KINGSTON, R.I. — January 18, 2019 — When Joe Augustine sends his team out to the ice Sunday for its game against the University at Buffalo, it’s doubtful he will focus on the fact that it is his 1,000th game as head coach of the University of Rhode Island’s men’s club hockey team.
Instead, the Scituate resident is shooting for another win and a chance to improve on the team’s national ranking of 21 among all Division I club teams. It’s a good bet he’ll also be thinking about the 438 players he has mentored, memories from three decades of coaching at URI and the longtime friendships he has forged with his Rhody hockey alumni. During his 30 years behind the bench, Augustine has compiled a record of 633-302-63, won a men’s national club hockey championship and coached Team USA in the World University Games. Only legendary Frank Keaney has more wins with 693 as head coach of basketball, football and baseball.
And lest you think that Augustine and his Rhody players are not in a rigorous program because it is not part of URI Athletics, keep in mind they play in excess of 40 games a season against big schools like Syracuse University, University of Alabama, Rutgers and the University of Illinois.
The next two weekends on home ice at URI’s Boss Arena are big for Augustine and his Rams. They begin the weekend with a Saturday, Jan. 19 tilt at 7 p.m. against Buffalo, and then there is game 1,000 on Sunday, Jan. 20 at 4 p.m. The following weekend they have a two game-set with conference rival Delaware on Friday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m.
Ceremonies to honor Augustine will take place before the Jan. 26 game. Students will be admitted free for that game, and 50 free tickets will be made available to URI faculty and staff. The first 40 students through the door that night will be given free, Rhody water bottles. Regular admission for adults at all games is $5.
Bradford R. Boss, for whom the Boss Arena is named and who was one of the founders of the URI men’s ice hockey club in 1951, will be on hand for the Jan. 26 ceremonies. Boss was the first to skate at the 2,500 seat, $12 million arena when it opened in September 2002, was a major supporter of the arena and has remained a proud URI backer for decades.
“Joe has been a tremendous role model,” said Boss, a member of URI’s Athletic Hall of Fame, who was also a member of the tennis and sailing teams, excelling at the latter sport as one of the top ten skippers in New England.
“He has a calmness behind the bench. He is a consummate professional on and off the ice. People have told me that when they see the team, they are always neatly dressed and well mannered. The University should be very proud of him. My son Andy played on the first team that he coached, and he has never changed. Joe has very much instilled in all of his players that they represent the school. Joe and his teams have played at the highest level. At no time have the players disappointed the University.”
Joe Wilbur, coordinator of club sports, said, “We wanted to wait until all the students were back from winter break so we could have a nice crowd to honor Joe and all of his accomplishments. “Join us for all of the action over the next two weeks, but I especially invite the URI community to the arena on Jan. 26.”
True to form, Augustine is playing down the honors and focusing on what he says are very big games over the next two weekends. Still, his wife Jewell, a former skater with the Ice Capades who now runs the Learn to Skate Program at the Boss Arena, and their two children, Jaclyn, a URI alumna and Jon, a Providence firefighter, will be at the Jan. 26 game. So will many of his former assistant coaches and players. And one unlikely special guest, but also a URI hockey fan, will be in the stands that night–former Rhody men’s basketball coach Tom Penders, who led the Rams to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1988.
“I have been reminding people that we have important games,” said Augustine, a Hall of Fame defenseman at Boston College. “But I am glad that people recognize the work we have put into this program over the years. Many people say you can’t coach the same way anymore – but I still think the values of being on time, courteous and having great discipline are important. As far as this season goes, we didn’t come out of the gate too well, but to see things come together and working well, that is the fun part.”
Christian Rigamonti, who played for Augustine for four years starting in 1990, and who is now the team’s general manager, said that although Augustine wants to win, he cares most about how his players grow as people and what they become after they leave the program.
“He is strict and expects a lot, but he is very fair and will always help a person who needs to reach their goals” Rigamonti said. “I think this is why so many alumni stay in contact with coach Augustine. I think he likes the after-URI contacts more than anything. He reminds me of a teacher who gets excited when an old student comes back to say hi.”
The bond between Rigamonti and Augustine has only grown stronger over the decades as Augustine and Jewell were guests at his wedding and their daughter, Jaclyn, was the Rigamontis’ babysitter.
“He absolutely shaped my life during my four years as a player, and he has been a good friend for the past 20 years.”