This chronicle is a biographical construct from various archived personal interviews, and personal accounts from Nick Russo’s career as head coach of the Bayard Rustin Golden Knights Varsity Ice Hockey Team.
By Ross Porubski
Youth Hockey Info
Nick Russo’s life is hockey:
Growing up in New York, Russo was Captain of his high school ice hockey team and played AAA club hockey for the Buffalo Regals. Aspirations, and expectations were to play out a career in the hockey world on the ice but was not to be had. In his senior year Russo suffered a career ending injury which cut his career short and put a stop to playing out the dream. However, as one dream came to an end, another was about to begin.
Uncertain of his career path, Nick attended Erie Community College in Buffalo NY before moving on to West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Nick’s desire was always hockey and he saw himself involved in some capacity, perhaps coaching. Local friends EJ McGuire from the Flyers, Brian Cavanaugh from Canisius College, and Rick Ross from SUNY Brockport convinced Russo there was a future in coaching. They are all Buffalo Boys and thought he could be the next coach from the area to make it.
1983 – 84, A year after graduating Russo found his way to the bench at his alma mater, Iroquois High School in Elma New York, as an assistant coach with the boys varsity hockey program. Russo quickly moved into the head coaching role the following season.
Single year as head coach of Iroquois High School, 12-6-1
1984-85, Nick moved to West Chester Pennsylvania to finish his Physical Education degree at West Chester University. There was no coaching hockey between 1984 and 1986 but Russo returned to the bench in 1986-87, when the University hockey team was in need of an assistant coach and once again, Russo stepped up to the challenge.
1988-89, Russo began student teaching at West Chester East High School and coincidentally the varsity hockey program was in need of a head coach. After much persistence from the students suggesting he take the job, Nick accepted the role and began his High School head coaching career in southeastern Pennsylvania. So too began Russo’s coaching tenure with Pennsylvania’s version of Olympic games, the “Keystone State Games”. Bill Well, head coach of the West Chester Hockey club, and Andy Richards suggested Nick get involved and this began almost two decades of coaching the games until 2006.
Six year record with West Chester East, 114-24-6
1991-92, Changes are on the horizon as the Villanova IceCats, playing at the NCAA Division 1 independent level came calling. Russo moved on from his assistant coaching role at West Chester University accepting the new role as assistant at Villanova where he would remain until 1994. In addition to Nick’s new role he was invited to volunteer as a coordinator with Philadelphia Flyers youth hockey foundation by Greg Scott, and Bruce Craig. Nick saw this opportunity as a great way to give back to the community. Moving along, adding to his resume, Russo was approached by USA hockey offering the opportunity to become an instructor with the coaches education program, “CEP” and gladly accepted.
1996, John Bostick, the assistant athletics director at Villanova reached out to Nick and invited him to interview for a head coaching vacancy with the IceCats. Russo was informed the players who he had coached prior in his assistant coaching role advocated for his return to fill the void behind the bench. Russo was offered the job and accepted. However, it was short lived, as Villanova dropped Men’s Ice Hockey from Varsity to Club in 1998. Enter Neumann University, they were in the process of beginning their NCAA Division lll men’s hockey program and offered Nick the job which he accepted and remained as head coach until 2004.
Time For Change:
2005, family responsibilities began to take precedence and free time came at a premium, Russo’s availability was waning, and he decided to move on from college coaching, Philadelphia Flyers Youth Foundation, and USA Hockey instruction. Shortly thereafter, in 2006, Russo chose to move on from the Keystone State Games as well. Being closer to home to be with his family was most important to him and gave him the opportunity to return to his roots coaching high school varsity at Bayard Rustin for the Golden Knights. This decision changed everything as what would happen over the next 15 years would be nothing short of amazing.
Bayard Rustin Golden Knights coaching record by year:
*Text highlighted in orange is linked to game archives
2006-07, 15-9-5 – Out in Flyers Cup 2nd Rd
2007-08, 18-7-3 – Runner-Up Flyers Cup final
2008-09, 27-4-0 – Flyers Cup Champion, and State Champion
2009-10, 15-15-3 – Ches-Mont Champion, Flyers Cup Champion
2010-11, 17-7-0 – Out in Flyers Cup 1st Rd
2011-12, 28-5-2 – Flyers Cup Champion
2012-13, 11-15-4 – Out in Flyers Cup semi-finals
2013-14, 26-4-2 – Flyers Cup Champion, and State Champion
2014-15, 21-5-4 – Ches-Mont Champion, Flyers Cup Champion, and State Champion
2015-16, 23-4-2 – Ches-Mont Champion, Flyers Cup Champion, and State Champion
2016-17, 30-6-2 – Flyers Cup Champion, State Champion, and National Champion
2017-18, 23-5-3 – Flyers Cup Champion, and State Champion
2018-19, 28-8-2 – Flyers Cup Champion, State Champion, and 3rd place Nationals
Bayard Rustin regular season, 302-117-40
A record 6 straight Class A Flyers Cup Championships – The only other coach to come close is John Graves at Class AAA with the Malvern Prep Friars, from 2001-05
Overall Flyers Cup 72-21-1
Overall career high school:
Iroquois High School, 12-6-1
West Chester East High School, 114-24-6
Bayard Rustin High School, 302-117-40
High school head coaching career regular season totals, 428 Wins – 147 Losses – 47 Ties
The only coach in Southeastern Pennsylvania Varsity Ice Hockey History to win 6 consecutive Flyers Cup titles in any class…. 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Selected as one of the top ten coaches in PA high school history in 2021
USA Hockey Atlantic District Coach of the Year 2017
Philadelphia Flyers Joe Scott Award 2018
Daily Local News Ice Hockey Coach of the Year 2009, 2014 and 2017
Over 400+ wins in 20 high school seasons
Nine players coached by Nick have played NCAA Division I or professional ice hockey and over thirty
five have played NCAA DIII or ACHA Club ice hockey
Mentored special needs athletes with success and incorporated two females on the Boys Varsity Hockey team
First NCAA Ice Hockey Coach at Neumann University
Last NCAA Ice Hockey Coach at Villanova University
Last recruiting class at Neumann University won the NCAA Division III National
Championship in 2009