PEABODY — Nine-year-old Kevin Greelish of Boxford and his sister, 10-year-old Jessey, are happily continuing a family tradition.
They are the second generation of their family to take part in the Cape Ann Hockey School, a summer camp at the McVann-O’Keefe Rink now being held for the 40th straight year.
“They’re nice and make things fun, which is why I like coming,” said Jessey, a skater in the Masco Youth Hockey program whose father, Darren, took part in the Cape Ann Hockey School as a youngster. “I started playing hockey because my brother does, and I love it.”
“I’m learning a lot of things and having a good time,” added Kevin, who is going in the fourth grade.
Husband and wife Bob and Sally Driscoll began the Cape Ann Hockey School in 1979. At that point, Bob Driscoll was seven years into a highly successful career as the head hockey coach at Masconomet Regional; he wound up as Massachusetts High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Famer by the time he stepped down after 33 years behind the Chieftains’ bench. Almost all of the couple’s 10 children also skated and/or played hockey, so being on the ice in the summer was natural.
Bob Driscoll passed away suddenly in 2016, but his family members have taken over the CAHS to make sure that it runs unimpeded every summer.
His nephew, Dan Driscoll, is the athletic director and boys hockey coach at the Berkshire School in western Mass. His team has won three New England prep school hockey championships. Now, he and his wife Dory have taken over the CAHS’s administrative duties, while their sons Daniel and Mark — who currently play at Connecticut College and Hobart, respectively — work as camp counselors.
“I came as an 11-year-old when they started the Cape Ann Hockey School in Essex (where it was held the first few years before moving to Peabody),” said Dan Driscoll. “The camp philosophy remains the same: Bob approached it as an educator first, but he also deeply believed in having fun. We work just as hard as any other camp, but want the kids to have a good time and develop a love for the game.
The camps has two sessions running Monday through Friday mornings, as well as a competitive summer league that runs nightly for three weeks and features 12 different teams. Mite, Squirts and PeeWees, take part in the morning sessions while the high schoolers take over at night.
Veteran hockey coaches such as Brian Seabury, Andrew Jackson, and Craig Seabury are a few that come back year after year to help out.
The high school league — which consists of teams from Masconomet, Beverly, Essex Tech, St. John’s Prep, Swampscott, Revere, Lynn, Lynnfield, St. Mary’s of Lynn, Methuen and two from Bishop Fenwick — has four games on Monday nights and three on the other weeknights, starting at 5:30 p.m. The ‘regular season’ consists of eight games for each team before the playoffs begin on August 17. There, the first place team takes on the fourth place finisher at 10 a.m., followed by the second and third place clubs squaring off before the championship final is played.
“It’s a real good time,” said Dan Driscoll. “The high school league offers a great opportunity for teams to get some ice time and welcome new players. Kids cam work on their games and use it to get in shape for the upcoming season.”
Both of Dan Driscoll’s sons say they love working with the young hockey players who are leaning new skills while helping them along their hockey journeys.
“I’ve been here every summer since I was about three,” said Dan, who is looking forward to his senior year of college. “I loved playing in the high school league; now I supervise on the bench or help out running the clock. I’ve learned a lot about coaching here and I’m thinking about doing it after I graduate.”
“Dan and I love coaching,” added Mark. “It just seems like the normal thing to do because I went to the camp when I was young and then started coaching.”
Sally Driscoll has officially retired from camp duties, but her nephew says she still pops into the rink from time to time to visit and see that everything is running smoothly.
“I never thought 40 years later I’d still be doing it, but I really enjoy it,” said Dan Driscoll, who grew up in Lynn and went to high school at St. Mary’s. “The kids are great and it’s an opportunity for me to come back home to visit family. This is an annual reunion for me. Now that my family is out in the western part of the state, we love coming back for three weeks.”
Coaching at the camp was the same for Bob Driscoll as is was when he coached at Masconomet; he always stressed the positives and the need to make the sport he loved fun for everyone he coached. He was an educator first and foremost, carrying that philosophy over to his hockey style with patience, tolerance and humor being important ingredients.
Bob Driscoll’s ‘Yes We Can’ spirit remains alive and well in 2019.