STAMFORD — On the night the Trinity Catholic boys ice hockey program played its final game in the friendly confines of Terry Conners Ice Rink in Stamford, the Crusaders established a new tradition.
Trinity Catholic retired the No. 24 hockey jersey worn by the late Brian Bill in a beautiful ceremony before the Trinity Catholic-Wilton FCIAC contest won by Wilton, 3-1. Bill’s No. 24 Stamford Youth Hockey jersey is framed just below his Trinity Catholic green and gold jersey on the history wall of Conners rink.
As a senior, Bill was a co-captain on the 1997 Trinity Catholic hockey squad that lost as a No. 7 seed in the Division I quarterfinals to Notre Dame-Fairfield, 7-3.
In 1998, as a No. 5 seed, Trinity Catholic won the Division I state title as it beat Notre Dame-Fairfield, 7-1 in the semifinals and New Canaan, 3-1, in the final held at the New Haven Coliseum.
The Crusaders were FCIAC runnerups in 1997-98 and 1998-99.
“Brian Bill was a great player to co-captain with,” said 1997 senior co-captain John Scofield, who flew in from Seattle to be a part of Monday night’s ceremony. “Brian wasn’t a captain who talked louder or said more words. He spoke few words. He led with his actions and his heart. He inspired guys to go from 90 percent effort to giving 100 percent effort on the ice. The guys on the 1998 state championship team said Brian’s leadership in 1997 set the stage for their success.”
After graduating from Norwich University in Vermont in 2001, Bill enlisted in the Navy and ultimately became a member of the elite U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six unit.
On August 6, 2011, Bill was one of 17 Navy SEALS who died in a nighttime mission in Afghanistan. Bill, who earned four Bronze Stars with Valor, was age 31.
After John McGovern (served in Vietnam 1967) played ‘God Bless America’ on the bagpipes before a capacity crowd of Trinity Catholic school and hockey alumni, the Rev. Tom Davis spoke these words of tribute for Brian Bill.
“There are many kinds of men. And many kinds of service,” Rev. Davis said. “Brian Bill was a man of courage who when he saw injustice in the world responded to change the situation. Let us honor Brian Bill’s sacrifice.”
Scofield understood Brian Bill in his youth. And he understood the Navy SEAL Brian Bill.
Scofield, who had the Trinity Catholic and Wilton hockey players combine to unfurl the American flag at center ice, is a Major in the U.S. Air Force reserves.
“Brian was designed for service and helping people. He was the Defender. He was the Enforcer for good,” Scofield said. “We fed off each other in Boys Scouts, in Swim Club, on the hockey rink. That’s why we were both in the military. The heart and passion cannot be taught. Brian believed that anything was possible.”