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Teddy Cunniff

November 2013

“It’s all about the kids.”

Photography by Deborah McCarthy

If you’ve ever stepped foot in the Murphy Rink in the last thirty years, you’ve probably seen Teddy Cunniff.  Whether he’s behind the counter sharpening skates, on the ice teaching kids how to skate, or coaching on the bench, Teddy is a fixture at the rink.  His knowledge of the sport of hockey and his talent on the ice in his prime is helping shape future stars on the ice right here in South Boston.  He is a local legend and a valuable member of our community shaping our youths.  This month he will be honored at the South Boston Youth Hockey League Reunion and Fundraiser for his commitment and dedication to the children of South Boston and to the sport of hockey.

Teddy grew up on East Second Street near M Street Park.  His mother Mary Flaherty Cunniff was a single mother and raised three boys, John, Teddy and Robert.  He and his brother John began skating at M Street Park back in the days when  the City of Boston used to flood the parks in the winter in Southie.  Teddy played hockey for South Boston CYO under the guidance of Frank Murphy, a hero firefighter who died in the line of duty and namesake of the Francis J Murphy Rink.  “Frank would drive all us to games.  He was so dedicated and like so many other Southie coaches, he loved what he did and was there to help kids.”  

Inspired by Frank Murphy, Teddy has been involved with the South Boston Youth Hockey League for the past 34 years.  He was vice president for 17 years and president for seven years.  Teddy believes that youth sports are a great way to engage our kids in physical activity that helps provide a foundation for a healthy lifestyle and also teaches kids to be part of a team.  “It’s important to teach kids how to win and lose gracefully.  Being on a team also teaches kids how to tackle life situations and accept challenges but most importantly it’s about the kids having fun,” says Teddy. 

Pay it forward:
Southie dad, Joe Burke was coached by Teddy as kid down the Murphy Rink.  Teddy’s style and commitment were motivating factors to make Joe help out and coach South Boston Youth Hockey.  “Whether it was on ice during a practice or hanging out during public skating at his pro shop, Teddy always talked hockey with his players and whoever was lucky enough to be around, he would constantly say ‘You play the way you practice and you have to have discipline!’ Teddy was a great hockey player and an even better coach,” says Joe.

According to Teddy, it’s the dedicated volunteers and parents that help keep the South Boston Youth Hockey league in existence.  “The neighborhood has changed and not as many kids are playing hockey.  The parents are bringing their kids to the rink.  They are driving all over the place, taking their kids to games.  Coaches are committed to the kids too.  They spend hours of their own time out their teaching kids the skills of skating and hockey.”

Legend has it
Teddy played for South Boston High and at a game in 1962, scored an unbelievable 13 goals in 30 minutes.  Yes, 13 goals in 30 minutes.  That record still stands. His brother John played for Boston College, was on the Olympic mens hockey team and played professionally for 12 years.  John also coached for the Olympics and for the NHL.  “John was quoted in the paper saying I got a lot of heat for scoring all those goals. And I did,” says Teddy. 

The scoop on Teddy:

  • Married to Marie Cunniff
  • Father of Michelle and Merredith
  • Grandfather of Thomas, Liam, Maeve and Neila
  • Went to Gate of Heaven and graduated from South Boston High School in 1963.
  • Scored 13 goals in one game in 1962
  • Worked for 40 years for Local 17 as as Sheet Metal Worker.
  • Winning: Of the banners that hang from the rafters at the rink, 21 of them have been won by Teddy’s teams.  16 – State Championships, 5 National Champs.  “The players make the coach,” Teddy says humbly when asking to reveal his secret to coaching.

Q&A
From being at the rink for a lifetime, Teddy has seen some amazing Southie players come through the youth hockey league.  When asked who are the Top 5 players to come out of SBYHL he lists:

  • Fred Ahearn
  • John Cunniff
  • Paul Barrett
  • Brian Noonan
  • Billy O’Dyer

What about the girls in the league?
We’ve had some amazing girls come through South Boston Youth Hockey.  Kelly Foley, who played for Dartmouth.  Megan Long, played for UNH and Deanna McDevitt player for Princeton. In 1990, Loretta McGarrell and Don Foley started the girls’ hockey program.  I loved coaching them.  Later on Mary Balaconis coached and made the program even more successful and it grew to 50 girls.

