Keeping Score: One ring to rule them all

Published: 04-22-2022 9:02 PM

Good morning!
In early December after a game at Merrimack College, UMass hockey analyst Brock Hines announced that he was resigning after the 2021-22 season. Hines chose the Merrimack venue because in 1993 it was where he broadcast the program’s very first Division I game.

He had defended the shield for 29 years and taken more shots than Sonny Corleone at the Jones Beach toll booth. He never said a bad word about UMass hockey when there was plenty of bad to be said, and when things got good, his services were no longer needed.

“I defended this program in its darkest days,” said the 60-year-old Montague resident. “After it reached the pinnacle it would’ve been nice if (play-by-play voice) Donnie Moorhouse and I would’ve been allowed to join the celebration. Apparently we made no impression on them.”

The animosity between Hines and coach Greg Carvel had been brewing. You could hear it in the one-on-one interviews, the terse responses and Carvel’s reluctance to address Hines by name. He longed for when Joe Mallen and Toot Cahoon treated him like he was part of the team and was grateful to have opposing coaches like the affable Jim Madigan, Kevin Sneddon and Albie O’Connell to interview.

But Carvel came to Amherst to win championships and not teach charm school. Hines knew it and had to live with it, but when he heard the team’s bus driver got a national championship ring and he didn’t, “I knew it was time to move on.”

Some wonder what all the fuss is about, getting rings that are so large they cost extra to bring on planes. Providence College announcer Mike Logan shrugged at the ring the Friars gave him after the 2015 championship. “It was a nice gesture, but I couldn’t have cared less,” said Logan, who just wrapped up his 27th season. “It sits in a drawer. I’ve never worn it.”

Even Hines’ sidekick Moorhouse said, “I’m not a fan of the concept of giving rings to anyone but players and coaches. It’s never been that sort of priority to me. My issue is that Brock Hines should have his name in the rafters.”

Tom Dougherty, who heads up the Hockey Alumni Group of UMass, heartily agrees. “You couldn’t find a more well prepared guy in hockey,” said Dougherty, whose uncle was the former Red Sox GM Lou Gorman. “He’ll find his way. He’s not done. He has deep loyalty and love for the program.”

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As a counterpoint to the naysayers, Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said the entire Sooners support staff got rings after they won the 2000 BCS title. “Some of them absolutely broke down, they felt so appreciated and so valued,” he told USA Today’s Lindsay Schnell. “It’s a grind. You work hard and it doesn’t end the way you hoped, so when it does happen you want to make sure everyone feels like a part of it.”

Moorhouse said that when UMass won the national title in Pittsburgh, “I don’t think it was as important to Brock as he thought it would be. He remembers how it was under the Toot regime, emceeing lunches, getting invites to the team meets, wake-up calls at the hotel. We were recognized as the PR wing of the program.”

Toot Cahoon’s 12 years in Amherst were halcyon days for Hines. When the Minutemen were waiting to hear who they’d play in the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament, Cahoon called him and said, ‘Hey Brock, no excuses, make sure you’re in the locker room for the selection show.’

“That would never happen with Carvel,” said Hines. “I didn’t feel part of the team. If you said to me, describe what Cale Makar or Mario Ferraro was like, I couldn’t tell you a blessed thing.

“He’s by far the best coach in any sport I’ve ever been around, I just wish he had my back. His first year they had five wins and I gave him a pass. I figured he’s introverted, but as it went along I got the sense he didn’t trust us, like we were spies.”

Hines leads a Walter Mitty sort of life, owner of the Albert B. Allen Insurance Agency on one side and passionate hockey fan and relentless radiohead on the other.

In the sixth grade his neighbor Doug Stotz saw an ad for an AM modulator in a mail order catalog. “It cost $6 and I told Brock about it. He bought one and I set it up for him,” said Stotz, an MIT grad and semi-retired executive who lives in Wayland. “The call letters were WHBS — Hines Broadcasting System.”

“Jamie Hanley helped me attach a wire to the telephone poles,” said Hines. “Anyone who tuned to 820AM could hear me playing records and covering FCHA hockey games.”

Hines married Laurie Jolivet in 1991 and moonlighted at WHAI doing color for GHS games at Collins-Moylan Arena. Two years later WHMP’s Rick Heideman hired him to be the UMass color man with Ted Baker. He missed only three games in 29 years and “I loved every minute of it.”

Carvel said the failure to include Hines and Moorhouse “was an oversight for sure (but) it wasn’t my decision either way. I wasn’t aware of how deep the list went for people who deserved rings. We rectified the situation and Brock will be receiving a ring.”

“My initial anger was at Carvel,” said Hines, but to use a line from the Godfather, it was Barzini all along, aka Jeff Smith, the senior AD in charge of “external affairs.”

“It’s nice to know he’s the one,” said Hines.

A former trainer with a master’s in exercise science, Smith moved “to this side of the house” to be what some consider AD Ryan Bamford’s henchman. He has an impossible job description that’s worth telling, just not now.

Last summer Smith ordered 50 rings from Jostens, a Minneapolis-based company that was founded in 1897 by a jewelry repairman named Otto Josten. They cost $250 apiece and look good with the word “Mass” inscribed over a maroon “U” surrounded by little diamonds (or diamond lookalikes) and other gemstones.

“In terms of finalizing the list, that was me,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “I apologized profusely. I’ve had a great deal of remorse about this. I take full responsibility.”

Like the guy who gave his wife a fur coat after she caught him cheating, Smith showered Hines with a hockey jersey, T-shirt and other team garb. “It looked like he raided the bookstore.”

In February he looked up to see his face on the scoreboard and heard the cheers. Even Greg Carvel was applauding. “I hate this. This sucks,” Hines texted.

In December Smith ordered five more rings — one for Hines and Moorhouse, three for other “notable alumni, big donors” who weren’t recognized.

“You want a quote?” said one of them. “Bleep him.”

“It’s not the ring, it’s what it symbolizes,” said Hines. “So much love, so much effort, and for no one to say thanks… it’s sad. It shouldn’t have been this way.”

As fate would have it, Hines’ ring at long last arrived on Friday.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet715@icloud.com

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