There was no loud jacket, high-collared shirt or pun-happy sidekick, but Upper Canada College hosted its own version of Coach’s Corner on Jan. 23 as part of its Winterfest celebrations.
A couple dozen former UCC varsity hockey players attended a reception in the William P. Wilder ’40 Arena & Sports Complex’s Foster Hewitt Foundation Lounge, where they could watch this year’s team take on the Nichols Vikings in the Mara Rink down below. There was lots of food, drinks and reminiscing, and there was a special feature during the first intermission named after the popular Hockey Night in Canada segment with Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.
Jim Garner ’77, who became special adviser to principal Jim Power last fall, introduced a man that most people in the room already knew: Upper School athletics director Brent MacKay. MacKay coached the varsity Blues hockey team to more than 500 victories before passing the torch, first to Brian Green and now to Carl Beaudoin.
MacKay thanked everyone for attending and, for those who may not have been back at UCC for a few years, he provided some background and details on the building they were in. A successful capital campaign raised more than $16.5 million for the state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly, twin pad arena that opened in 2009 with one of just four Olympic-sized ice surfaces in Ontario.
The arena gives every boy in the school a chance to hit the ice as part of the College’s core athletic program, and the facility also houses football, rugby, soccer and hockey locker rooms, the alumni lounge, lots of room in the stands for spectator viewing, a spacious lobby and a concession stand. It combines with UCC’s strong hockey program to become a big draw for student athletes who want to combine a quality education and a chance to play sports at a high level.
Green, who was in attendance and is still a UCC teacher and coach, was the school’s first director of hockey as well as varsity coach. Beaudoin has assumed that role as well and he oversees a program that has varsity tryouts in April, a two-week training camp in August and then gives boys a chance to play a different sport in the fall before hockey kicks into high gear in December. Varsity players compete in more than 50 games a year, including four tournaments, and do off-ice training in the SAS Fitness Centre.
MacKay explained that none of this would be possible without the support of UCC parents and Old Boys, and he again expressed his gratitude for their contributions to making the College’s hockey and athletic programs two of the many things that attract boys to the school.
A lot of Old Boys go on to play hockey in university and professionally and two of those in attendance, Greg Meredith and Brian Conacher, enjoyed National Hockey League careers.
This initial varsity hockey alumni reception was a success and it seems likely that it will become an annual event as the College continues to find new ways to engage members of the community.
Some Old Boys who may not have been able to attend on Friday made it out to the arena on Saturday morning for the annual alumni hockey game, where they could get in some fun but competitive shinny and enjoy free food and beverages courtesy of the UCC Association afterward.