Jaywalking: Over and out

I took up an invitation to Greenfield High School hockey’s end-of-the-season banquet last week.

The celebration took on a whole new meaning this season, since it was the final time 11-year head coach Mike Duclos and assistant coach Todd “Happy” Boynton would be together to address the team. Both men are hanging up their whistles after terrific coaching careers. They began coaching together for the 2003-04 season (a combined 7,864 days ago) and have compiled a 115-67-21 regular-season record, 4-7-0 in the postseason. The duo won the inaugural WMass Division IIIA championship in 2008, and this season went out with a 17-1-2 regular-season mark, good for the Fay-Wright Division crown, before bowing out in the WMass Division IIIA semifinals to Chicopee High School. Duclos is leaving to watch daughter Molley play basketball at GHS; she’ll be a sophomore next season, and Duclos didn’t want to miss her next three years.

“I absolutely love coaching, especially after a year like we just had, but as a father, I want to support my daughter,” he said Sunday. “I wasn’t able to watch (daughters) Lindsey and Kasey play much, and I would like to be able to watch Molley.”

This is not likely the end of Duclos’ coaching career, but rather a hiatus. At the banquet he joked that after coming home late for the past 11 years to his wife Karen and the rest of his family, it would probably take just one year of coming home early before his wife begged him to return to coaching. On Sunday, he admitted that this is probably not the last you will hear of him behind the bench.

“If something opens up and I come back, then I’ll come back,” he said. “It has been a fun 11 years and I don’t regret anything. There have been some great kids that came through here. And wins and losses really don’t matter. It’s about watching the kids evolve.”

The recently concluded season was especially emotional for Duclos, and not just because it was his farewell tour. On Feb. 26, Duclos’ father Ron “Duke” Duclos Sr. passed away at the age of 74. For the past 10 years, Ron Duclos had attended his son’s games and the two would talk about the team following every tilt, whether later that night of the next day. This fall, Ron Duclos had a surgery around Thanksgiving and was unable to get out to games live, but Mike would still talk with his father following every game this season.

“From Day 1 when I first got hired, my father showed up at the first practice I had,” Mike Duclos said. “He pretty much showed up at every game possible. He was always a really huge supporter.”

Mike said his father died on the day he was preparing to scout the WMass Division IIIA quarterfinal game between South Hadley and Chicopee. He was on the bench a week later when Greenfield played Chicopee in the semifinals. The motto of this year’s team was “Family,” and the passing of Duclos’ father highlighted just what a tight-knit group this year’s team was. After losing to the Pacers in the semis, things got highly emotional in the locker room afterward.

“I think if I was not coaching, it would have been a lot harder,” Duclos said. “Even though we did lose to Chicopee, it was OK. It got really emotional in the locker room. I told the guys that, ‘Win or lose, you made my father proud. He loves you all, and I love you all, and I want to thank you all for making it easier than it could have been.’ Some of the kids shared stories of losing their grandparents. And not a lot of 15- to 18-year-old kids would send you a card offering their condolences. The entire team even showed up at his funeral, which was really difficult for me. It was just a great group of kids.”

One banquet topic of conversation from the losing locker room after the Chicopee game was that Zach Langlois stood up and said, “I’m not crying because we lost, I’m crying because this is a family.”

As for Boynton, Duclos said he was planning to leave after last season but agreed to come back for one more year so that the two men could leave together.

“I loved having Happy around,” Duclos said. “He works well with the kids.”

Duclos hopes that his other two assistants, Adam Bouchard and Corey Lovett, will be hired by the school to continue to lead the program. Greenfield athletic director Mike Kuchieski said no decisions have been made yet, and that the job would be posted.

As for the team, it lost seniors Jourdan York-Welcome and Jake Elwell, both of whom scored over 100 points in their careers. Elwell was named team MVP at the banquet, while York-Welcome was given the Coaches Award. He followed it up with a stirring speech. Senior Zach Langlois was named Rookie of the Year (and his family’s restaurant The Smithsonian Cafe and Chowderhouse served up some delicious food at the banquet), senior Cam Woodward was named Most Improved (and will be joining the Marines after graduating this spring), and senior Sarah King was given the team’s Hobey Baker Award (which is given to the player who, if possessing skills to match work ethic, would be the best player on the team). John Reindeau was given the Newbie Award, Tyler Townsley won the Sportsmanship Award, and Barrett Rogaleski won the Foundation Award.

