Former St. Lawrence University standout Kyle Flanagan likely isn’t far from the hearts of the school’s hockey fans.
A dynamic playmaker during his career with the Saints and a Canton native, Flanagan has continued the family tradition in hockey in his playing days and beyond.
With SLU, Flanagan garnered All-American status and was a Hobey Baker Award finalist in his senior season of 2012-13. He was later selected to the Saints’ all-decade team.
After four years at SLU, the center went on to play portions of six seasons in the pro ranks, including a combined five campaigns in the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators organizations, and in between, played professionally in Sweden.
Following three seasons in the Ottawa system, Flanagan ended his playing days in 2018, but was hired later that year as scout with the Senators.
Flanagan has remained with Ottawa since, serving as an amateur scout for the team, covering mostly Ontario and other parts of Canada on occasion.
“They treated me very well as a player and kept me on afterward and I kind of built the connections,” Flanagan said. “When you’ve been with an organization for three years, you get to know everybody, I was very fortunate, to give me this opportunity to continue scouting and stay in the game.
Now 31 and back living in his hometown, he uses Canton as a home base for his scouting journeys, some of which include checking out college hockey games.
“I’m amateur scout for Ontario and I help with Quebec,” Flanagan said. “Where Canton is located, it’s easy to get up to Montreal and Quebec, and Ontario. I scout prep school, Junior A and the OHL ... if needed I can help at the college level, which is fun.
“There was a lot more to it than I ever anticipated or gave credit for,” he added.
Fittingly, Flanagan lives across the street from the SLU campus, nearly in sight of venerable Appleton Arena, which completed its renovation last season.
“It’s beautiful, they did such a great job,” Flanagan said. “They didn’t cut any corners. When they finally got it completed, I got a quick walk through during practice when they finally got in there.
“It’s all open and they kept the traditional seating and everything, it’s just an improved Appleton — it’s awesome.”
HOCKEY ROOTS RUN DEEP
Attending SLU was a natural fit for Flanagan as during his freshman and sophomore seasons, he played with his brother, Sean, with the Saints, and their uncle, Paul, also played for the school.
“I think it’s just you’re around it so much, I never got pushed toward hockey,” Kyle Flanagan said of his passion for hockey, which he acquired as just a youngster. “It was kind of something that you picked up a stick because there were sticks all over the place.”
Paul, a team captain at SLU in his final season in 1979-80, went on to serve as an assistant coach under Joe Marsh for 11 seasons before taking over as the Saints’ women’s hockey coach in 1999.
He coached the SLU women for nine seasons, leading the Saints to five Frozen Four appearances.
In 2008, he moved to Syracuse University and helped launch the women’s hockey program, and still remains.
He also went on to become just the seventh coach in women’s college hockey history to reach the 400-win plateau.
Sean, who went on to serve as an assistant coach at Hobart, spent a season as director of hockey operations at UMass-Lowell, then went on to Cornell, where he’s been an assistant coach under Mike Schaefer the past four seasons.
“I’m learning a lot with what I’m doing and where I’m at, and I talk to my brother often, I lean on him for advice,” Kyle Flanagan said. “There’s so many people I can reach out to. Hockey’s a small world and there’s a lot of great people in it.”
START WITH THE SAINTS
Kyle Flanagan arrived at SLU as a player in 2009 after he was recruited by Marsh.
“Obviously to me it’s a special place because I grew up here and idolized those guys as a kid,” Flanagan said. “As a kid I pretended I was certain guys in my driveway and then to be able to play here was just a dream come true.”
He competed all four collegiate seasons with the Saints, playing early on with future NHL player Aaron Bogosian as well as Mike McKenzie, son of NHL analyst Bob McKenzie.
“Absolutely, and I lot of the guys I helped by carrying on was because of guys like Aaron Bogosian and Jared Keller, the senior class when I was freshman, that leadership was instilled by guys like them and (then-coach) Joe Marsh,” Flanagan said. “And I think a lot of that is still kicking around, I’d like to think despite of the records. But we were proud because we thought we left it in better hands than we found it.”
LEAVING HIS MARK
Flanagan served as team captain for the Saints in his junior and senior campaigns.
He generated career highs in scoring in each season, topped by a senior season when he tallied 47 points in 35 games, including 15 goals and 32 assists.
In his SLU career, Flanagan totaled 147 points in 134 games, including 46 goals and 101 assists.
In the 2011-12 season, he became the first Saints’ junior since TJ Trevelyan to reach the 100-point plateau with an assist in the final game of the season.
