Two of the North Shore's varsity high school hockey coaches have decided to step down from their posts — in large part to spend more time with their own young families.
Bill Blackwell, who has guided the Masconomet Chieftains for the past seven years, and Brian Addesa, who has coached at Salem High for the last five seasons, both indicated last night that they won't be back behind their respective benches next winter.
"It was a really, really tough decision. I went back and forth with my wife on it," said the 42-year-old Blackwell, whose teams compiled a combined 84-52-12 record during his seven seasons, making the state tournament five straight years between 2007-11.
"But this winter it hit me a lot that I was missing a lot of my kids' events. My daughter (Kelly) is a freshman in high school who plays three sports, and my two boys (12-year-old Brett and 9-year-old Drew) both play hockey. I was missing helping them with homework, too."
Blackwell led Masconomet to a Cape Ann League title in 2007 (they finished 16-4-3) and to a co-championship in 2009 (11-3-2 league, 14-5-2 overall). His 2007 squad, led by then-sophomore (and current New York Rangers rookie sensation) Chris Kreider, won two playoff games before bowing to Andover in the Division 2 North semifinals.
"I'm sure going to miss it," said Blackwell, who plans to coach his son Brett's Bantam team this coming season. "If you're a competitor, you like to compete and in the Cape Ann League, the competition was great. Anyone could beat anyone else on almost every night.
"Plus, we had some great, great kids during my time there. The Keaton Cashin's, the Pat Crosby's, the Kreider's ... it goes on and on. You don't run into kids that have that high quality as people all the time. Kids like that made it tough to step down."
Blackwell said he'd love to see his assistant coach, former Masconomet star Andrew Jackson, succeed him ("he's a great role model, the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to meet," he said).
The 36-year-old Addesa echoed similar sentiments in his decision to step away from the Salem High job.
A father of a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, Addesa is finishing up his Master's degree in Business Administration at Cambridge College in hopes of becoming a school administrator. Personally and professionally, he said, it was time for someone else to take over the team.
"It's time to be home, to be a dad and a husband a little more than I have the last five years," said Addesa. "My son was born right before I started this (coaching) endeavor and now he's going to start playing hockey; to be involved as he puts on his skates for the first time and learns the game is a big, big deal for me and my family.
"My kids are getting older, I'm finishing up school and will be looking for jobs as a school administrator ... something had to give."
The Witches, who play out of the Northeastern Conference South division, have a co-operative program, drawing in players from Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School and North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie (as well as any school choice students who attend HWRHS) to help field a complete team each season.
While not successful in terms of wins and losses, Addesa was proud that his teams — players, fellow coaches and even parents and administrators — knew the big picture was more than just about hockey.
"Playing hockey for Salem High was a commitment these players chose to make," he said. "Many of them knew it'd be tough and we might not win a lot of games, but they wanted to come and be part of the program and put in a strong effort every time they stepped on the ice. I had many coaches tell me after games 'Your guys never stopped playing hard the entire game.'"