Massachusetts high school hockey lost a true ambassador earlier this week with the passing Tuesday of long-time Bishop Fenwick coach Robert “Bo” Tierney at age 66. The Massachusetts High School Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame inductee spent 34 seasons on the Crusaders’ bench and was also the school’s Athletic Director for 10 years, leaving in 2009.
Tierney’s teams won 300 games and Catholic Central Small Division championships in 1995, 1996 and 2009.
“He was a legend in hockey circles and it’s pretty hard to find someone who didn’t like Bo. We will all miss him a lot,” said Peabody High coach Mark Leonard, with whom Tierney coached as an assistant for another eight seasons after leaving Fenwick.
Tierney’s Fenwick clubs were painstakingly prepared to compete in a league famously full of powerhouse programs such as Matignon, Archbishop Williams and Arlington Catholic that regularly sent players to Division One colleges and on to the NHL throughout the 1980s and ‘90s.
Chris Nagy, now an assistant coach at defending Division One State Champion St. Mary’s of Lynn, was a Fenwick captain under Tierney in 1994.
“You know, he accepted that role of underdog – he always had us prepared and ready to play,” Nagy recalled. “He was all about the kids and he helped everyone. He wrote letters for us, got us into college and kept us in line – it didn’t matter what season it was.
“That school (Fenwick) was his life. His best friends worked there and he lived and breathed that school and was passionate about the hockey program. He was the first one to the rink and he was always excited. And he surrounded himself with the best guys around, like Bill Corley, Doug Anderson and Howie Doliber, guys who had been head coaches. Someone not as confident as Bo maybe wouldn’t have done that, but he was all about the program and the kids,” he added.
Long-time St. Mary’s head coach Mark Lee was a Spartans’ player in the late 1970s when he first encountered Tierney.
“Fenwick was our rival. Bo was very influential in high school hockey and, from my experience, was all about the kids. Although we had many battles over the years, Bo was always a professional and a gentleman,” said Lee.
When Tierney left Fenwick, Leonard pounced and added him to the Tanners’ staff, especially to draw on his expertise as a scout and his in-game insights.
“It was a no brainer for me to hire him. His knowledge of the game, his loyalty and his passion to help kids succeed was a huge asset for my program for eight years. He was a tremendous scout for us and always found something that another team did that we could exploit during the game,” said Leonard, whose 2010 team reached the Division Two North title game.
“I knew him as a great guy and coach when I was player at Peabody High in the early ‘80s and was lucky enough to form a strong friendship with him through the years when I became a coach. His teams played hard and with pride and he taught me a lot about how to handle kids, parents and administration on a daily basis. He always treated people with the utmost respect and was willing to give the shirt off his back if that’s what was needed,” Leonard concluded.
Veteran Arlington Catholic head coach and Athletic Director Dan Shine had dealings with Tierney in both capacities.
“He is one of the last of the old guard, that coached back in the 1970s,” Shine said. “I know he was highly thought of on the North Shore amongst all of his colleagues that coached with him. I always found him to be an honorable guy. With Bo, you never had to have things written down. You could take his word for it.”
The two faced off many times on opposing benches for many years.
“He was a solid hockey guy. His teams played the game the right way,” said Shine. “He held his kids accountable. I had a great deal of respect for him.”
Visiting hours will take place Sunday, October 1 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Murphy Funeral Home, 85 Federal St., Salem, MA. Funeral services will be held Monday, October 2 at 10 a.m. at Murphy Funeral Home. Internment will take place at St. Mary’s Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations to be made to the Jimmy Fund.
- Photo courtesy of Salem Evening News