Jack Duffy, who served as an assistant coach of the Greenwich High School boys hockey team the past two seasons, has been hired as head coach, Greenwich athletic director Gus Lindine announced on Friday.
Duffy steps into a role that was filled by the late Chris Rurak for four successful seasons. Rurak, a popular, beloved coach in the hockey community, died on July 24 at the age of 47.
“Under the circumstances, it’s humbling after losing Chris in the summertime,” Duffy said. “I am going to continue to do all the things Chris did to make this program great.”
Rurak arrived at Greenwich High in 2016 and led the Cardinals to the FCIAC Tournament finals twice and to an appearance in the CIAC Division I final in 2018.
A native of Edmonton, Rurak posted a career record of 51-30-3, including 13-7-1 during the 2019-2020 season.
“I learned a lot from Chris,” said Duffy, who spent two seasons on Rurak’s coaching staff. “I learned a lot about the importance of communicating with players and being honest and letting players know what we expect of them. I’ll operate from a standpoint of mutual respect between myself and players.
Chris did a ton around town to enhance the program and he helped start the (FCIAC) JV league, giving younger kids an opportunity to develop through the program.”
A native of North Branford, Duffy attended North Branford High School for three years, where he played on the ice hockey and baseball teams. He then attended Choate Rosemary Hall for two years, where he served as captain of the baseball and hockey teams.
After graduating from Choate Rosemary Hall, Duffy continued his hockey career at Yale University. He was a standout defenseman at Yale, earning All ECAC and First Team All-American honors.
“It was a great thrill to play hockey in front of my folks at Yale,” Duffy said. “I grew up in the area, I saw Yale play from the time I was a young kid, so playing for Yale was the chance of a lifetime and I loved every minute of it.”
Drafted by the New York Islanders during his sophomore year at Yale, Duffy attended the Islanders’ training camp following his graduation from Yale in 1993. He proceeded to play for the Los Angeles Thunder in the International Hockey League for one season and the Chicago Wolves for two seasons.
“Playing at the professional level was a great experience,” Duffy said. “I tried to make it to the NHL and though I didn’t make the next step, I was able to move on in my life from there. While playing professional hockey, I traveled a lot and met a lot of great people, both on and off the ice.”
Duffy began coaching at Greenwich Skating Club in 1996 and after starting a family and taking several years off, joined the coaching ranks again when his oldest daughter, Hayley, began playing the sport.
“It’s great to be out there with the kids and try to pass on the knowledge I’ve learned through the game and what the game teaches you about life,” he said. “Hockey has taught me about things we encounter during our lives — becoming a good teammate overcoming adversity, solving problems.”
Hockey is indeed, a family affair for the Duffys. Hayley, a 2019 Greenwich graduate who attends Boston College, served as one of the captains of the Cardinals’ girls hockey team. Sean and Nate Duffy are seniors and juniors, respectively at GHS and will play for their father on Greenwich’s boys hockey team. Duffy’s youngest child Carlyn, is a sixth-grader who is also involved active on the ice.
“Hockey has been a big aspect of my life, but I’ve never tried to push it on my kids,” Duffy said. “They have all enjoyed their time playing hockey and being with their teammates.”
Duffy will take over a Cardinals squad that registered a record of 13-7-1 last season and returns a number of key players from the successful 2019-2020 team.
“I am honored to be named coach,” Duffy said. “It’s a great program and a great school to work for. Greenwich High School is a place where kids can have an amazing academic and athletic experience. Seeing our kids go on to success beyond Greenwich High School is very rewarding.”
Practice for the winter season is scheduled to begin in late November. How the season will look has yet to be determined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With this team we will have to overcome adversity,” Duffy said. “The loss of Chris, who did so much for the community and with COVID, there will be a lot of adversity, which is something we will talk about a lot with the kids. We are optimistic that we can have a season, though it will look different than past seasons.”