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Raising the Barr of Academy Hockey

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, April 7, 2008

COHOES - The Albany Academy hockey program needs a shot in the arm.

Ben Barr will give it that and more.

The Albany prep school extended open arms to the former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute captain on Sunday with a welcome lunch at the Cohoes Ukrainian American Citizens Club.

Current Academy head coach Dave Rider said Barr's "character, work ethic, leadership and prep school background will help lead us back to prominence."

"The program will be his at some point," said Rider, who plans to retire again in a year or two.

After coaching the Cadets for 24 years, Rider, an Academy alumnus, retired in 2002 but returned two years ago.

"I had some concerns about where some people wanted to take the program," he said, trying to be diplomatic. "There were some names being mentioned to take over the program whom I weren't real comfortable, so I came back."

When it was mentioned a position of Director of Player Development would be added, Rider said, "someone mentioned we should talk to RPI (graduate) assistant coach Ben Barr."

"It didn't take long to realize we'd found our guy," Rider added.

Roman Rakoczy, father of current Academy star Matt Rakoczy, said Barr "is a great fit for Academy."

"He's a leader, a go-getter and he's all business," Rakoczy said. "He'll handle the academic part, and the hockey end."

Rakoczy said that hockey literally "saved" Barr's alma mater, the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary's prep school in Faribault, Minn., one of the nation's oldest and most academically demanding prep schools which draws students from 22 countries.

Barr explained.

"It was going under (financially)," Barr said. "The enrollment was way down. Then they brought in guys like (former Minnesota North Stars standouts) J.P. Parise and Lou Nanne to help out."

The group of Twin Cities greats helped bring in some top teenage hockey players and the storied school was saved.

Though the situation at Albany isn't quite as desperate, Barr and the sport will be called upon to improve the hockey program, and thus, improve the school's overall curriculum.

Unlike most of the schools on its schedule, the Academy hockey program has no feeder system. Barr's duty wil be to change that.

"We need to get better," Barr said, "and we need to have more teams. Right now, we don't even have a JV team."

Barr would like to add teams at the various youth levels and not coincidentally, several parents of local seventh-grade hockey prospects were in attendance on Sunday.

"We've got to attract the quality local players and do so early," Barr said. "We have to have more teams for that purpose."