Four years ago, Andy Saucier watched the Olympic gold medal men’s ice hockey game in the living room of his Boston apartment. He cheered like a maniac when Zach Parise’s goal in the final minute of the third period tied the game at 2-2 for the United States. He felt the punch to the gut in overtime, when Sidney Crosby scored the gold medal-winning goal for Canada.
“At that time in my life, I was as far removed from hockey as I’d ever been,” Saucier said, a 2004 graduate of Waterville Senior High School, said. “Watching that game, I realized how excited we got when we tied the game, and how horrible it felt when Sid scored on us.”
If in a few weeks, Team USA medals at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Saucier won’t be watching from his couch. He’ll be right there in the arena, as the team’s video coordinator.
It’s the same position Saucier currently holds with the Pittsburgh Penguins. When Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was named Team USA’s head coach, he added Saucier to his staff.
“I wasn’t sure if USA Hockey had a video coordinator already, so when they asked me, I jumped at the chance,” Saucier said from Phoenix, where the Penguins prepared to take on the Coyotes.
As Pittsburgh’s video coordinator, Saucier breaks down film during games, so the coaching staff can look at it between periods. He also takes part in the scouting of future opponents. For instance, in preparation of Saturday night’s game in Phoenix, Saucier broke down the Coyotes last three games. He pinpointed strengths and weaknesses, as well as the Coyotes tendencies.
What are the Coyotes going to do with the puck in each situation? It’s Saucier’s job to watch film and figure it out.
Saucier comes from a hockey family. His grandfather is Jack Kelley, who coached at Colby College and Boston University, leading the Terriers to back-to-back national titles in 1971 and 1972. Saucier’s uncle, Mark Kelley, is director of amateur scouting for the Chicago Blackhawks, and helped the team build two Stanley Cup winners in recent years.
“Hockey’s always been an emphasis. It’s always been something we can talk about,” Saucier said.
Saucier grew up playing hockey in Waterville, and when he enrolled at Boston University, then-men’s hockey coach Jack Parker offered Saucier a job working on the film crew with the Terriers.
“They had some new video software. I didn’t really have any film background,” Saucier said. “It really helped my understanding of the game.”
Saucier graduated in 2008, but stayed with BU another year, and was there when the Terriers won the national championship in 2009. After a year away from hockey, Saucier realized he missed the game. He missed the team atmosphere. In 2010, Saucier got back in the game as video coordinator for Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
In Wilkes-Barre, Saucier was the team’s video coordinator-plus. He organized the team’s travel, and he helped foreign players with the immigration paperwork necessary for them to work in the United States. After two seasons in Wilkes-Barre, Saucier joined the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Then the NHL lockout happened.
“I stayed in Pittsburgh and worked on different projects,” Saucier said.
Saucier’s work with Team USA began months ago. Throughout the selection process, Saucier put together videos on the players considered for the team, highlighting strengths and weakness. Team USA opens the Olympics against Slovakia on Feb. 13. Saucier is already studying Slovakia, Russia and Slovenia, Team USA’s first three opponents. Saucier and the team leave for Sochi on Feb. 9.
“We have so many games, one right after the other,” Saucier said.
Coaches are not awarded Olympic medals, so if Team USA comes home with any hardware, it will just be the players wearing it. That’s fine, Saucier said.
“I’ll be happy just to get a hat or something,” Saucier said.
Win or lose, being a part of the Olympics is an experience Saucier will relish forever. A life of hockey now takes the game’s biggest stage.