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The Loss of a Leader

Becker hockey team copes with death of coach Steve Hoar

Steve Hoar (in hat) was about to enter his 10th season at the helm of the Hawks. MANZELLO PHOTOGRAPHY

His whistle dangled over a worn practice sweatshirt. Blade soakers labeled “coach” held his skates. The words “Rest in peace, my friend” were scrawled across the whiteboard.

The Becker College men’s ice hockey team prepared for the 2016-17 season with this subtle tribute displayed in their locker room. Their coach, Steve Hoar, died suddenly in July, as he was about to enter his 10th season at the helm of the Hawks. Hoar had been a mainstay in Division III hockey since 1984, with stints at Plattsburgh State University of New York and Tufts University before his nine seasons at Becker.

Hoar was one of the biggest advocates of Becker athletics. His Jeep Liberty resembled the equipment room, with piles of Becker sweatshirts, turtlenecks and hats. Like a vending machine on wheels, former colleagues say, Hoar was known for dispensing apparel to anyone and everyone. From custodians to dining hall employees and faculty — everyone seemed to know Hoar.

“I remember one of Steve’s friends coaching in DI hockey was in Canada, and the gas attendant came out with a Becker hockey sweatshirt,” Athletics Director Frank Millerick says. “He called them ‘bird dogs.’ He had his bird dogs all over the place.”

As Millerick and others prepared to move forward, they did so with a familiar face. Former assistant coach Mike Chartrand took over Hoar’s post. Chartrand had been heavily involved in the recruiting process, so many current players had established a connection with him over the previous four seasons.

“I felt the group needed to stay together,” Millerick says. “I wasn’t convinced that doing a search and bringing someone in from the outside was the right thing to do.”

While Chartrand replaced Hoar in title, the late coach’s antics can only be replaced with memories of his old-school style and famous one-liners like “Bring the jam!” Not many players understood Hoar’s references, but they always lightened the mood.

In the team’s first practice of 2016, Chartrand did his best to embody Hoar. The entire session was conducted the same way Hoar had run his first-of-the-year practices for decades. The high tempo, in-your-face structure mirrored Hoar’s intensity, with his favorite drills and the timing executed to a T.

“You don’t want to be sad about it — you want to be able to remember someone,” senior captain Connor Allison says. “It was nice we’re able to joke around and use that as a coping mechanism.”

At the Hawks’ home opener Oct. 30 against Assumption College, where Becker fell to the Greyhounds, 4-2, there was no ceremonial puck drop. No speeches; only a moment of silence. Hoar’s sweater, whistle and skates rested on the bench, along with his memory.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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