SCHENECTADY — Union men’s hockey coach Rick Bennett has characterized Jack Adams as a player who wears his heart on his sleeve.
Adams will soon be wearing it on his back.
The 6-foot-6 forward from Boxford, Massachusetts, is transferring to Providence College, where he’ll play for former Union head coach Nate Leaman. He’ll hit the ice in a No. 4 jersey, the same number worn by his late brother, Mark “Roo” Adams Jr. when he helped the Friars win a national championship in 2015.
Roo Adams died at the age of 27, less than three weeks before Jack began his sophomore season at Union. So it’ll be an emotional experience for Jack Adams to play for the Friars, but he’ll also be joining a team that is coming off a Frozen Four appearance in 2019.
“Once I get there, it’s going to be all business,” Adams said on Wednesday morning. “I’m definitely an emotional player. I think everyone knows that by now. I’m just going to go out there and try to help the team win. I know everyone’s going to be asking those kinds of questions, about how emotional it’ll be, but when the pads come on, I’m going to be really focused on the game plan and what I’m asked to do.”
Adams, 23, was supposed to be the Dutchmen’s top goal scorer this season. But Union canceled the 2020-21 season last week because of COVID-19 concerns, and he chose to transfer after having missed all of last season while recovering from a knee injury.
Adams had the option to defer two trimesters and return to play for Union next season, but that would’ve put him out of hockey for two years at a time when he’s still developing his game and has pro hockey aspirations, as a sixth-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2017.
He said that once he put his name in the NCAA transfer portal, two dozen schools contacted him. Most of the Division I is playing college hockey this season, except for ECAC Hockey, which saw Union, RPI and its six Ivy League schools cancel.
“It was absurd,” Adams said, of the wide range of schools that contacted him. “It was hard on my family and my advisor and myself, but in my heart, I always wanted to be a Friar.
“I’m going to a really good hockey team, a team with a chance that’s going to contend for a pretty good opportunity. I’ve got a lot to pick up, and I’ve got to earn my spot and gain the trust of my teammates and coaches.”
Adams has some history with Leaman, since his brother Roo’s college choice came down to Providence and Union.
The brothers and their father visited Union when Jack was 10, and he said Leaman has been scouting him since he was 16 and playing high school hockey for Malden Catholic.
He is also friendly with some of the Friars, such as Tyce Thompson and Matt and Kyle Koopman.
Providence was supposed to open its Hockey East season against Northeastern Dec. 3 and 4, but those games have been postponed because of COVID issues at Northeastern.
“I’ve got to go in there and play my game,” Adams said. “It’s no secret I’m an offensive player and have always been a goal scorer, so I’m going to try to do that. But it’s a new system with a new coaching staff and teammates, and I’m really excited for the opportunity.
“I’ve been up until 2 in the morning the entire week watching film on these guys, and I think I have a pretty good idea what each guy’s skill set is. There’s so many good hockey players, that’s what I’m so excited about.”
A natural question is how Adams has recovered from having blown out his knee at the Red Wings’ prospect development camp in the summer of 2019, but he said he’s devoted himself not just to rehab, but making himself a better and stronger player through a rigorous workout program.
“I don’t think anybody knows what I have in store,” he said. “I feel amazing, but nobody knows that. I know how good I am right now and just want to prove that I can still be an impact hockey player.
“I really feel I’m going to get back to the player I was.”
Adams scored 10 goals with 12 assists as a sophomore.
He credits Union head coach Rick Bennett for picking up his spirits in the early stages of that season, while Adams was dealing with the death of his brother.
“My sophomore year at Northeastern, it was like two weeks after he passed away, and it was in Boston, I was emotional, I had a ton of family there and I probably played the worst hockey game of my entire career,” Adams said. “I was absolutely atrocious. Had 10, 15 turnovers. I was blacking out on the ice I was so out of it. I saw my family and kind of broke down after the game. It was really emotional seeing them in Boston for the first time since the whole incident happened with my brother.
“I think coach picked up on that and he called me and told me to come to his hotel room. He had two chairs there, and he and I talked about life for an hour and a half. We talked about my brother and my family and my interests, my life, to take things off of hockey. And he just told me, ‘Don’t even talk about hockey, talk about yourself, how you’re feeling.’ I don’t think many coaches would treat their player like that. That kind of sums up Rick Bennett in a nutshell right there.”
Bennett, a co-captain and Hobey Baker Award finalist at Providence in 1990, also helped Adams with the transfer process, realizing that Adams needs to be on the ice this season.
“It’s an amazing story, with Roo and everything, and wearing his number is really crazy,” Adams said. “But I’m going in with a business mindset and try to help the guys win.
“That kind of sums up my Union College career. Adversity, emotions … and winning. My first two years, we had a really good run, and I learned so much from so many guys, Cole Maier, Tyler Hines and [Ryan] Scarfo, but more important my classmates, Harry [Sean Harrison], Hanny [Darion Hanson] and Kozi [Josh Kosack]. I was crying the entire way home.
“It’s a tough situation. No one wanted this to happen. I wanted to graduate from Union and be a Union College Dutchman. But I respect the college’s decision, and it sucks, but we have to find a new path, and I’m just really looking forward to playing for Providence.”