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Thursday, 25 February 2016 10:18

Planting Roots on Ice

By | Sports

Coach Rick Cobello Remembers the Beginnings of Saratoga Hockey’s Great Tradition 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Note: The local sports community has hockey fever - spurred on by another great season from Saratoga High School’s talented squad, an appearance at the Section 2 Finals on Thursday, February 25, with a chance to repeat as section champions – and perhaps go much further into the State Tournament. Due to press times, we are unable to print the results of Thursday night’s Section 2 Championship game between Saratoga and Tri-Falls. Win or lose (and I’m betting they have won – you’ll know by the time you read this, and if so we’ll do something special next week). In the meantime, we thought you might like to read something that speaks to the great tradition that Saratoga Hockey enjoys, a tradition established 40 years ago. 


Saratoga Hockey’s first Coach, Rick Cobello, as well as many players and supporters established the first chapters of that tradition in large part. He shared the memorabilia you see on this page, as well as reminiscences of those early halcyon days of getting the team established. He also has started a Facebook group – Saratoga Springs High School Hockey History – that he is inviting everyone, particularly former players and followers of that early era to join. “This is an era that should not be forgotten,” Coach Rick said, “They were tough days, but so worthwhile.” 


He noted with some sadness that he was spurred on in part by the loss of alumni players from that era (including Steve Meinhart, John David Covell, Mark Leroux, and John Eddy – who was the Captain of the original club team that began in 1974, as well as the original Varsity Squad of 1975-76. Eddy passed away around the Christmas holiday of that year), but also to give former and current players and boosters a focal point to remember and learn. 


The early teams had some notable successes and highlight moments, including the championship of the CDHSHL (Capital District High School Hockey League) in 1977. Coach Rick was equally proud of the fact that “I had the opportunity to coach five sets of brothers in 4 years.” 


One notable supporter was Ned Harkness, a hockey legend who won NCAA Championships at both RPI and Cornell, coached at Union, and was the first General Manager of the Adirondack Red Wings, among many other accomplishments. In addition to supporting Saratoga hockey by appearing at award banquets and other events, Harkness, according to Coach Rick “…wanted to grow hockey in the area... I am sure he thought he needed more fans in the Civic Center. I met Ned through a mutual friend and he wanted to help us in Saratoga Springs. Ned and I believed a high school game before the AHL game was a great way to grow the sport. Saratoga played the first high school hockey game (against Albany Academy on December 19, 1980) in the Civic Center... Remember, we used to play in a barn in Saratoga so this was luxury... We even had heat in the locker room! Our first game in the center and the first win (5-2) by a high school team in the Civic Center…It was an honor to play there. We played about half of our games in the Center as our second home site.” 


The group’s page is full of unique and interesting tidbits like these, as well as photos, vintage newspaper articles and the like. It is well worth exploring for local hockey fans, regardless of age. Coach Cobello welcomes your contributions and memories. 


When asked about the current team, Coach Rick Cobello had nothing but praise. “They’re doing great; it goes back to having a strong youth program as a foundation. And strong coaching from Dave Torres. He was a goalie like me – which provides a good basis for coaching as it’s the only position where you see the entire game,” he said with a smile. 


The current Blue Streak hockey squad “…doesn’t quit. They are very balanced, there’s not much difference between their three lines. No matter who is on the ice at the time, they are very disciplined, and stick to their plan.” He said. 


Coach Rick Cobello was scheduled to talk to the team before Thursday’s Section 2 Final. It’s one of the many ways the team reinforces its tradition, a tradition of excellence that began with a dedicated group and a vision of a bright future. And Coach Rick Cobello is inviting you to join him as a keeper of that flame. 


To join the Facebook group ‘Saratoga Springs High School History’, visit www.facebook.com/groups/965715813470898/

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