Class Act

By Staff

Athletic Management, 17.5, August/September 2005,

At Framingham (Mass.) High School, Boys’ Ice Hockey Coach Paul Spear isn’t satisfied with hosting a typical end-of-the-season banquet. So he’s using the celebration as a way to teach student-athletes about their team’s tradition.

“I wanted our banquet to be more than just an opportunity to give out trophies,” says Spear. “I wanted it to be an educational experience where our athletes could see themselves as part of something that’s bigger than just the season.”

To make his point, at this past year’s banquet, he invited the school’s 1961 state championship team to attend, and members were honored with induction into the hockey program’s Hall of Fame. Of the original 16 players, 11 attended the ceremony, coming from as far away as Florida and Texas, and bringing scrapbooks from their playing days, along with trophies, plaques, and a pair of etchings made from newspaper photos of the championship game.

“What impressed our players the most was seeing the guys from the 1961 team interact with each other,” says Spear. “They all sat together, joking around, and still proud of their accomplishments. It showed our kids that high school is something they will never, ever forget, and it’s important to make the most of it.”

Spear organized the reunion with help from George Bernard, a member of the 1961 team, who made a series of calls to find some of his former teammates, who then located other teammates, coaches, and managers. At the banquet, Bernard shared his memories of the championship and read an e-mail from their coach, which Spear says “almost brought tears to my eyes.” And before the night was over, Spear announced the formation of the Framingham High School Hockey Alumni Association, led by Bernard, which will organize alumni games, lead fundraisers, and coordinate future Hall of Fame events.

“Having the 1961 team made the banquet a far more meaningful experience,” says Spear. “I don’t want kids to play Framingham hockey for four years, graduate, and not live up to the expectations we set for them. Some of our athletes might not have understood the impact of what they’re doing, but now they see they’re part of something and they want to live up to that legacy.”