By Phil Stacey
---- — Loyalty means a lot to Tyler Bird.
Brown University was the first college to contact him last spring. They stayed in touch with him throughout the summer when he participated in USA Hockey’s Player Development Camp in Rochester, N.Y., and into this, his junior season skating for St. John’s Prep.
So while the 6-foot-2, 200-pound sharpshooter had other Division 1 college hockey programs interested in his services, such as Yale, Union, Northeastern, Boston University and the University of Vermont, Bird felt the most comfortable with the school that contacted him first.
The 16-year-old Bird committed to Brown this past weekend shortly before he helped St. John’s Prep defeat Xaverian for its first Catholic Conference championship in 19 years.
”I’ve just always had a good feeling from Brown from the first time I spoke with them,” said Bird, a right winger who is third on the Eagles in scoring with nine goals and 15 points.
“The school has a little bit of everything that I wanted. Coach (Brendan) Whittet and all of his assistants are great guys; I really like the other recruits they have coming in; the facilities are great; it’s close to home; and obviously, it’s a great school. Getting to go to an Ivy League school is definitely a great thrill for me.”
The Bears currently sport an 8-9-5 record, including 4-6-5 in ECAC play.
Bird is the fourth player from St. John’s Prep in the last three years to commit to a Division 1 college, joining Colin Blackwell (currently a sophomore at Harvard), Sam Kurker (a freshman at Boston University) and current teammate Brian Pinho, a senior captain and linemate who is already ticketed for Providence College.
St. John’s Prep head coach Kristian Hanson feels Brown is a perfect fit for his first line winger.
“It’s the best of both worlds for Tyler,” said Hanson, whose team has won eight straight games and is 13-2 overall. “First off you’ve got to be pretty smart to get into Brown, and Tyler is certainly that. And he’ll be getting to play Division 1 hockey, which is also what he wanted. It’s a great choice for him; I think Tyler will fit in well there.
“Tyler loved Brown from Day 1. It’s always smart to keep all of your options open, but even after exploring some of those Brown was still his No. 1 choice.”
The Andover resident said it’s likely he’ll spend a year in Junior hockey upon his graduation from St. John’s Prep in the spring of 2014, but that nothing is set in stone.
The eldest of three sons, Bird said his parents, Rita and Frank, were not only instrumental throughout the college process, but also for helping him get to where he is now as both a player and a person.
“I just know it’s nice that the pressure (of selecting a college) is taken off now, and I can focus on helping our (SJP) team in any way possible,” said Bird. “I’m just happy I’m going to a school that really wanted me.”
Hanson, who said he’s first and foremost thrilled that Bird will be getting an Ivy League education, said Bird came to the Eagles as a freshman with good size, and since then has developed into much more of a complete player.
“Tyler’s really aggresive on the forecheck, he can be physical, he’s good in both the defensive and offensive ends, and he brings energy to the ice every time out there,” said Hanson. “He’s come a long way in terms of confidence and his puck handling.”