Globe North Sports Notebook

Players celebrate life of hockey coach

By John Vellante
October 4, 2009

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Family, friends, former players, and teammates of Jack Canniff will remember the former Gloucester High and University of Massachusetts at Amherst hockey coach today at 2 p.m. with a celebration of his life at the Gloucester Elks-Bass Rocks. Canniff died of cancer Aug. 29 at Kaplan House in Danvers at age 77. He had homes in Rockport and Granby.

Among the speakers will be Ben Smith, who played for Canniff at Gloucester from 1960 to ’64 and went on to coach Northeastern and the US women’s national team. He currently is an adviser to USA Hockey national teams.

“Jack was really the first guy who planted the seed in regards to me being around hockey,’’ said Smith. “He was the true teacher and coach. He taught me algebra in the ninth grade and he brought the same enthusiasm to the classroom as he did to the rink. I’m on a pretty crowded bus of guys who hold a special place in their lives for Jack. The one thing players always respect is fairness, and that’s what we had playing for Jack.’’

Also reminiscing will be Don Lowe, who played for Canniff at both Gloucester and UMass and now coaches the hockey team at Gloucester.

“You knew that he was intense and that he had a lot of passion,’’ Lowe said. “Jack expected you to give everything you had every second you were on the ice. The goal was to out work the other team. Jack followed up with the families of all those who played for him and retained long-term friendships with his players.’’

Canniff didn’t make the hockey team at Arlington until his senior year, but went on to have a stellar career at Boston College, where he played from 1951 to ’54, scoring 23 goals with 26 assists. After a stint with the Army, his coach at BC, John “Snooks’’ Kelley, recommended him for the coaching position at Gloucester. From 1956 to ’67, his teams won 117 games and played in 10 state tournaments.

At UMass, Canniff reached the pinnacle of his coaching career when the Minutemen won the Division 2 national title in 1972. He coached at UMass 12 years until the program was dismantled in 1979. It was reborn in 1993 as a Division 1 program and the same year the Jack Canniff Unsung Hero Award was established in his honor.

Others scheduled to celebrate Cannniff’s life include former Arlington coach Ed Burns, UMass hockey coach Don Cahoon, former BC linemate Billy Maguire, and a host of players he coached both at Gloucester and UMass. His two daughters, Kelly and Erin, his granddaughters Hannah and Riley, and his sister, Janice, will also speak.

“Jack kept in touch with so many of his former players and it’s a tribute to him that so many of them will join in the celebration of his life,’’ said Canniff’s wife, Sandra. “Even after he stopped coaching, not by choice, mind you, he remained a fan.’’

Canniff’s ashes will be scattered at sea next spring off a boat captained by Lowe.

Campus corner
University of Massachusetts at Lowell senior soccer goalkeeper Jamie Gillis of Billerica rang up her sixth straight shutout and extended her scoreless streak to a school record 672 minutes in a 4-0 win over American International. It was her 30th career shutout. . . . UMass-Lowell’s men’s and women’s cross country teams won the Williams College Purple Valley Classic. Top runner for the men was Angus MacDonald of Methuen, who was fourth overall, and tops among the women was Kelly Walton of Nahant, who finished second.

Around and about
Lowell High will induct Ruth Bailey (class of 1905, basketball); Thomas Machado (1963, football and basketball); James McGuirk (1964, basketball and track and cross-country coach); Albert Mangan Jr. (1967, cross country and track); and Kristen Voutselas (1996, swimming) into its Hall of Fame Nov. 19 at Lenzi’s in Dracut. Bailey will be honored posthumously. Tickets may be obtained by calling the Lowell athletic office at 978-937-8950. . . . Burlington is not holding Hall of Fame induction ceremonies this year. Instead, the Hall of Fame committee is sponsoring an athletic reunion at the Café Escadrille this Thursday at 7 p.m. Call 781-270-1866 or 781-270-1628 for ticket information. . . . Nice touch by Methuen officials, who retired the No. 42 football jersey of Dan Ford during halftime of its game with Billerica. Ford was a three-sport athlete who died last April of cancer. Ford, class of 1988, gained 1,000 yards both his junior and senior years and was inducted into the Methuen Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. . . . Former Reading teammates Jim Queeney and Tim Matheson have been chosen to play in the Catamount Classic Lacrosse For A Cure Tournament Oct. 11 at Thayer Academy. Queeney plays attack at Colgate and Matheson attack at Bentley. Proceeds will go toward the fight against testicular cancer.

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