Although approaching the end of skiing/snowboarding season, Berkshire East will be plenty busy this weekend.

The third-annual Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon will take place Saturday morning beginning at 10 at the foot of mountain. The event, while still rather young, has been steadily growing in popularity and this season race director Mike McCusker will feature the largest field ever. I’ve known McCusker from years of covering the other major event he organizes — the very popular Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic in late July/early August in Shelburne Falls — so I decided to jump on board the pentathlon and find out secret behind its popularity.

As you may have already guessed, the pentathlon features five events. Competitors begin at the lodge at Berkshire East and run through the parking lot, which at this time of the year could be a messy, mucky mess. Runners will head out of the access road and make their way across the bridge (I believe it’s known as Long Bridge) to the Mohawk Trail. After a total of 4.2 miles, competitors will hop on their bikes and set out on a 20-mile ride, which is four laps on the same course that brings competitors through Charlemont and eventually ends at the Zoar Outdoor picnic area.

Things will get interesting at this point, where participants will hop into kayaks for a 5-mile paddle down the Deerfield River from Zoar back to the Long Bridge. The river will be no picnic this time of year and, according to the Berkshire Highlands website, features Class I and II whitewater conditions. There are emergency boats in the water and, again according to the website, if a competitor sees someone in trouble, they are required to stop and help unless there is an emergency boat on the scene.

Once a competitor makes it through the kayaking segment, he or she will begin a 1.82-mile run from Long Bridge back to Berkshire East. This time, however, there will be six Bone Frog-style obstacles for competitors to get through. These are military-style obstacles and includes a jump over an actual fire among other things. Get through that, and participants will begin the fifth leg of the five-leg race, and it’s a doozy. Competitors will climb up the “Competition Trail” at Berkshire East and when they get to the summit, will turn around a ski down the mountain to the finish line. According to McCusker, the climb can be done wearing any footwear, and some people choose to wear a specially designed ski that allows them to climb the mountain. Others will do the climb in boots or shoes before throwing skis on at the end for the downhill portion.

The race is expected to take anywhere from three hours on to complete. Last year, the winners completed the course in 3 hours, 1 minute, 9 seconds, finishing 43 seconds ahead of the second place squad.

You may say to yourself, “Wow, that is a lot for one person.” That’s what I thought, too. But many people form teams to compete. Some are five-person squads, with one person tackling each leg, while other teams may have two, three or four people, with at least one person doing two legs. There are three divisions of teams being awarded first prize, with a high school division, collegiate division and cooperate division. For those brave individuals attempting to go it alone, there is an award given, and sticking with the Scottish theme, it is called the Braveheart Ladie and Lassie Awards. This award is interesting in that the winner is given a piece of Ashfield stone that is rough cut and looks like a little mountain. Inside is an engraved heart.

McCusker said Friday afternoon that he was extremely encouraged by registration thus far. At this time last season, McCusker said he had 67 people registered and wound up with roughly 100 competitors. This year he already has 116 people signed up.

One thing McCusker is very cognizant of when organizing a race is to make it spectator friendly, which he has again accomplished with this event. Spectators are encouraged to hang out at Jerry Pratt’s Boathouse, which is right next to the Long Bridge connecting Route 2 to Route 8A. There will be mobile refreshment stands set up there, a perfect spot from which to watch many parts of the race.

Another fun part of the event is something called the “Somewhat-Kilted Snow and Muddied Mile Race,” which takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday. Contestants are required to wear a kilt or something like it for a one-mile run, which takes place in the parking lot and surrounding area.

“You could tie a car blanket around your waist if you wanted to,” McCusker said.

Participants of both events get a T-shirt, hot meal (in the lodge at Berkshire East) and a mug from Berkshire Brewing Company, which will be filled with either a beer or another beverage.

The registration cost varies based on team size. For more information on cost and for more information on the event, go to www.berkshirehighlandsevents.com.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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