Bird finally finds a home in goal for Flames’ DI men’s hockey team
The fifth commitment in Liberty University’s ACHA Division I men’s hockey team’s incoming Fall 2022 recruiting class — Scott Bird, a 21-year-old goalie from Monroe, Mich. — has experienced a wide range of hockey over the past three years, playing for nine Juniors organizations across North America.
“It has been a bit of a suitcase and a run around,” said “Birdie,” whose journey has taken him to New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, up to British Columbia and Saskatchewan, Canada, and onto Milwaukee and Massachusetts, where he most recently played for the Eastern Hockey League’s Walpole Express. “I have been fortunate to be able to travel and my parents (Kenneth and Anita Bird) have been very helpful in achieving my dream of playing college hockey.”
Bird believes he has found a home for the next four years with the Flames, who welcomed him with open arms during last week’s Liberty Hockey Select Camp. He met Assistant Coach Dan Berthiaume, a former NHL goalie with the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, and Ottawa Senators from 1987-94.
“He is a great coach, and we really connected and hit it off right away,” Bird said. “I am excited to go back there and show him what I’ve got, and to go and play hockey and get back into the books, so I’m really pumped.”
Along his journey, Bird has enjoyed success at nearly every stop, including going 9-3 with a 1.97 goals-against average and 93.4 save percentage with the Princeton (B.C.) Posse in 2019-20 and 6-1 with a 1.65 GAA and 93.4 SP with the Charlotte Rush of the USPHL Premier league in 2020-21 before finishing 12-9 with a 2.36 GAA and 92.2 SP in 21 games with the Express this past season.
“When you face different playing styles, you learn to adapt,” said Bird, who grew up as a fan of the Detroit Red Wings and of goalies Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek, in particular. “The key thing is being comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s not going to be the same every time, but no matter the opponent or the stage you’re on, you’ve got to show what you have out there. As you get more experience playing in high-pressure situations, your ability to play with confidence really shows.”
Bird followed the lead of his father, who started playing goal in men’s leagues when he was around 30.
“I started skating and getting out on the ice at age 3 and started playing goal when I was 5,” he said. “I fell in love with the gear and the pads and decided to transition to goal fulltime. My dad invested a lot into me, and coached me for a while when I was younger, until around Squirts (9-10).”
The projected business major hopes to contend for starting time between the pipes starting this fall, while soaking up all the wisdom he can from Berthiaume as well as returning senior goalies Hunter Virostek and Cédric Le Sieur.
“I want to compete, to battle and play as much as the next guy,” Bird said. “From the experience I’ve had with them, they seem like great guys, and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from those two. Cédric’s a really funny guy and I enjoyed bouncing ideas off of Hunter. I am eager to learn and improve. I have always been like that throughout my career. I’m not afraid to ask questions and I really want to get better every time I’m out there, as well as every day in who I am.”
After growing up going to Trinity Lutheran Middle School and St. Mary’s Catholic Central High School in Monroe, Mich., he expects to acclimate quickly to life at the world’s largest Christian University.
“It’s nice to have that strong foundation through Christ to build a good program around, because it ends up building a really good culture around the team and the school,” Bird said.
He likes the atmosphere and the community already established in Liberty’s camp, and he wants to tend to and occasionally stoke the fire to make the Flames rise even higher.
“It is a great culture that I can’t wait to be a part of,” Bird said. “I want to have fun, want to have a blast with a good group of guys who maintain that balance of keeping the locker room light, but also keeping one another accountable, to help you through struggles when you have them.”
Bird has disciplined himself to meet challenges in the spring and summer months in order to be ready when the seven-month hockey season rolls around — from September through March.
“I love playing at a higher level, especially in the summers, when you try to match yourself with the highest competition you can to get,” Bird said. “It helps when the play is so fast that, as a goalie, you don’t even think — it’s all instincts and reaction. I am excited to play a higher-paced game (in the ACHA). It’s not going to be too big of a change, though it may take a few games to adjust to it.”
Starting in June, he plans to work out five days per week at Omnevo Wellness and Performance Academy, run by Dan Allison, a former Western Michigan football player who has developed goalie-specific strength and mobility exercises. He will also skate three or four times per week with AJ Walczak, a professional goaltending coach for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League, and Kevin Delamarter, owner of KD Goaltending.
“That’s one beauty of being in the Detroit area, which is a hockey hotbed with a lot of NCAA Division I programs,” he said. “There is a high level of talent from around the state.”
He is looking forward to working with Liberty’s Director of Strength & Conditioning Chris Kerr.
“I had a really great conversation with him on my visit, when we went over injury prevention and a lot of the same stuff I have learned to build strength and speed without giving up flexibility,” Bird said.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media