Sports Person of the Week
Linder Finishes Hornets’ Hockey Career with Major Accolades
Billy Linder was an integral part of the Branford boys’ hockey team during his three seasons playing for the Hornets. Billy earned many accolades on the ice, including being named the Connecticut Hockey Division II Defenseman of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Billy Linder)
Billy Linder joined the Branford boys’ ice hockey squad as a sophomore and helped the Hornets win the Division II state title with his solid play on defense. Billy continually improved throughout his three seasons with the team and wound up finishing his career by being named the Connecticut Hockey Division II Defenseman of the Year in his senior season.
Billy started playing hockey for the Greater New Haven Warriors at the age of five. Billy’s father Dennis was always interested in hockey and, after his dad signed him up, the sport immediately resonated with Billy.
“My dad played a lot of sports growing up, including hockey. It just made me want to play it, too,” says Billy. “He put me into it when I was young. I just liked it and took off with it from there. It was really fun, and I just kept rolling with it.”
Billy played for numerous travel hockey squads while growing up, including East Haven, the Connecticut River Hawks, the Hartford Junior Wolfpack, and the Yale Bulldogs. During his time on the travel circuit, Billy played all around the Northeast and even traveled to Michigan to compete. As he was meeting different players and learning from various coaches, Billy’s experience in travel helped him become a better hockey player and gain a deeper appreciation of the sport.
“Making all of my friends was fun and helped me grow as a person. All the different coaches and coaching styles helped me get better at the sport and learn,” Billy says. “I was exposed to so many different teachings, take that knowledge, learn from it, and apply it into my game. It helped me become pretty good at the sport.”
Billy started playing for the Yale Bulldogs in the 7th grade. He remained with the team through his freshman season, opting for the Bulldogs over the high school squad. Billy says that spending an extra year with Yale helped him get prepped for the challenges of high school hockey.
Billy joined the Branford boys’ ice hockey team in his sophomore year, contributing to an epic season that saw the Hornets claim both conference and state titles. Billy felt that his first year of high school hockey was a great experience and that winning the state championship made it all the more special. Branford went on to defend its conference crown in Billy’s junior season, and he believes that the Hornets could have repeated as state champs had the campaign not been halted due to COVID-19.
“Just playing high school hockey was really fun. Being as good as we were, wanting to go all the way, and actually doing it was a great way to start my high school career,” Billy says. “I believe we could have done it last year if our season didn’t get cut short. We were really rolling.”
Billy continued to progress as a key member of Branford’s defense as a senior, recording nine assists to go with three goals in just seven games. When his senior season came to a close, Billy was named to the All-SCC/SWC Division II Second Team and the All-State Division II Team, in addition to getting selected as the Connecticut Hockey Division II Defenseman of the Year.
“It was great. Just being able to play for Branford was good enough, but being able to get acknowledged like that for all the hard work and dedication I put into the sport is always nice to hear,” says Billy, who also competes for the Branford boys’ golf team. “The season didn’t end the way we wanted to, but I was able to end it special in my own little way.”
Billy was well-suited to play the defenseman position, because he’s a big believer in the philosophy that “defense wins championships.” Billy can play both sides of the puck, but stopping opposing forwards in their tracks is his specialty.
“I like defense, because I was able to play both sides of the ice. I enjoyed playing offense and on defense. It was hard for the opposing team to get around me,” Billy says. “They say offense wins games, defense wins championships. I can score goals, and I can stop people from scoring goals. If you’re a defender who can play offense, then a forward who can’t play defense won’t get by you.”
After graduating from Branford, Billy will be attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he will learn to become a pilot. Billy plans on continuing to play hockey at the club level at the school.
Billy feels grateful to have played hockey for the Hornets and was always willing to do whatever it took to help both himself and his club improve. While winning a state title was an amazing moment, Billy believes that his biggest victory was skating alongside his Branford teammates as they did their hometown proud.
“Being able to play hockey was a win enough on its own. The sport was so fun to play, and I was fortunate enough to be skilled at it. I worked hard at it, and I was able to be good at it,” says Billy. “Being able to play for Branford was an even bigger win. We were basically living together. We would have dinner, hang out, have sleepovers together. We had such a bond. It’s what made us great.”