KINGSTON, R.I. – April 10, 2012 – What better time to talk about hockey traditions and legacies than the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs?
It’s when middle-aged men who grew up in New England remember playing youth and high school hockey at places like Mount St. Charles Academy’s Adelard Arena and June Rockwell Levy Rink in Burrillville and watching the Big Bad Bruins on Boston’s Channel 38, complete with snowy picture.
It’s a chance to talk about a University of Rhode Island alumnus who helped save the University’s men’s club hockey team in the early-1980s, paving the way to its current national prominence.
Jim McCarthy, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1982, had a chance to reminisce with friends a few months ago when his kids’ school team got a taste of URI and New England hockey traditions.
McCarthy, originally of Cumberland, and his fellow coaches brought the Browning School’s hockey team from New York City to play in Rhode Island and Boston and to see a college and pro games.
First stop, the Bradford R. Boss Arena, home of the nationally-ranked men and women’s URI ice hockey clubs, to give his team and their coaches a chance to see and practice in one of the top club hockey facilities in the country. It also was a chance to catch up with longtime hockey supporter, Art Tuveson, URI assistant athletic director for facilities management and planning.
“I hadn’t been here very long after being hired to run intramural sports when Jim came to see me,” Tuveson said, “Club sports were a blip on the screen. They were not supervised and not really funded, although athletics may have given them a small amount of money. I remember Jim coming to see me to see if I could help in any way. Jim had heard that URI had a new recreational sports director and he sought me out to see what I could do.”
McCarthy remembers his first meeting with Tuveson when he noticed a hockey magazine on Tuveson’s desk. “I knew right then that this was going to go in the right direction.”
In the early 1980s, the men’s team (there was no women’s team) played at the Mid-State Ice Arena, which was due to close. The Rams then moved to the West Warwick Civic Center where they played until the Boss Arena opened in 2002.
McCarthy played from his sophomore through senior years and was player-coach his last two years. He remembers the budget only covered ice time for games.
“We never had official practices during the season, and I would tell the guys to get ice time whenever and wherever they could, even if it was public hockey sessions,” McCarthy said. “We played Friday afternoons at 4:30, which was a great time slot because high school teams played Friday evenings and they wouldn’t be using that time for practices.”
McCarthy, who has been involved in four technology startups since 2000, all of which either went to initial public offering or were acquired by larger companies, is currently a sales director for Avaya, a telecommunications and data company with 16,000 employees and $5 billion in annual revenue. He compared his experiences with the hockey team to some of the various technology startups he’s been involved with. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Susan, who earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from URI in 1981, and their 8-year-old twins, Catherine and Connor. Susan works for TPG Axon Capital Management, a large hedge fund.
“Running a hockey team was like running a startup,” he said. “We had to do everything, budgeting, arranging travel and ice time and scheduling. All of the other teams had head coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, statisticians and in some cases, cheerleaders. We had no adult supervision, but we were always competitive and had winning seasons each year.”
Tuveson said the team played 15 to 18 games a year at the time and had a $500 budget.
“The players covered the rest of the expenses themselves, using their own cars to travel to games,” Tuveson said. “One time, they had bad directions for a game at Mass Maritime. One car carrying a third of the team got lost and showed up midway through the second period. Still, they won 80 percent of their games, and I still have news clippings from that time.”
He called McCarthy a “class guy, an old-time hockey guy” who helped found the Blue Liners Club to support men’s hockey at URI. “He has always been a supporter and has always stayed in touch.”
As the Browning Panthers players, including his two children, whirled around the Boss ice surface, McCarthy talked with Tuveson and another friend about his youth hockey and high school hockey days, playing at the Mount’s rink. One of the stops on the tour was a game at Adelard Arena.
“That’s the essence of Rhode Island hockey and I wanted our players to really feel it,” McCarthy said as he talked about his team’s game against the Woonsocket North Stars.
He then brought out a team photo taken at rink in North Smithfield from his days playing with the Cumberland Public Skating Association. At the left and right of the photo, are the two house league coaches, McCarthy’s late father, Bob, a URI pharmacy graduate and former chemistry teacher and hockey coach at Cumberland High school, and the late Roger E. Lavallee, a 1948 graduate of URI.
“Those were great days and we had so much fun,” he said. “I remember traveling to Nashua for travel games with my dad, Mr. Lavallee and his son Peter,” he said. “We always heard great stories about URI, and I was so lucky that I was able to continue having fun playing hockey at URI. I learned so much on that team, and it has really helped me in my business career. To say that URI has been a huge influence on our lives is no exaggeration.”
GETTING LACED UP: Jim McCarthy, a 1982 University of Rhode Island graduate, ties the skates of his daughter, Catherine, 8, at the University of Rhode Island’s Bradford R. Boss Arena. URI Photo by Michael Salerno.
WITH THE TEAM: Jim McCarthy, one of the coaches of the Browning School’s hockey, prepares players for a drill recently at URI’s Boss Arena. URI photo by Michael Salerno.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS: This team shot from Jim McCarthy’s youth hockey days was taken at a rink in North Smithfield. At far left is his father, Bob McCarthy, one of the coaches, and at far right is the other coach, Roger Lavallee. The two late coaches were URI graduates. The younger McCarthy is standing right next to coach Lavallee. Lavallee’s son Peter is standing at center behind the goalie. Photo courtesy of Jim McCarthy.