As he takes over the hockey program at Mt. Carmel, Tom Mayhan knows the challenges ahead of him.
The 1995 alumnus knows the Caravan has fallen on rough times in recent seasons, especially in the Chicago Catholic Hockey League (CCHL).
For Mayhan, his top priority is straightforward; he wants to bring Mt. Carmel back to its glory days.
“It means a lot for me to coach back at Mt. Carmel,” Mayhan said. “We need to rekindle that success. We need to get the program out of the cellar and bring the glory back to Mt. Carmel hockey.”
Mayhan takes over after Brian Black coached the Caravan for the last 3 seasons.
A young Mt. Carmel squad qualified for the CCHL Kennedy Cup playoffs this season for the first time since the 2014-2015 season. The Caravan lost to top-seed Providence Catholic in the first round.
With some solid underclassmen expected back next year, Mayhan hopes the program can take another step forward in the fall.
“We’ll be a young team that’s full of energy,” Mayhan said. “We’ll have to score some points the old-fashioned way. We’ll be a hard-hat and lunch-pail sort of team. We don’t have any Kaners [Patrick Kane] on the team, so we need to all row the boat together.”
As a player, Mayhan helped the Caravan to the 1993 Kennedy Cup title. He was also on the 1994 and 1995 Kennedy Cup finalist teams.
He will be joined on the bench by Assistant Coach Jim Jolivette, a Marist alumnus, and Assistant Coach Tom Finnigan, a Fenwick alumnus along with Assistant Coach Craig Ferguson.
A legendary coach, Ferguson, a 1979 Mt. Carmel grad, won two state titles while coaching at St. Rita. He also led the Caravan to four Kennedy Cup titles.
First up for Mayhan is getting the word out.
“Recruiting is where my main focus is,” Mayhan said. “I’ll be hitting rinks all over the state and work to fill out our roster. Our junior class is so vital. All these kids, we want to bring back the program’s relevancy. We want to put our pride on the line and have that good pressure to perform.”
Mt. Carmel has won 20 Kennedy Cup championships since 1964, but the program has not won it since 2000.
With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting coach’s ability to talk and work with his team, Mayhan made the best of the unusual circumstances.
“We did a full team zoom. It was with 30 high school boys, so it was a little loud,” Mayhan said with a laugh. “We talk to the boys about the rebound and rebuild starts now. We want them to be able to look back and say, ‘Hey, we did this. We started this run.’”
Junior forward Samnang Smith, sophomore forward George Keeley, sophomore defender Nicholas Anderson and freshman goalie Matt DiFilippo are some of the key players expected back for the Caravan.
A big building block for Mayhan comes in a venue shift for the team’s home ice. Instead of playing its home games at Homewood-Flossmoor Ice Arena, Mt. Carmel will play at the Morgan Park Sports Center.
“We want fans in the seat, not just families,” Mayhan said. “Playing local this, it’s huge for the kids. Dozens of our kids can walk to the center. It’s a done deal. One of our first priorities is to fill those seats.”