1982 – Dan Pylman
My CCS Hockey Story
My CCS hockey story is probably very familiar to most of us. My brother Rick, my sister Donna, and I pretty much grew up at the Clinton Arena. My brother and I played hockey, and my sister was a figure skater. We lived on Mulberry St., an easy walk to the rink, unless it was 5:30 a.m. and 5 degrees below zero.
My first memories of Clinton High School hockey games were of the “Root Section”. This was, I believe, a group of CCS students who would sit behind the opposing goalie, right behind the fence. There was no glass back then, just a very sturdy chain link fence held up by even sturdier yellow metal poles. The root section would heckle the other team, holding up hand-lettered signs, and chanting songs. They were great. I also remember that Clinton won a lot more than they lost. I can also remember the names: Hullar, Hameline, Heintz, Maxam, and the ever-present Burns. There was always a Burns.
As a little brother, I wanted to do whatever my big brother did. And he played on the high school team. I am sure that my friends and I dreamed of playing in the NHL, but all I ever really wanted was to skate out on the Arena ice on a Friday night in front of half the town. In my Pee Wee picture, I am wearing red and white laces in my skates. Those laces were the coolest thing that a Clinton Pee Wee could possess. They only came from one place: someone on The Team. I remember some epic games from those days; Rome and Ithaca were hated by me. I remember that those teams also won a lot more than they lost. I remember the names: Gennings, Lane, O’Neil, Owens, Pylman, Hughes, Hunt, and Burns.
Eventually my time came. I was a 5’7”, 140-lb. defenseman as a sophomore. I had a nice spot at the end of the bench right next to my buddy, Jimmy Owens, our team manager. I was petrified. These guys were big, fast, and mean. Some of our opponents didn’t really care if they won or lost. They just wanted to knock someone out. They all had one thing in common: they hated us. I recall a game in Auburn, or Skaneateles, or West Genny. It was one of those places that evidently didn’t know that you could put walls up and actually have an indoor rink. It was freezing, and it was rollicking. The place was going crazy. It was a hard-hitting game, not much action for me. I didn’t really mind that too much. Then our great captain, Jimmy Fauss, was injured and couldn’t take his next shift. Coach Burns yelled down the bench, “Pylman, get out there!” I scrambled over the boards, but I kept dropping my stick. The ref was standing there watching me try to pick up my stick. I couldn’t hold on to it because I had Owensie’s mittens on underneath my hockey gloves.
Again, we won more than we lost. We got beat in the playoffs by our archrival, Rome. Ross Bartell scored in OT to send us home. That game was crazy. It was in Rome, and the whole city hated us. Our bus was pelted with snowballs, rocks, and bottles on the way to the rink. We had to walk through a line of cops to get in the rink. I did not want to get off the bus. (The bus. We had great times on the bus, most of which cannot be shared here.) But, I did get off of that bus in Rome because of the names: Fauss, Owens, Davis, Hullar, Jones, Gurdo, and Hofmeister.
My junior year was disappointing. We didn’t reach the playoffs, although we did get Coach Burns his 300th win. That probably means more to me now than it did then. We beat RFA 4-3 in Rome. I scored 2 goals, and was called out of the locker room after the game to be interviewed by a reporter for the OD. That was cool. We had some really good players. We just couldn’t seem to put it all together. Again, the names: Kane, Iles, Hameline, Weaver, Hannon, and Burns.
Then, it was my senior year. We were good. At one point, we were ranked 3rd or 4th in the state, Division 1. We would step out onto that ice on a Friday night in front of half the town, fully expecting to win. It was a great feeling: we never hoped to win; we knew we would win. We could play fast, we could play rough, we could score, we could intimidate. I loved it. I had laced up my skates with some of these guys hundreds of times throughout our lives. They were my best friends. We played other sports together. We knew each others’ families, houses, even each others’ dogs. We were tight, we were good, and we knew it. We were the Clinton Warriors. We beat up Rome on a Friday night at the Arena to go to the Section 3 finals. We lost 3-2 to Skaneateles. We had beaten them twice during the season, but couldn’t get it done that night. And like that, it was over. The Skaneateles team had the same core group of kids that had defeated us in the Section 3 finals in soccer at the Carrier Dome a few months earlier. I don’t like Skaneateles very much. I remember the names on that Clinton team: Walpole, Litz, Hannon, O’Neil, Weaver, Loveland, Barrett, Reilly, Zeplin, and Burns.
Ironicallly, I now live in Rome. I am a youth hockey coach in Rome. My two boys, Jack and Ricky, wear orange and black. Jack wears # 9 and the “C” for his Pee Wee team. Ricky is #8 and is a defenseman, like his old man. Ricky’s first hockey game was played in the Clinton Arena. There I was, coaching a bunch of 8-year-olds wearing orange and black, with tears in my eyes. It was kind of a full circle type of thing for me. My wife, an RFA grad, was an 8th grader running around Kennedy Arena when I was a senior wearing the 9 for the Warriors, playing against RFA. She doesn’t remember me. She should have looked in the penalty box.
The fact that I am a Warrior in the land of Black Knights took some getting used to. One of my best friends is Ross Bartell, and we keep the rivalry going as best as we can, stretching the truth on occasion. All I know is that the last time I played Rome, I won! (And for the record, I never lost to New Hartford, ever.) I am friends with Bill Fleet and Al Williams, 2 legendary Rome coaches. Coach Fleet’s grandson is on my boy’s Pee Wee team.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Clinton Central High School hockey player. I always thought that the Clinton teams played hockey the way it was supposed to be played: fast, hard, and with an edge. I tell the kids I coach that they have to be hard to play against, not dirty, but hard to play against. I developed that attitude in the Clinton Arena. I had great coaches. Guys by the name of Hook, Barrett, Gennings, Hameline, Suppe, and of course, Burns. I loved being a Warrior. There is a certain brotherhood among us all. There are no former Clinton Hockey players; we are always Clinton Hockey players. Go Warriors!
– Dan Pylman