Kyle Earley, St. John Vianney's new ice hockey head coach and SJV alum, is ready to lead the Holmdel school's team to victory. Courtesy photo
Kyle Earley, St. John Vianney's new ice hockey head coach and SJV alum, is ready to lead the Holmdel school's team to victory. Courtesy photo
" It’s like building a family, with good students and good young men all around – not only on the ice but off the ice as well. We just try to sculpt them for the future. " Kyle Earley head coach, SJV ice hockey

If anyone knows what it takes to be a St. John Vianney ice hockey player, it’s Kyle Earley.

Which is a big reason why Earley was recently named head coach for the Holmdel-based school.

After playing for the Lancers from 2004-08, the Manalapan alum served as one of Mick Messmer’s assistants for the past five seasons. When Messmer stepped down after eight successful years, Earley was given the reins.

And while he would have enjoyed being a head coach for most schools, doing it at his alma mater has extra meaning.

“It means a lot to me and my family as well,” Early said. “My brother and my cousin both went there, I was actually the third person in my family to attend the school and play hockey there, so that makes it a lot more special for me and my family.”

Through nine years at SJV as a player and coach, Earley understands how things run when it comes not only to developing student-athletes at SJV, but keeping tabs on them after they graduate.

“All the players that we’ve coached throughout the years; we always stay in contact with them,” he said. “They come through the program, we mold them into being good players. They already come from good families as it is, and we help them to become better players and better people. It’s like building a family, with good students and good young men all around – not only on the ice but off the ice as well. We just try to sculpt them for the future.”

Part of that molding has to do with faith. While Earley noted that the coaches do not force-feed religion on the players, they do not ignore it either.

“We don’t press it on them, but we do support it at all times,” he said. “We try to make sure that they understand things [such as] faith, Christian values and the Catholic school vibe – that they understand who they’re playing for.”

It is something that Earley came to understand when he arrived at SJV as a freshman. He attended public school for his first eight years, during which time he had followed in his brother’s and cousin’s footsteps by playing for the Brick Hockey Club before joining the Tri-State Select junior hockey team in Pennsylvania.

He then arrived at SJV to play hockey and learned more about his religion.

“That was my first experience with private school,” said Earley, who got married in St. Benedict Church in Holmdel. “After that it helped make me understand a lot more about the Catholic faith.”

He also learned more about the game of hockey, playing defenseman for four years. Earley went on to earn an associate’s degree from Brookdale Community College, Middletown, and a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson, Teaneck, before joining the Manalapan Police Department.  

He began coaching the New Jersey Junior Titans in 2009 while attending Brookdale and is still with them today. He is also the program director and co-founder of the Manalapan Hockey Club and head coach for NorthStar Elite Hockey in Boston during the off-season.

After joining Messmer at SJV in 2017, Kyle coached offense, defense and special teams while incorporating NHL, college, junior, and ECHL practice plans and habits. In keeping with the Catholic practice of giving back, Earley has organized several volunteer activities for the team, including working with disabled individuals.

Becoming the Lancers’ head man has been a goal of Earley’s for some time.

“I’ve always had that in me,” he said. “I coached a travel program for a long time. I’ve been the head coach, assistant coach, different roles, different ages. Once I got on board at St. John’s as an assistant it was a goal I set, to one day take over the program and help build and continue the success that we’ve had.”

Earley will be aided by long-time Lancers assistant Dan Tacopino, who will return for his 13th season. The goals will be the same as always: win the Egan Cup and Shore Conference titles and hopefully make a run deep into the state tournament.  

“I think we have the talent coming back this year,” Earley said. “We have the talent to compete at the high levels.”

Earley, who still plays competitively with two different police teams, feels his connections with the club teams could help draw some top players to the program.

“The first few days after it was announced I was the head coach I was already getting people reaching out to me and obviously congratulating me; but also showing interest to come to St. John’s,” he said. “I’ve been coaching a long time, kids were really small back then. A lot are coming up at that age. As far as knowing kids in the area, it helps out.”

And as far as what kind of system he will install, Earley does not plan on any major overhaul. Afterall, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  

“Mick and I are very similar, so I don’t plan on changing that much,” he said. “We’ve had a successful team the past few years so, really, I’m just trying to build off that. We have a lot of returners coming in, they may know what I’m expecting of them. They know my philosophies and everything, so I think it’s gonna be an easy transition.”

For Earley, it’s not really a transition as much as it’s a continued way of life with a program he knows so well.