On a hot summer weekend, Nik Tasiopoulos ’14 can be found, not at the ball field or pool, but at the hockey rink. He is the founder, owner, and head coach of East Coast Militia, a Randolph, Mass., organization that runs youth hockey teams. Despite the seeming contradiction between the season and the sport, more than 400 boys and girls, from ages 8 to 20, will play on Militia teams this spring and summer.
Militia is a serious-sounding name for a sports organization, but its teams are full of seriously talented players. Twenty-two NHL draft picks, as well as 77 boys and 15 girls committed to Division I college programs, have played for Militia since it began just two years ago. Tasiopoulos admits, though, that even highly talented players lose some focus when the weather turns warm. “It’s a different atmosphere,” says Tasiopoulos, who played forward on Babson’s hockey team. “It’s harder to get kids to engage. They’d rather go to the beach.” But coaches from college teams and junior hockey programs, freed from their busy winter schedules, use the summer to scout. Many attend Militia games, so Tasiopoulos warns the older players not to let up. A bad game or two, and a coach may lose interest in them. “Sometimes it takes a wake-up call from me,” Tasiopoulos says. “I let them know, this guy is here to see you.”
When Tasiopoulos started Militia, he was attending Wesleyan University and helping with the Beantown Bullies, a team of elite high school hockey players. Tasiopoulos himself had played for the Bullies while in high school and enjoyed working with the team, so when its owner decided to fold up shop, Tasiopoulos gathered former Bullies players and formed his own team. In the spring of 2012, Tasiopoulos entered the newly minted Militia in a 64- team tournament. Militia came in second, which garnered a lot of attention from other players and coaches. A month later, Tasiopoulos had enough interested players to enter four teams in a tournament. Many players liked that Tasiopoulos was so young, though his age could be a drawback. “You’re really buddy-buddy with them, but if you need to get their respect, that can be harder,” he says.
As Militia grew that first year, Tasiopoulos wondered if it could be a full-time business. His mother wasn’t so sure. “My mother was still yelling at me to get a job,” he recalls. Beyond her concerns, Tasiopoulos had his own doubts about his ability to run a business. He remembers how early on, he offered a roommate 30 percent of the company if he bought the team jerseys. Such a short-sighted deal would have been disastrous for Tasiopoulos if the roommate had accepted. “That’s when I realized I needed some more business experience,” he says. Before his junior year, he transferred to Babson.
Nowadays, Militia is a well-known brand in youth hockey. Nearly every weekend in the spring and summer, a Militia team is playing in a tournament. In addition to Militia, Tasiopoulos also works as a scout for a sports agency. He likes that even though his playing career at Babson has ended, his involvement in hockey continues. Watching a game on TV, he’ll come across former Militia players. “That kid is awesome,” he’ll think to himself. “He plays in the NHL, and he played for me.”—John Crawford