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  Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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The John Cunniff Chowder Cup Dinner
By Rick Winterson

     This is the third year the John Cunniff Chowder Cup Dinner will be held.  It started at the Dedham Hilton two years ago.  The 2006 Cunniff Dinner is at the Westin Hotel in Copley Place on Wednesday evening, August 23. 

     According to Dinner Chairman Bob O’Connell, “My goal is to make the John Cunniff Chowder Cup Dinner the number one event in Boston when it comes to hockey.  Some day, when the personal memories of John are long gone, I want people to ask, ‘Are you going to the Cunniff Dinner this year?’

     The dinner already has a great background.  It’s an offshoot of the Chowder Cup Hockey Tournament, which is now considered the largest off-season Junior Hockey tournament in North America.  John Cunniff coached the Boston team to their first championship in this tournament back in 1987.  After his death from cancer in May of 2002, its name was changed to “The John Cunniff Chowder Cup Hockey Tournament”.

     Funds raised by John’s dinner are used to support the John Cunniff Memorial Scholarship at B.C., which was founded by Kevin Ahearn, a former teammate of John’s and a well-known Boston real estate executive.  Some of the money also goes to the Mass. General  Hospital’s Cancer Center in John’s name.

     There are two other reasons to attend the Cunniff Dinner.  The first one is to keep John’s name alive in hockey circles around Boston.  He was prominent and well-respected in those circles for nearly 50 years.  He gave back much more than he received.  The second reason is simply to have a great time.  The Cunniff Dinner is the place for local hockey enthusiasts to gather every year to shoot the breeze, now that the puck-shooting days have passed.  Don’t miss the chance.

     It’s difficult to write about all of John Cunniff’s accomplishments in a short article.  As boys, he, his brother Teddy, and the three O’Connell brothers – Bob, Michael, and Dennis – played on a team managed by Dan Lynch called “The Lynchmen”.  John twice captured All-American honors at B.C., and then went on to play on the U.S national team and our Olympic team in Grenoble, France, in 1968.

     Afterwards, he turned pro in the AHL, CHL, and the WHA, spending two years with the Hartford Whalers.  He began coaching at Cape Cod in 1975, became acting head coach in Hartford, and then served under Terry O’Reilly as the Bruins’ Assistant Coach for three seasons.  He joined the New Jersey Devils and was appointed Head Coach in 1989.

     John worked for years with USA Hockey developing young talent.  He was a coach in 1994, 1998, and 2002 Olympics, where he coached his last game with Herb Brooks before his death a few months later.

     Many familiar names are working to make this year’s Cunniff Dinner an outstanding success.  Among them are Anthony Gilardi, Carol Sullivan. Kathy Regan, Joe “Dodo” Nee, and Edso Foley.  Joe Nee says, “John was first and foremost a South Boston guy.  We want to get every hockey fan from here to go to his dinner.”  Edso’s recalls, “I got to know John at his sports shop on West Broadway.  He was the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”

That’s the John Cunniff Chowder Cup Dinner at the Copley Westin on Wednesday evening, August 23.  See you there. 

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John captured All-

American honors while

he played for B.C.