Len Ceglarski, Boston College men’s hockey’s head coach from 1972 to 1992 and a two-sport varsity athlete for the Eagles, died on Saturday morning. He retired with the ninth-most wins in NCAA history, finishing his career with a record of 673-339-38. He won 419 of those games in charge of the Eagles.
Ceglarski, 91, grew up in East Walpole, Mass. and came to BC in the fall of 1948. As a freshman, Ceglarski played center between classmates Frank Harrington and Jackie Mulhern, a trio that lasted for much of their careers. Under head coach John “Snooks” Kelley, the Eagles won the 1949 national championship.
From there, Ceglarski became the team’s star. “His hustle was, as usual, unceasing,” wrote Heights sportswriter Ernie Provencher about Ceglarski in a 1950 issue. In 1951, his senior year, Kelley named “Likeable Lennie” his team captain. The U.S. national team took notice—Ceglarski, along with linemate Mulhern, were on the 1952 Olympic Team, where they won silver in Oslo, Norway. Ceglarski also spent his springs as the Eagles’ starting second baseman.
After four years teaching at Walpole High School, Ceglarski began his college hockey coaching career at Clarkson University in 1958. In just four years, he built up a 10-8-1 Golden Knights team and earned a berth to the ECAC and a national championship game. In 14 years at Clarkson, Ceglarski took the Golden Knights to the promised land three times. His 1965-66 team is regarded as one of the sport’s all-time best: the Golden Knights went 24-3-0 (11-1-0), winning the ECAC title before losing to Michigan State in the title game. To his credit, Ceglarski won the 1966 Spencer Penrose Award for college hockey’s best coach. His last national title contender in 1969-70 ran into a Cornell team that would become, to date, the only men’s team to ever finish a season undefeated. He finished his Clarkson career at 254-97-11.
When Kelley retired in 1972, Ceglarski took the job at BC, leaving the spot at Clarkson to none other than Jerry York. In his first season in Chestnut Hill, he brought the Eagles to the Frozen Four, leading Heights columnist Mike Lupica to laud his hiring after the season. Ceglarski made the Eagles a routine title contender, regularly dominating both the ECAC and, later, Hockey East. In total, under Ceglarski, BC won three ECAC Tournament championships, two Hockey East Tournament championships, and six Hockey East regular-season titles. The Eagles also again became a force on the national stage, as they made four Frozen Fours. But Ceglarski failed to win the season’s last game at BC, coming closest in 1977-78 with a national title game loss to hated rival Boston University.
That never stopped Ceglarski from racking up personal accolades. As head coach of the Eagles, he twice won the Spencer Penrose Award—in his first season, 1973, and in 1985. More importantly, Ceglarski became the all-time winningest coach in the sport’s history in 1989—he is now ninth on a list that York tops. Ceglarski also coached David Emma, who won the 1991 Hobey Baker Award.
Ceglarski stepped down as head coach of the Eagles in 1992, two years after winning the Lester Patrick Trophy, which is awarded by the NHL and U.S.A. hockey to “honor a recipient’s contribution to ice hockey in the United States.” Upon his retirement, Hockey East created a sportsmanship award named in Ceglarski’s honor. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
More than anything else, Ceglarski was known as a great man. With a 7-6 overtime win in the Beanpot consolation game, Ceglarski earned his 556th win to pass Michigan Tech’s John MacInnes, a man who beat him for the national title back at Clarkson. In an article for The Heights, Ceglarski downplayed its importance, stating, “what matters is the kids who play for us.”
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics