Rhode Island has been known for many, many successful and influential coaches at all levels of the game over the past century – Belisle, Eccleston, Mousseau, Cimini, Lamoriello, Ernst, Fullerton, DeGidio, Mandigo, Crins, Army, Augustine, Wilson, Hynes, Capuano, Leaman, McCurdy – to name just a few.
One name that stands especially tall is that of Bob O’Connor for whom the Coach’s Library at the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum is named.
Bob, known as “OC”, was a lifelong student, teacher and fan of the game of hockey. He was born in Providence in 1935 and was a star forward at LaSalle Academy, playing on their state championship team in 1954. He was voted All-State in both ’53 and ’54 and voted top player in Rhode Island in his senior year. He also was on the New England Tournament of Champions squad in ’54.
Bob went on to post-grad studies at Hebron Academy in Maine before serving two years with the US Marine Corps. After his tour, he enrolled at Providence College where he played with line mate Lou Lamoriello.
After graduation, O’Connor moved to Edina, Minnesota, the home state of his wife, Alice. There, he fell in love with coaching.
From 1969-1978, “OC” coached youth hockey in Edina, winning State Championships at the Midget, Peewee and Squirt levels. He also was the JV Coach at Edina High School for 25 years, amassing a record of 423-48-22.
After his coaching career in Edina, Bob moved on to work with USA Hockey, becoming Assistant Coach for the 1984 and 1988 USA Olympic Men’s Hockey teams. Bob was a member of the USA Hockey Committee for 35 years and is Director Emeritus for the Board of Directors of USA Hockey.
O’Connor has long been involved with USA Hockey, including serving as Coach-in-Chief of USA Hockey’s Minnesota affiliate for 14 years (1980-94); as director of USA Hockey’s Coaches Section for 10 years (1994-2004) and as USA Hockey’s National Coach-in-Chief for two campaigns (2004-06). He also served on USA Hockey’s Youth Council for eight years (1996-2004)
O’Connor has also been involved on the coaching staffs of multiple U.S. teams, including a stint as assistant coach for the 1991 and 1992 USA National Junior Teams, as well as either a head or assistant coach for 7 U.S. select teams.
Other designations include: Associate Coach, National Women’s USA Hockey Team, USA Hockey National Coach-in-Chief; Minnesota Head Coach-in-Chief, Assistant Coach, USA Paralympic Hockey Team 2006, Torino, Italy, and Assistant Coach, USA Junior National Team 2007-08, Bronze Medal Winner.
Bob was a professional scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs and worked with the Buffalo Sabers during their preseason training camp. He was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Minnesota Wild in 2014. He received the prestigious Builders Award, one of several honors bestowed on him by USA Hockey for his life-time contributions to the game.
He passed away at age 80 in 2015, leaving these words: “I was just a grassroots hockey coach that developed young players early in their careers. Teach them to skate. Teach them to pass. Teach them to support each other.”