Goal of Dot-based company: affordable hockey for all

Sharon Ng, Special to the Reporter
Jun. 7, 2012

ProEvolution Hockey: Dorchester's Dylan McDonough, 8, takes the ice. ProEvolution Hockey: Dorchester's Dylan McDonough, 8, takes the ice. A youth hockey development program with deep Dorchester roots has launched this spring with the goal of making affordable instruction available to more local families.

ProEvolution Hockey was rolled out two weeks ago by a trio of Dot men who share a passion for hockey and teaching kids.

“We want to develop young people into better, more well-rounded people,” said President and CEO Michael Roberts. “Our focus is on development and individualization, catering to our students’ unique needs.”

Working with boys and girls between 5 and 18 years old with a range of skills, the Ashmont Hill resident wants to give back to the community through affordable hockey.

With two locations, one at the Jr. Terriers Ice Center in Canton and the other at the Mark Bavis Arena in Rockland, ProEvolution Hockey is reaching out to blue-collar families, including those who may have passed on the sport before for cost or convenience sake.

In his research of comparable programs, Roberts found that there were limited affordable hockey alternatives for kids. He also noticed that hockey became less about the sport and more about writing checks. Roberts then took nearly eight months to develop a concept that became what it is today.

“I looked at what other hockey programs are charging, and I found that few were affordable for families,” Roberts said. “We wanted to make hockey affordable. In 2012, we are charging what people were paying in 1980. We were determined to bring back affordable hockey for families without sacrificing quality.”

By “we,” he is referring to a team of people who go way back. Handling the business planning and marketing is Brendan McDonough, a Savin Hill resident who has been best friends with Roberts for 25 years. Along with his wife, Luisa, McDonough focuses on business and program development.

“The creation and implementation of ProEvolution was a total team concept,” said McDonough, a hockey parent who is best known locally as the founder of Project DEEP, the popular after-school program based at the Leahy-Holloran Center in Neponset. “Oddly enough, all of the architects have deep Dorchester roots, which probably fueled a strong desire to make best-in-class hockey training affordable to working class families.”

The community seems to be responding positively to ProEvolution. Two hundred kids have already signed up for membership, reports Roberts, who played professional hockey for three years after graduating from Northeastern University in 1991.

“Parents pay one up-front fee, and that brings many membership benefits,” Roberts explained. “Kids have access to many programs such as camps, week-long clinics in the summer, skill sessions, practices, seminars, videography, and nutrition and fitness education. They also work with staff members who were part of Division I hockey teams, college coaches and NHL players.”

McDonough is excited about the turn out.

“We have already experienced a spike in our weekly hockey skills programs and summer program registrations,” said the 43-year-old father of four. “Families are really taking advantage of the free hockey skills sessions and the ability to lock in free skills for the whole family for the entire year. Importantly, we are excited to see that the majority of our current members of families with two, three, four, even eight kids!”

Roberts decided to cap off at 250 sign-ups to keep the coach-to-student ratio low (ideally, one coach for every 10 students). Until he figures out how many kids ProEvolution can handle, he doesn’t want to take on too many students at once.

Roberts encourages kids to sign up at any time online at proevolutionhockey.com. He believes this program has many benefits beyond the hockey rink. With three kids of his own who are getting into the sport, the 45-year-old is planning to be more involved in coaching.

“Kids who stay in sports are more likely to finish college,” he states. “There is less crime, less truancy and less drug abuse.”