Last summer I got a message via Twitter from a former player suggesting a feature on Fear The Triangle where I catch up with ex-Minutemen. It was a good idea and one I had kicked around myself but the summer months came and went and I never got around to it. However I knew it was something I wanted to revisit during this offseason because I really want to keep the blog active at least semi-regularly and this type of post is a great way to do so. Plus it’s a great chance for those who have been following the program for a while to see how the guys we used to cheer for are doing now as well as helping newer fans learn some UMass hockey history.
So when I made the decision to add the Where Are They Now posts to the FTT rotation, it seemed only fitting that I start with the former player who pushed it last year, Keith O’Connell. O’Connell, a Catholic Memorial graduate, transferred to UMass in 1993 after playing one season at Boston College. After sitting out a year per NCAA rules he joined the Minutemen on the ice for the school’s inaugural season in Hockey East in 1994-95 and was a mainstay on defense for those early triangle years. He would go on to play in the ECHL and even had a short stay with the Providence Bruins in the AHL before hanging up the skates.
Fear The Triangle: What have you been up to since leaving UMass?
Keith O’Connell: Since leaving UMass I played three years pro hockey in both the ECHL and a quick cup of coffee in the AHL. That all ended at the end of the 1999-00 season. That same year I got engaged to my now wife Amy Cahill (UMass ‘97). After hockey was done I went to work with Reliance Standard selling employee benefit programs for 3 years. I then jumped ship and started working with my father and the O’Connell Insurance Group for the last 9 years. I have since started OIG Wealth Management which acts as the Financial Services arm to O’Connell Insurance Group. I am also a partner and Dir. of Investor Relations of Capital Equity Partners LLC, a real estate development firm in Boston. I got married in 2002 and have three sons, Max, Charlie and Sam.
FTT: What’s your favorite memory of playing hockey at UMass?
KOC: Beating Maine in 1994 when they were #1 in the country in front of 8,000 and scoring the game winning goal against BC my senior year on Senior Night at the Mullins Center.
FTT: Do you still follow the UMass hockey program?
KOC: I do, and root for them win or lose! Best school in the country and it won’t be long before the hockey team is too!
FTT: What’s the biggest difference between when you played and now, in terms of UMass hockey or Hockey East in general?
KOC: The skill! We had good players and I played against some unreal players like Mike Grier, Chris Drury and Paul Karyia to name a few. But, I think Hockey East is the best league and the fact that more and more kids are making it to the NHL from Hockey East speaks volumes.
FTT: Is hockey still a part of your life nowadays?
KOC: Hockey is still a big part of my life as a fan and now as a coach. Two years ago I was the assistant coach for the U16 Boston Advantage, owned by Tim Lovell (UMass ‘98). And I now coach the 04 Terriers with my father (BU Class of 66) and I coach my son Max.
FTT: Is there a favorite restaurant, take-out place, or bar in Amherst that you miss the most?
KOC: Time Out (McMurphy’s). If those walls could talk! Antonio’s (hot cheese up front!)
Thanks to Keith for taking the time to share with FTT readers what he has been doing in his post-UMass years.
I know a lot of readers have asked whether captains have been announced or when that might happen. I did learn that they likely won’t be named until the players are back on campus in late summer/fall. This is primarily because the coaching staff wants to make sure they players who best show leadership are given the letters. With such a large and talented junior class that will be depended upon quite a bit, it’s not as easy as selecting three seniors. It’s also not out of the norm for captains to be named that late as we saw before the 2010-11 season. For those who missed it, here are my picks for captain next season.
Don’t forget to signup for this year’s Pond Club Golf Outing. Can’t make it? Sponsor a hole. Can’t golf? Do what I do, sponsor a hole and show up for the post-golf cookout. Last year US Hockey Hall of Famer John LeClair was in attendance. Who will be there this year?