Flanagan was at the heart of a high-flying Saints team that included high-scoring winger Greg Carey, who was a junior during Flanagan’s senior season, as well as fellow senior George Hughes, a skilled defenseman.
“To play with Greg and George, they were tremendous players and great people,” Flanagan said. “That’s what we had. It was exciting.”
Hughes helped anchor a lethal SLU power play, with Flanagan and Carey up front.
“George, Greg and I — we had a great power play, the three of us,” Flanagan said. “And then there was Justin Baker and Jeremy Wick, the five of us were on the power play all year. ... It was a lot of fun.”
After winning 14 games in Flanagan’s junior season, the Saints went 18-16-4 in 2012-13 when he was a senior and finished fifth in ECAC Hockey’s regular-season.
“We had a good system, we had structure along with creativity,” Flanagan said. “And especially when Greg Carvel took over, he came from the NHL and he had those systems in place — he really taught us a lot. And Joe is just a tremendous coach and motivator. I think Joe would also admit that Carvy, just the way he thinks and gets everyone on the same page. I just really haven’t seen it since — and I’ve played for some great coaches.”
Following a sweep of Colgate in a first-round series at Appleton Arena, SLU was swept by eventual national champion Yale, in a conference quarterfinal series in New Haven, Conn.
“But with those teams, it was too bad, especially my senior year,” Flanagan said. “George and I were in the same class and Greg was a year younger and we really had it clicking. But Yale ended up winning the national championship that year and we lost to them in the playoffs.
“And we really had something going there, we just didn’t have depth scoring, so it was disappointing.”
PROGRAM IN TRANSITION
Early in Flanagan’s junior season, Marsh stepped down as head coach after he revealed he had cancer.
After Carvel and Mike Hurlbut coached the Saints that campaign, Carvel was named SLU’s head coach in 2013.
Carvel would direct SLU for four seasons as head coach, starting in Flanagan’s senior year, guiding the team to the ECAC Hockey semifinals for two consecutive seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
“If you looked two years later, in Gunnar Hughes’ senior year, they went all the way to Lake Placid,” Flanagan said. “And they didn’t have the big scorers, like Greg and I had a lot of points and George did. But they were just a great team, they had it going and we were proud of those guys because they went that far, because they were freshman and sophomores during our senior year.”
“To see them grow and really make that push with Carvel there, it was special,” Flanagan said.
Carvel left SLU in 2016, taking over as head coach at the University of Massachusetts, leading the Minutemen to the Frozen Four and the national title game in 2019.
NO ORDINARY JOE
Like most former Saints players and coaches, Flanagan has plenty of memories of Marsh, who recruited him, and won 482 games in nearly three decades at the helm of the SLU program, guiding it to five ECAC Hockey tournament titles and eight NCAA Tournament appearances.
“The ones that stand out, aren’t newspaper material, I guess,” Flanagan recalled of Marsh. “There’s just so funny, anytime you’re around him, like if you’re walking into a cafe, he’ll be holding court. People just gravitate toward him because he has that energy and is a very smart person, and in hockey, he’s very knowledgeable and he has quite the humor.
“He has that charisma and he’s a motivator, he found a way to get more out of us then we thought we had. He’s just a fantastic person.”
One memory of Marsh does stand out. In November 2011 in SLU’s ECAC Hockey season opener, the Saints’ first without Marsh as head coach as he was then battling cancer.
“It was the year Carvy took over and we had a little ceremony and he came down and gave us a pregame speech,” Flanagan said. “And we ended up getting a delay-of-game penalty because Joe didn’t stop talking. Like Carvy didn’t want to interrupt him and finally one of the officials came in and said ‘You got to get out there.’
“I think we were playing Union and they were out on the line ready for the national anthem and we had to start the game a man down because Joe just kept talking.”
FLYERS COME CALLING
Flanagan didn’t have much time to process the disappointing loss to Yale in the playoffs as he was quickly signed by the Flyers to a tryout contract.
He remained in the north country, driving across the mountains to Glens Falls and played 13 games with the Adirondack Phantoms, the Flyers’ top affiliate at the time.
After taking part in Flyers’ training camp in 2013, Flanagan returned to play for Adirondack that season, logging 63 games while recording 22 points, including six goals, for the Phantoms.
“I never ended up making the NHL, but I had a good career and I just had a lot of good people in my corner to help me along the way,” Flanagan said. “Hockey led me to continue to stay in the game.”
OFF TO SWEDEN
After his second season with Adirondack, Flanagan moved on to play pro in Sweden.
