April 1, 1984

The coach is a city police officer who has been patrolling the streets for 18 years. The team’s vice president has been a mummer for 27 years, so if you need directions along Broad Street, Joe Quattrone is a good person to ask. There is a club made up largely of players’ parents that helps finance the team with socials called “ethnic nights.” The players help de- fray the costs by standing on street corners and holding out their skates to motorists passing by. Many of those players hold part-time jobs to help pay for new equipment.
Scholastic ice hockey in this area had been controlled by the so-called “blue-blood” schools because of the cost of equipment, ice time and off- season clinics runs in the neighborhood of $1,000 a year for each player. Archbishop Carroll of Radnor on the Main Line won the first two Flyers Cup championships. Germantown Academy, which sits on a plush campus in Fort Washington, won the next two cups.
But last Tuesday night at the Havertown Skatium, Archbishop Ryan High, located in the far Northeast, moved the Flyers Cup into a different social stratum. The Raiders squeezed past Council Rock, 5-4, before a tightly packed 1,000 spectators to become the first city team to win the cup since the meticulously run tournament began five years ago. “We see it as a win for blue-collar kids,” Quattrone proudly announced. Ryan went 17-1 in the Lower Bucks County League and 3-0 in the Flyers Cup tourney, after qualifying for the four-team field in two previous years. The Raiders have a blistering shooter in Ray Matz, a member of the Little Flyers, a crafty center in Dan Palmer, and a fearless goaltender in Frank Skirpan. And Ryan’s hockey club is no Johnny-come-lately organization. But Ryan is a curious champion, not only because it is a blue-collar club in a sport tailored for the well-heeled, but also because Bob Ipri, its unpretentious coach, admittedly has no hockey background beyond watching the Flyers on television. “I went to a coaching clinic and picked up a few things from Bob McCammon, Ted Sator and Pat Croce,” Ipri said. “But a hockey background? No, I don’t have one. I got into it simply because two of my sons, Mark (who played for Ryan last year) and Steve (who played this season), got into it. As far as coaching goes, I just kept thinking of what a man once told me. He said the main requirements of being a good coach are common sense, properly relating to kids and honesty with kids. “In that regard,” Ipri added with a laugh, “I have plenty of experience, because I have six kids.” Ipri epitomizes the enormous sacrifice necessary to run a team like Ryan’s, which is not subsidized by the school. As a policeman on shift work, he had to use two of his four weeks of vacation to conduct practices and work the games. And the club’s budget doesn’t include a salary for the coach. “It’s no big deal, because I love being around the kids,” Ipri said. “Some guys drink, some guys gamble. Well, this is my own release valve. Believe me, I was a very small part of the team’s success. All the parents involved sacrifice with time and money, not only me.” Ryan’s plight in hockey is not taken lightly by the team’s backers. Shortly after the season began, Chris and Vince Harrington, the two architects of Ryan hockey, were pressured by the parents club into resigning their positions as coach and director. “Chris and Vince had other personal commitments, and they weren’t able to put in as much time as they used to in running practices,” said Ed McFadyen, who succeeded Vince Harrington as director. “The parents got annoyed and asked for Vince’s resignation. Then Chris, the one who made Ryan a hockey power, left. I guess you can say there was a big front office shake-up, sort of like what the Flyers went through. “Then Ray Staszyk, an assistant varsity coach who all the kids loved, passed away, and Bob volunteered to coach the team. There was a lot of turmoil for the kids, which is why winning the Flyers Cup was such a great accomplishment for them. And I can’t say enough for what Bob’s done, giving up all that vacation time. We hope he’ll be back next year.” Ryan hockey has become so popular that the club now puts two junior varsity teams on the ice as well as the varsity. McFadyen estimated that it costs $20,000 – a lot of “ethnic nights” to fund the three teams. “No doubt it’s expensive, especially for kids who don’t come from affluent families, like the Ryan kids,” McFadyen said. “When my boys got into hockey and I found out how expensive it was,” Ipri said, “I told them, ‘Fine, but you’ve got to help out. Steve works cleaning out a lunch truck. He’s been doing that since he was 12.” Before Tuesday’s championship game, Quattrone stood out in the Skatium parking lot, strumming his mummer’s banjo as the players entered the rink. After the game, won on Craig Campagnolio’s goal late in the third period, players’ parents popped open beer cans to celebrate in the rink’s lounge. “It’s a lot of hard work,” McFadyen said with a smile, “but we have fun doing it.”

CREDIT: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Ray Parillo The Philadelphia Inquirer