Worrell’s Florida team relishes chance to compete at Maine High School Hockey Invitational

PORTLAND – The last light has been turned out on the 2011 sports calendar, but not without the staging of perennial highlight, the 11th Annual Maine High School Hockey Invitational.
Three dozen teams — roughly half of them from Maine — strutted their stuff at area rinks in Portland, Biddeford, and Saco.
And while the local squads took their lumps as they often do –- with defending Class B state champs Thornton Academy losing to Rhode Island champions Coventry, 5-2 –- there was enough hockey on hand to keep all the resident puckheads satisfied.
While eight states and provinces were represented throughout the field, by far the most intriguing unit was Florida’s North Broward Prep.
Intriguing, of course, because we might equate high school hockey in the Sunshine State with bobsledding in Jamaica.
But also because NB’s coach is Peter Worrell, the same Peter Worrell who amassed 1,554 penalty minutes stuffed into a seven-year NHL career, most of it with the Florida Panthers.
“I only fought when I got paid to,” laughed Worrell, a giant at 6-foot-8 and “slightly” more than his 250-pound fighting, er, playing weight.
The paychecks slowed to a trickle after the NHL lockout in 2005, and it was then that Worrell began to search for something to do.
It never entered his mind that coaching might be that something.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “No. And most guys who played with me (didn’t see) me doing that, either. I was not the most patient guy as a player. I was very high octane and I had to be. Whereas in this job, you can’t be. It took a transition to slow myself down.”
Eventually he found his way to the fledgling NB program, and after serving as an assistant for four years, took over as bench boss.
As for bringing his Eagles North for the holidays, Worrell was just doing what any good high school hockey coach would do.
Give his kids the chance to learn.
“We’re a new program in terms of what we’re trying to build,” he said. “We look at the New England model of what a prep school program is, and that’s what we want to be. We know we’re not one of the big schools yet, but that’s who we aspire to be.
“To come into this territory gives us a glimpse for our players to see what it’s like. And for some of our players to be seen by some of those (college and junior) programs that have opportunities. We’re wanting to move players to a higher level, and take steps to be seen everywhere.”
If you missed them at this year’s tourney, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see them next Christmastime.
“It’s a wonderful tournament,” Worrell said. “Hopefully we can spread the word and get a few more Florida teams to come here, and experience (this).”