Union hockey forward Daniel Ciampini stared at the hockey card and chuckled. The card depicts a chiseled forward, determined and grim-faced even in warmups. The guy would have been roughly the same age as Ciampini, a junior.
“Oh, yeah, that looks good,” Ciampini said. “He still makes that face.”
It can be tough for players to picture a coach at their age, with fresh legs and a game to match, even with photographic proof. But when presented with Rick Bennett's 1990 Topps rookie card, No. 27 on the ice for the New York Rangers in all his mulleted glory, Union players said it only confirmed what they already knew just by watching Bennett skate during practice or taking his place in off-season team training runs.
“You watch him and you can tell he was a heck of player,” senior forward Matt Hatch said.
Hatch then looked at the card, laughed and nodded. “Oh, yeah. That is good.”
Before a 1951 World Series game in Brooklyn, New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel took rookie right fielder Mickey Mantle to the outfield scoreboard at Ebbets Field to show him how to play caroms.
Mantle couldn't understand how his manager could possibly know.
“He thinks I was born old,” Stengel said afterward.
Stengel was an accomplished player in his day, and so was Bennett. A member of the Providence College Athletics Hall of Fame, he was a second-team All-American and two-time team MVP. Bennett had a long minor league career highlighted by 15 games for the parent Rangers club of the National Hockey League.
Coach had more than a card. He had game.
Unlike Mantle, current Dutchmen have no problem imagining their coach in his heyday. Bennett himself said he had no problem picturing his first pro coach as a player, since he actually saw him play: former Philadelphia Flyers player (and current assistant general manager) John Paddock.
As for using his own career as a teaching tool or a means of generating respect, Bennett said it has never come up,
“I don't talk about it with the players,” he said. “In this day and age with Internet and video, they know.”
If not, they can always invest in Bennett's rookie card. The ebay value? Well, it ranges . . . from 90 cents to $5 — autographed.