MY HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY COACHES – TWO VALUABLE MENTORS AND TWO WONDERFUL FRIENDS. I OWE A LOT TO DAVE CLEARY AND GERRY LINEHAN
If you talk to almost any successful adult, you will find that he or she has had at least one important mentor from high school that has played an important and positive role in their emotional, moral, and cultural development that has led them to be the person they are today.
I am fortunate enough to say that I have had several high school teachers and coaches that helped me grow not only as a student athlete, but also as a human being. These people that believed in me at such a young age still have a tremendous influence on the way in which I choose to live my life and continue to grow as a person.
Among them are my two varsity high school coaches at Oliver Ames High School, Dave Cleary, the head coach, and Gerry Linehan, the assistant coach – to whom I will always owe an everlasting amount of gratitude. These two men were not only high school coaches to me, they were influential role models and mentors that continued to stay that way long after I graduated.
I still can remember the first time I met Mr. Linehan, it was the first day in 7th grade and we found a common interest that brought us together naturally – hockey. I soon found out that Mr. Linehan (Gerry) was a true Bostonian and played college hockey at Boston State College. Mr. Cleary was starting the same day as an Easton Public School history teacher. Mr. Cleary (Dave) had just graduated from Merrimack College, where he attended, following four years of service in the Coast Guard. He also shared a love for hockey, playing in high school and one year at Merrimack.
While I was in junior high playing youth hockey, I couldn’t help but look forward to when I would be able to play for the high school team. Back then; this was a far-fetched dream because freshmen were not eligible to play on the varsity team. It wouldn’t be until my sophomore year that I would be able to suit up and play for Oliver Ames High School. When sophomore year finally came I was fortunate to start for varsity, standing only 5’2 and weighing around 120 lbs. I recall that year Coach Cleary saying that when I had my skates on my head didn’t come much higher than the cross bar!
The three years that I was fortunate enough to play varsity, Dave Cleary and Gerry Linehan played a much bigger role than just coaches to me. By the time senior year came around I stood 5’11 and mustered up to be about 170 lbs. and having a break through season with a record of 19 and 1.
Dave and Gerry complemented each other well and worked together in order to pull greatness out of each player. We had two coaches who knew how to prepare and plan for games in order to come out on top. They not only prepared well for the games, but they worked tremendously well together under high-pressure moments during games, which showed true character. They knew how to adjust personnel and make changes in a split second and trusted one another to do so.
Dave Cleary not only was a phenomenal coach, but he was also a hard working advocate for each one of his players. With his respected reputation naturally came connections and networks that could open doors to players like myself. Dave was extremely well organized and made sure that he would schedule practices and games that allowed each player to reach their full potential – on and off the ice. He knew that we played in a league that did not get a lot of respect compared to the hockey powerhouse leagues closer to Boston. Knowing this, he used his connections and charm to get games against these teams in order to have our players be seen by some of the best scouts around.
Dave Cleary was truly committed to the sport of hockey – he was a director of the Massachusetts High School Hockey Coaches Association for 20 years, and for two of those years he served as president.
Both Gerry and Dave got along very well with my family, especially my mother and father.
Gerry Linehan was always someone that I looked up to and respected. Gerry would spend hours out of his day in order to provide individual instruction – helping me learn my angles, shooting the puck harder than anybody would ever face in high school knowing I could handle it. His personal sacrifice and commitment to my development is something that I will always treasure and be thankful for.
After graduating from high school, like all great mentors, both Coach Cleary and Coach Linehan continued to play a big part in my life. They showed their unwavering support when I was at Massasoit Community College of Brockton. They were there to support me during my championship game when the Massasoit Warriors team won the New England Junior College Athletic Association against the Massachusetts Bay Community College. That was a stand out season for me, and an even better championship game, stopping 60 shots in our 2-1 victory. I would like to think that them being there and the support I received contributed to that win.
