Hockey League, and then the NHL.
Even after playing for the U.S. team, he didn’t get drafted. But he forged on.
Then, after making an NHL roster, he broke his leg in training camp, but even that didn’t stop him. When he returned to the ice, he finally got the chance he’d been waiting for. At last, the hard work and years of grinding finally began to pay off.
The biggest thing, he said, was taking advantage of his opportunities when they arose, and acting like he belonged there, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
“Just chipping away and working,” Meyer told the Rinks Shrinks. “Playing (in the NHL) was like, I don’t want to say a fantasy or a video game, but it almost felt that way to me. Obviously, you respected it and loved it, but it was like you’re always on eggshells a little bit.”
Eight years after his final concussion, while playing in Sweden, sidelined him for the rest of his career, Meyer is using that hockey knowledge from his rise, and fall, to teach a future generation of gritty youngsters what it takes to reach their goals.
“When you get opportunities in life, what do you do with them?” he said. “I think for kids it’s just to take it and go. Who knows what’s going to happen? Make the most of it, pretend you know what you’re doing. Like, how do you get into an NHL game? Put a suit on, sneak in the back door, look like you know what you’re doing.”
Although he has yet to coach an official game at the prep level due to the coronavirus having a severe impact on the New England winter sports season, Meyer touched on the positives of the prep environment, and why he’s enjoyed his stay thus far.
“On campus since September, it’s been great, the sense of community,” he said.
“Obviously, I love being on the ice, I love being at the rink, but it’s great working with non-hockey players, both athletes and educators, just to see the specialness of a place like Rivers or any local prep school where the sense of community is so strong. It’s been it’s been a great experience and I’m happy I made the transition.”
As a new prep coach, and by association a new recruiter, Meyer offered some advice to younger players looking to break into the next level of competition.
“It’s great to be proactive,” he said. “I think, sending a simple email to a coach to express your interest in their program, just to touch base and introduce yourself.
“Brian and I could probably tell a few stories and some crazy emails we get … but a simple email introducing who you are, where you’re from and where you’re currently playing, you know, (how) you’re excited about having an opportunity, you’re exploring all options, and I think you kind of put the ball back in the coaches’ court in terms of what he wants to do with that.”
“The example I would always give is … just imagine a college scout walking into Marlboro where there’s eight rinks, there’s a game going on in every rink, so there’s 16 teams, and he walks in and on the front table is the rosters for every team. How the heck is he going to find you or how is he going to find you on rink six, which is buried behind rink one. Like, he’s not. He’s not going there. But if you reached out to him and explained who you are, you’re interested in his program, he might walk in with your name already circled and at least come watch you play a few shifts.”
Just like himself growing up, Meyer knows that every player has a different arc, a different trajectory, to how they reach their highest potential in terms of the game.
“Are coaches recruiting? For sure they are,” Meyer said. “But there might be kids that might be under the radar that they just don’t track that are interested in the prep environment. Maybe you’re playing Winchester PeeWee A’s and you’re doing great — you’re not playing on a super duper elite team but you’re interested in prep and you end up being a great player. Everyone kind of hits their track at a different time, and expressing an interest and reaching in is only going to help your cause.”
For more from Meyer, as well as many other interviews with The Rink Shrinks featuring co-hosts Brian Yandle and Mike Mottau, find the podcast through a variety of streaming platforms, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn, or online at hockeyjournal.com/podcast.
The Rink Shrinks is sponsored by Landmark Public House.