Brian McColgan’s hockey career has taken him to a lot of places. From backyard rinks in New England, to Appleton Arena, to Finland, and later Italy, before a return to New England.
McColgan’s college career appeared set to take place at West Point, but following the standard summer camp at West Point, McColgan decided on another route. He returned home to Massachusetts, where Joe Marsh, still an assistant at SLU under Mike McShane at the time, discovered McColgan playing in a fall league.
It didn’t take long for McColgan to realize SLU was the right place for him. He joined the Saints halfway through the 1984-85 season, and following that campaign, Joe Marsh took over as head coach and the team began building towards a run to the NCAA championship game.
“Each year we got stronger as a class and as a team and it culminated in the run to the national championship in 1988,” said McColgan.
McColgan still remembers the special group that came within one goal of an NCAA title, including the rest of the defensive corps that took the ice that night in Lake Placid, a group that is still close to this day.
“My partner was Russ Mann, he was a Mass. Kid from Tewksbury, and we Robbie White, Mike Hurlbut, Hank Lammens and Pete McGeough, to this day, we’re all still in touch,” said McColgan. “We can go to the golf tournament on the cape, and in the locker room it’ll be the same feeling. Nothing’s really changed there.”
“We were a lot of blue collar players, we didn’t have the kids of BC, BU or North Dakota, you know the top recruits,” McColgan continued. “Not that we were bad, but I think that definitely played to our favor. We were a tight group, we had fun off and on the ice, we were always together, and to this day, it’s like we haven’t left, in a way, which is a great sign and a testament to the program, the school, and Canton.”
While his time at St. Lawrence ended with the loss to Lake Superior State in the 1988 national championship, their accomplishment is still remembered by the fans who lived through it.
“We were a small school, and it seemed like the whole town went to see that game,” said McColgan. “We didn’t win the game, but we ended up heroes for a lot of kids, and that’s what you take away from it.”
McColgan’s hockey career continued after SLU for another 11 years in several different leagues across Europe. After a year in Finland, during which he played against an 18-year-old Teemu Selanne, and two years in Sweden, McColgan settled in Italy for the final 8 years of his playing career.
“Luckily, I had an understanding wife, and I played until my daughters had to start school. I got pretty lucky,” McColgan said with a laugh. “The language barrier was tough, that was definitely an adjustment, along with the weather, the culture, the food, but with the hockey, I think you just migrate into it, and it sort of fit my game.”
When it came time to hang up the skates, McColgan returned to his native Massachusetts and took a job as a fourth-grade teacher at the Dexter-Southfield school in Brookline. At the time, it was a Pre-K thru 8th grade school, but when they added a high school, McColgan took on the duties of assistant coach for the boy’s hockey team before also taking over as the school’s Athletic Director this past summer. Danny Donato, brother of Harvard Men’s Hockey head coach Ted Donato, is the team’s head coach.
“It’s fun coaching these kids. They’re eager, they listen, and I feel like they are what we were, but they’re more honed, with all the money that’s invested in these kids,” said McColgan, who works closely with the defense, attempting to mix in elements of the European style of hockey that he picked up during his professional career.
“We always had good people at SLU, and that’s another piece of it, I bring that mentality everywhere now,” said McColgan, who mentioned there are several SLU alums on the staff at Dexter-Southfield. “I don’t think we noticed it at the time, but more than just hockey, they taught us about morals, and life lessons. You know, we looked at coach Marsh like a dad, and to this day, we still think of him that way.”
McColgan still speaks with coach Marsh regularly, and mentioned his excitement at the chance to see Marsh and the Dartmouth women’s team play against Harvard earlier this season. The connections he made, and indeed every Saint makes with their fellow Laurentians, have remained strong to this day, forged in bitter North Country winters, Route 11 rivalries, and a trip to the national championship game.