This game is where Dave Cleary’s connections came into play, knowing both of the scouts from Boston University and Providence College that were there. He advocated and promoted me that then led to me being introduced to John Dooley, a Boston University alumni and at the time current coach of the team that we had just beat to win the championship, and Don “Toot” Calhoun, the assistant coach at Boston University.
Both Coach Dooley and Coach Calhoun had me on their radar and had been asking Dave Cleary about me. Coach Calhoun mentioned to Cleary that BU was seriously considering offering me a full scholarship. When I finally met in person with Coach Calhoun, he must have liked what he had learned about me from Dave because he talked to Jack Parker, the head coach at BU. Together they did their research about me and within a few weeks I was offered that scholarship to play hockey for Boston University, a dream of mine I never thought would be possible.
While at BU, Gerry Linehan still had a tremendous amount of influence on my life. Gerry and his wife, Karen, lived near BU and became my extended family. They were my rock through the good and difficult times, especially when my mother passed away. Their home was always opened to me for either a home cooked meal or to escape the dorms when I felt that things were getting too much. Being raised in a small town it was hard transitioning into the city when I didn’t know my way around Boston so it was important to have someone close by to rely on. Gerry and Dave made an effort to support my dream to play in the Olympics all throughout my time at BU.
As the 1980 Winter Olympics approached, Gerry Linehan, a fellow Irishman, provided me with a bit of luck to bring with me to Lake Placid. His brother, Mark, had two green shamrock stickers he gave me to put on my mask. This kind gesture continued to stay on my mask through the Olympic tournament and my NHL career. This was before masks became an art that you could customize to portray meaning, so it stood out to a lot of people and was something sacred to me that symbolized my growth on and off the ice thanks to Gerry.
Gerry Linehan traveled to Lake Placid for the Olympics. Practically being family, I was able to get him a pass that allowed him to go to every game and throughout the Olympic village. Herb Brooks knew the importance of my relationship with Gerry and knew I would want him there for all of my games. On Herb’s recommendation I was able to sneak away and go out to breakfast twice with Gerry and my brother Don. Herb thought that it would give me clarity and calm my nerves, he was right.
After the Olympics Dave Cleary continued to follow my career and being a major supporter. He flew to Atlanta to see my first debut in goal as a professional athlete for the Flames. He was also there for my first start in net as a Bruin after I was traded to Boston. Dave Cleary has been inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame and the Oliver Ames High School Athletic Hall of Fame for his contribution and belief in his players and students.
Gerry Linehan made it his objective to help and improve lives of thousands during his career in education. In the late 1970s, Gerry left teaching for a couple years to earn his Masters in education from Harvard University. He then went into public school administration in Massachusetts where he served as an assistant principal at East Bridgewater High School for a few years and then became principal at Randolph High School, a position he held for 28 years. Gerry, 68, a two-time survivor of cancer, is retired and still living in West Roxbury with his wife Karen but his legacy lives on with every life that he touched throughout his career.
Both in my business career and in my personal life, I have been able to help and mentor others by enlisting practices and values that I learned form Dave Cleary and Gerry Linehan at a young age.
Dave Cleary taught me the importance of caring for the people and players that he coached, the significance of being someone’s advocate in order to pull greatness out of them, and of course, for the love of the game. He showed me that a sport could change someone’s life, the way that it changed mine, and that if you believe in yourself anything can happen.
Gerry Linehan taught me – and he never skipped an opportunity to teach this lesson – the importance of your attitude and your focus that you should bring to every situation in sports and in life.
Their personal sacrifice, commitment, and unwavering love built the foundation of who I am today and who I strive to be in the future. These core values I continue to use as much as possible in hopes that I will be able to help someone the way that they helped me. At almost every keynote address or appearance one of my “Gold Medal” strategies is sometimes it requires personal sacrifice and the beneficial and sustaining power of friendship, loyalty, hard work, and trust to inspire someone to be the person they never thought they could be. I am a perfect example of this testament, in which I have Gerry Linehan and Dave Cleary to thank for.