When the results began rolling in from Massachusetts state championship finals, you could forgive Shaun O’Sullivan—a man who had spent much of his life around hockey, who had two of his three boys competing for titles that weekend, who played at a high level himself and whose family is almost synonymous with the sport in tight-knit Dorchester—for getting a little choked up.
First, it was one team wining a state championship. Then two. Then a third, followed by a fourth. In all, six Dorchester Youth Hockey teams played in state championship finals, coming away with wins in Bantam Tier II Medium, Bantam Tier III Medium, Squirt Tier II Medium and Squirt Tier III Medium. A pair of Peewee teams finished second.
“You see the four state championships, but it wasn’t just those players or coaches,” O’Sullivan says. “It was a product of the whole program pulling together [throughout the year]. All the other teams, coaches and families, everyone played a part in those four state championships. There were two teams that made the finals and lost in great games and, the teams that won, they also played some great teams from great programs. As long as the effort is there that’s the best teacher of all.”
In Dorchester, hockey is simply a part of the community fabric.
“It’s a very close-knit community, and sports are a way to keep people participating,” says O’Sullivan. “It doesn’t matter if the kids are playing a piano or playing hockey, we just want them to be passionate about any activity they’re in. We just happen to be doing the hockey side of things.”
Dorchester is also the kind of place that instills all manner of community pride.
“It’s a working-class neighborhood, people are working and sacrificing, and you just admire what your neighbors do,” O’Sullivan says. “The camaraderie in the community we have, there’s always a civic presence, and you want to feed into it and make it better. It’s a joy to be from here and to live here.”
What they’re doing right …
By paying it forward, O’Sullivan and Co. are trying to nurture a community treasure.
“We’re pushing tradition,” he says. “We’re developing everybody and serving everybody in the program. There are a lot of great coaches, we have a lot of great volunteers and we utilize our icetime very well.”
Dorchester Youth Hockey skates out of Devine Rink, just to the west of Southeast Expressway, three nights a week with skills nights, small area games nights and practice nights, in addition to games.
“We are fortunate to have three hours of ice for each group a week,” says O’Sullivan. “And then we have one or two games depending on the league schedule. We have great participation.”
It goes beyond simply participating, too.
“I think you go right across the board and try to keep a high standard and challenge your kids all the time,” O’Sullivan says. “Challenge them to be better players, to be better athletes and to respond well. When you set a high standard for performance, you get great results.”
What is the best thing about this program for you?
O’Sullivan might admit he’s biased, but he believes playing youth hockey in Dorchester is special.
“I love the way I grew up,” he says. “Some of my fondest memories were playing hockey. I want my kids and all these kids to have that. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to challenge each kid and see them develop to the best of their ability. Every kid who walks through that door is important. Every family that walks through that door is important. I love the parents being able to watch their kids, enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the kids being challenged the whole time. It’s a rigorous environment and it’s a very special group.”
The last word…
Says O’Sullivan: “In Dorchester we love to compete. We work hard, and it doesn’t matter with the results. If the effort and buy-in is there, and you put your heart and soul into it, you can always live with the results.”