Four girls and four NCAA Division I hockey scholarships later, Scott and Tricia Welch have bred their own dynasty in Buffalo, New York. Scott Welch was a netminder for SUNY Brockport and went on to lead Erie Community College to two Junior College Frozen Fours as an assistant coach. He took a break from coaching to focus on his career away from the rink and start a family.
His two eldest daughters, Kelsey and Haley, wanted to pursue a different path — figure skating. However, their figure skating careers didn’t last very long as Scott explained their transition to hockey: “They weren’t very good. So, we thought there may need to be a different career somewhere else and fortunately, Kelsey said that she wanted to play hockey because I did.”
Taking up hockey created a domino effect in the Welch household as the three other girls, Haley, Maddi, and Abby followed suit. Before they knew it, the Welches nearly had their own line; Kelsey and Abby were forwards, Haley a defender, and Maddi a goalie.
When his daughters got older, Scott decided to get back behind the bench. He was the head coach of Nichols School girl’s hockey team and the Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles, where he saw all four of his daughters come through with some overlapping as Kelsey was born in 1991, Haley in 1992, Maddi in 1996, and Abby in 1998. He coached at least one of his daughters for 18 years.
His passion for coaching did not just lie in mentoring his daughters. When his daughters moved on to play college hockey, he continued to coach for two more years. One of those years he became the coach of the Women’s Buffalo Junior Sabres 19U team in their inaugural season. Now, he coaches alongside his son-in-law Chris Bradley on the men’s side.
Under the realm of their father between the four of them, they accounted for nearly 1000 wins that Scott humbly takes no credit for, “I didn’t score a single goal; I didn’t stop a single puck. It was really the four of them and their teammates being great leaders and great executioners.”
Being coached by your father isn’t always easy, but the Welch girls have nothing but respect for their father as their coach. Abby, the youngest of the Welch sisters, stated, “He was the best coach I ever had… He really understood how talk to his players.” Scott knew his position as a father and his position as a coach, and he made a conscious effort to separate the two — leaving hockey at the rink and family life at home. This style of coaching helped develop not only his daughters but the hundreds of other players he coached over the years. He sent 90 girls into college hockey, including all four of his daughters.
The Welch sisters all pushed each other on and off the ice. Having four elite athletes under one roof is a recipe for competition, which is what drove each Welch to be as good as they are. Maddi said, “Abby would count how many goals were scored on me in practice or I would count how many pucks I stopped of hers. But I loved it because it challenged me.” Good genes, good coaching, and a competitive nature fueled the Welch girls. The bar was set high for them when the eldest sister, Kelsey, committed to Syracuse University.
Kelsey received a scholarship to Syracuse University where she played two seasons before transferring to Niagara University. After a breakout season with the Purple Eagles, the program folded and she was forced to transfer once again, this time to Mercyhurst University where she led her team to the Frozen Four.
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Haley went to Elmira College, a Division III school to play her freshman year. She quickly upgraded after a season, transferring to Union College to play Division I. It was only natural that Maddi was next in line to go DI — she earned a scholarship to Syracuse University. She had a standout season her senior year, starting in 25 games helping lead the team to their first-ever NCAA Tournament.
The pressure was on for Abby to score a DI scholarship, but without a doubt, she kept the streak alive playing for Penn State University. She accumulated 15 goals and 15 assists throughout her time at Penn State and was named alternate captain ahead of her senior season.
Adjusting to College Coaches
Going from being coached by their father to a stranger at university was an adjustment for the ladies. One major adjustment was the lack of communication. Having your dad as your coach, you are going to receive as much communication as you can get living under the same roof, driving to and from the rink and of course, you have less of a tendency to hold back with family members as that is who you are most comfortable with. Maddi explains her biggest adjustment to having a coach that wasn’t her father was not getting communication during games. She explains, “For me when I was younger if I was having a tough game I would get the “come out” sign or “stay up on your feet” sign so it was definitely a tough adjustment for me as college coaches don’t give signals on why you got scored on.”
It was also an adjustment for Scott. He had to embrace all of their success and accomplishments as a father and not a coach for their last few seasons. His natural instinct has always been to give immediate feedback on the bench but when he is in the stands as a spectator, he doesn’t have that luxury. Scott says, “When you see things during games you know you hope the coaches are seeing it too and giving feedback to them and maybe they always weren’t.” Scott learned to channel his passion for coaching and accepted that it was time for his daughters to go and have their own careers, trusting their new coaches.
Currently, only 3.6% of female U.S. high school hockey players go on to play NCAA Division I hockey. Meanwhile, the Welch Family has had a 100% Division I hockey success rate, forming a legacy in women’s hockey much like the Staal family, having each sibling playing professionally. The sport has brought them closer as a family and although Welch cannot pinpoint a favourite memory of coaching and watching his daughters play, he cherishes all of the time he was able to spend with them during the car rides and at the rink.