Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of New England Hockey Journal.
When Joe McCabe resigned as Boston College High School’s varsity boys ice hockey coach last May, the school didn’t have to look hard to find his replacement.
John Flaherty, a former BC High goaltender who has been an assistant coach on McCabe’s staff since 1992, was the obvious choice. Flaherty (South Boston, Mass.) even works as the Director of the Fund for BC High, a fundraising position that helps raise financial aid for students who attend the school.
There was one small problem, though: Flaherty didn’t know that McCabe was going to step down, and applied for the head coaching position at Thayer Academy. When McCabe announced his decision, Thayer had narrowed a large pool of applicants to three finalists, and Flaherty was one of the three.
“Joe always said he was leaving,” Flaherty said. “It was a running joke. Every year, he would say, ‘This is it. I’m done.’ It was always during tryouts when he had to tell kids they didn’t make the team.
“I was ready to be a head coach. I have a resume outside of BC High (he’s the head coach for the Greater Boston Junior Bruins), and the Thayer Academy job opened up. There was no guarantee I was going to replace Joe McCabe.
“When they offered me the BC High job, I accepted and withdrew my name at Thayer. My heart and soul has always been at BC High. I’ve always wanted to be the head coach at BC High.”
Thayer ultimately hired former NHL star, alumnus and Hingham, Mass., native Tony Amonte.
McCabe served as BC High’s head coach for 22 years. He guided the Eagles to four Super 8 titles — 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2007 — as well as the 1994 Division 1 state championship. His BC High teams had a 49-19 record (.720) in Super 8 games.
McCabe spent two years as the head coach at Don Bosco and 13 years as an assistant coach at Matignon before he became BC High’s head coach. He is still BC High’s assistant athletic director.
“Joe was an old-school guy,” Flaherty said. “He demanded discipline. He had a lot of respect for the game, and he demanded that from his players.
“He was in it for the right reasons. He was in it for his players.”
Flaherty, who graduated from BC High in 1988, said he’ll incorporate more use of video and encourage his players to be more creative on the ice.
“We’re going to mirror a college hockey program,” he said. “On the ice, the principles won’t change, but we’ll encourage guys to do more with the puck. Sometimes you work so hard to get the puck, if you dump it in you’re giving it away.”
The goal, Flaherty said, is to develop hockey players regardless if they go on to play Division 1 hockey or hockey at the Division 3 level.
“Getting this job is like having a brand new car in the driveway and having to wait six months until you get your license,” Flaherty said. “I’m itching to get going — and the kids are too.”
Roger Brown can be reached at email@example.com