Best memory at the rink?
Loved coaching the travel teams but I have to say my best memories are from coaching the house leagues for 34 years.  There are so many girls and boys in this program that have such potential.  It’s fun to see them learn and grow and develop into really talented players.  Lots of kids go on to play in high school and college.

Best way to teach a kids how to skate?
I think the perfect age to start is four years-old.  Don’t rush it.  You need patience and as Arnie Bailey (Founder of Arnie’s Army – Learn to Skate) use to say, “Make it fun!’  He was the best!  Such an amazing guy.

South Boston Youth Hockey League Reunion and Fundraiser
South Boston Youth Hockey is celebrating the season with a special South Boston reunion and fundraiser on Saturday, November  30th at The Teacher’s Union Hall at 7pm.  There will be live music featuring Southie’s favorite band, Thomas Park, a tribute to Teddy, raffles and a cash bar.  “It will be a wonderful night to connect with old friends and meet some new ones.  Southie is famous for giving back  and hockey folks are number one when it comes to giving support to our children and the community,” says Teddy.  He goes on to add, “One of the most important things we can do in our lives is to help our youth develop in a positive and confident way.”  Teddy has been living by these words for the past 34 years.

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.

Comments

  1. patrice cunniff linehan says

    We were all fortunate to have Ted guiding us both on and off the ice. He watched out for all of us “rink rats” over the years and continues to watch over the next generation of children.  I can’t thank him enough for being there as an important presence in our lives. He is always a straight-shooter, giving us great advice over the years. Here are some of my favorite “classic Teddy” quotes:

    Never give up, never EVER give up! … Act like you’ve been here before … Hey, don’t be a bobo! 

    Teddy knows how much hard work and preparation it takes to excel. He is always the first one to arrive and give the extra effort necessary.  My father told me that Ted was always the one to get him to workout and he shared a story about how Ted became one of the best handball players at the “L”.  When the top players wouldn’t play him because they didn’t think we was good enough, he paid them to play … until he was better than any of them!

    Here’s a link to a record of the legendary game that opitimizes Teddy’s hard work.  Loving my uncle Ted and hoping I can make it to Boston on November 30 to celebrate his many accomplishments!

  2. John Walsh says

    I attended Gate of Heaven with Teddy and even back then, he was a special person. He was someone the other kids looked up to and was always quick with a smile or a kind word.

    To this day, I still tell friends and family about watching Teddy score 13 goals against JP. I remember that the JP goalie was ducking for cover near the end of the game.

    Over the years, I would run into Teddy, and he still had that smile…a great athlete and an even better guy!

    I’m so pleased to hear that Southie will be honoring him as it is well deserved.

     

  3. Billy Baker says

    The longtime volunteers in the community often go unsung simply because they’ve become a fixture, so it’s great to see Teddy recognized for everything he’s done for me and thousands of rink rats like me.

    And it’s good to know that he has never backed off from his commitment to getting kids on skates and onto the ice. Case in point: My brother and I took our children sledding behind the rink last winter, then stopped inside to warm them up. I hadn’t seen Teddy in a long time, and after a quick hello he practically threw skates and helmets at the kids and ordered us to take them into the little rink. Old coaches… you can’t change them, and you wouldn’t want to.

    Still can’t believe you scored 13 goals in a game. That’s more than Stubba scored in his career.

    Thanks for everything.

    -Billy Baker

  4. Mark Dennehy says

    Teddy and his late brother John are Boston hockey legends. I would not be coaching in Hockey East without their coaching and tutiledge. No one has or had more passion for the game.
  5. Jimmy Cunniff says

    Congratulations Ted
    You gave your time and talant to make the world a better place for kids to grow up in. You inspired ,coached, and made the Cunniff name live on.
    Live long my cousin. You are a true ledgand!
  6. Ed Walsh says

    Teddy and his brother John put Southie on the map in the 60’s. Great athletes, but more important ” GREAT GUYS “