He played for the MODO Hockey team in northern Sweden and appeared in 42 games, totaling 15 points, including 11 assists.
Unfortunately for Flanagan, he didn’t play in a full season after he suffered a concussion.
“I really enjoyed it, I love the culture over there,” he said. “It’s just a great experience. Hockey-wise was OK, I got hurt another concussion. ... It just didn’t work out to stay over there again. But everything happens for a reason, I came back and played here for three years and I got this job. So I think it all worked out in the end.”
Flanagan enjoyed his time in Scandinavia as the team played in the small town of Örnsköldsvik, which he found similar to his hometown in its passion for the game.
“We were pretty far north, about six hours north of Stockholm,” Flanagan said. “It was a small little town, but it was a hockey town. The whole town (came) to the games. And everyone was just very active, always riding bikes, running, skiing, cross-country skiing, I really enjoyed it over there.”
RETURN TO NORTH AMERICA
Flanagan, listed at 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, returned from Europe after the completion of his team’s Swedish Hockey League season and signed a contract with the Senators in 2015 and has been with the organization since.
He spent most of the 2015-16 season with the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton and returned to play in Glens Falls for 12 games for Ottawa’s ECHL affiliate at the time, the Adirondack Thunder.
“I got to play with Gunnar Hughes after his senior year at St. Lawrence, so that was fun,” he recalled.
In the next season, Flanagan played 68 games for the Binghamton Senators — his most in a season in the pro ranks, compiling a career season-highs in both goals (nine) and points (29).
Ottawa then relocated its AHL affiliate to Belleville, Ontario, for the 2017-18 season, which would prove to be the last for Flanagan as a player.
He played in only 17 games for Belleville and ended his pro career after suffering yet another concussion.
“I had two big ones as a pro, the one in Sweden and the one three years ago,” he said. “It got to the point where I was having everyday issues, it was affecting my day-to-day life. It really scared me a little bit, so with everything we know now, we still don’t know enough about them, the recovery and the long-term effects.
“The year in Belleville, I had another concussion I think in the second game of the season and I was out until after Christmas. ... That’s how my career ended, with another concussion, it wasn’t worth playing any more.”
STAYING WITH SENATORS
But the Senators didn’t give up on Flanagan as they encouraged him to look into scouting for the team.
“Ottawa’s great in terms keeping me busy, I had helped the team with the conditioning of the players when they were on the road and at the end of the year, the head coach got me in touch with their head scout, my current boss,” Flanagan said. “And I said ‘Hey, the scouting thing would be something up my alley.’ So I went on a few trips and I really enjoyed it and I went with a former coach of mine in Binghamton, Steve Stirling, I went with him to (an NCAA) regional and I really enjoyed it, I learned a lot and I was very fortunate to get the job.”
Then in the late summer of 2018, Flanagan was offered a job by Ottawa and he began an amateur scout for the organization.
“I reached out to them and they had a spot for me,” Flanagan recalled. “And two years later, I’m scouting and really enjoying it. That’s what I’m doing now, I thought I’d be potentially coaching, with my uncle and my brother, I reach out to them as often as I can and I’ve learned as much from them as I have from anyone else over the past couple years.”
Flanagan is still finding his way as a pro scout, but has already learned much during the process.
“It’s very rewarding, but I haven’t been in it long enough to really find it rewarding in terms of drafting a player and seeing him make the NHL, it takes a few years,” he said. “But the learning side of it happens very quickly, I’ve been in hockey a long time and played at high levels, and you think you know hockey, I knew hockey as a player, but the scouting side is all about projection. What is the kid really going to turn into five years from now, 10 years from now.”
Flanagan is also enjoying his time on the road as a scout, although with the Senators out of playoff contention and with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, his duties haven’t been as hectic of late during the summer months.
“I see him (former Clarkson assistant coach) Greg Dreschel on the road, I see a lot of people on the road,” Flanagan said. “It’s a lot of time in the car, but the offseason is nice ... And obviously right now it’s an unusual summer, where we’re still working here and there on Zoom and watching video, because the draft isn’t until October now. So we have a little more time to prepare and look back on things.”
SUMMERTIME IN THE NORTH COUNTRY
During his time at SLU, Flanagan spent some of his summers working landscaping jobs and enjoying the outdoor activities that the north country has to offer, a pastime he still enjoys.
“I still love to fish and I played 18 holes of golf this morning,” Flanagan said. “And me and my girlfriend also take the kayak out. We also have a family camp up at Cranberry Lake, so there’s all kinds of trails and a lot of fishing up there, it’s a great spot.”