This chronicle is a biographical construct from various archived personal newspaper interviews, and personal accounts from Tom Coyne’s career as head coach of the Central Bucks South Titans Varsity Ice Hockey Team.
By Ross Porubski
Youth Hockey Info
Tom Coyne went to Bishop Brady High School in Concord, New Hampshire. He moved during his senior year, (1979) and was immediately enrolled at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote, PA. “It’s a painful memory of leaving my school and friends in New Hampshire, but I joined the McDevitt hockey team midway and very much enjoyed playing for coach Owen McGirr, he was a great man and true inspiration to me.”
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
In his fist year, 1993-94 as head coach of Cheltenham Panthers Tom stepped in with a dilemma to figure out, no goaltender. All Star goalie Jon Wurtele had left for prep school in New England. With a huge void to fill, senior skater Stephan Halper volunteered to step in. “When Jon left, there really wasn’t anyone with goaltending experience, (Stephan substituted one game the previous season at JV) so I volunteered, ” said Halper. “I was a little worried about the change at first, but now I’m very glad that I made the switch! “We lost a lot of players from last season, and to be realistic, I thought we were looking at sixth or seventh place this year,” said Coyne. “To be in fourth place, (3-1-2) this close to the break has been a terrific start for us. We hope we can continue to play this well all season. Coyne’s squad finished the season with a (9-7-2) record, paving the way to the playoffs for a shot at playing for the Class AA championship. The Panthers faced Central Bucks West in a single game elimination and played to a 6-5 win after five overtimes! “I’ve never been involved in a hockey game that went five overtimes, and that’s going back to when I was playing hockey as a kid in New Hampshire,” said Cheltenham coach Tom Coyne. “Stephan Halper played the best game of his career. Some of his saves were unbelievable”. “We’re excited about playing Eastern, but the kids will remember the CB West game for the rest of their lives,” Coyne said. “Everyone was exhausted at the end of the game. The kids could barely move, and I was all out of pep talks.” Cheltenham moved on to face the Eastern Regional Vikings in the best of three series for the SHSHL Class AA championship. They lost game one of the opening round (5-4) in triple overtime. Then rebounded with a 4-2 victory the following game to force a deciding game three. The Panthers came ready to play and smoked the Vikings with a score of 5-1 giving the Panthers the Class AA championship win in Coyne’s first season as head coach. Cheltenham was eliminated from Flyers Cup Class AA play 48hrs later after being defeated by Conwell Egan, 6-2. “It seemed like they just handed us a trophy on Tuesday, and then they’re saying, ‘See ya later,’ on Thursday,” Cheltenham coach Tom Coyne said. “It happened so quickly that I really wasn’t prepared to give my end of season speech.”
NO CHELTENHAM PANTHERS HOCKEY FOR TWO YEARS
Cheltenham was unable to complete a roster with the minimum required amount of student players in order to participate in either the 1994-95, or 1995-96 seasons. Therefore, the club had no other recourse but to cease operations.
CHELTENHAM PANTHERS HOCKEY IS BACK!
The 1996-97 Panthers, under coach Tom Coyne, returned to the Suburban High School Hockey League after shutting down for two seasons. This time, Coyne said, the squad is here for the long haul. “My intention certainly is to build a foundation for the future,” said the coach. “It’s a very young team, with quite a few sophomores, and freshmen, so we’re probably going to take our lumps,” said Coyne. After a (5-9-5) third place regular season finish, Cheltenham won the best of three series for the Class A SHSHL Championship against the Pennridge Rams. Cheltenham exploded onto the scene with a devastating 12-2 victory in game one against shorthanded Pennridge. “I’m sure the fact that Chris Wheatly, and David Bryant didn’t play, (flu) had a lot to do with the final score,” Coyne said. Pennridge came back in game two and shut out the Panthers 3-0 to even the series. After going back to the drawing board Cheltenham returned for the deciding game three with a different approach and topped the Rams squad the with a 5-3 score for the SHSHL Class A championship. Cheltenham moved onto Flyers Cup Class A tournament where they beat Edgewood 5-4 in the preliminary round. In the semi-finals Cheltenham squared off against the Neshaminy Redskins where they won 4-3 in overtime. The win put the Panthers into the Class A Flyers Cup championship facing off against the Marple Newtown Tigers from the EHSHL. Cheltenham went onto win the school’s first-Class A Flyers Cup title by a score of 7-2. Unfortunately, Cheltenham’s luck ran out against Bishop McCort from Johnstown in the Pennsylvania State Cup Class A finals. The much stronger Crusher squad won by a score of 7-0. “This group did a lot of maturing in the last four months,” Coyne said after Saturday’s season finale at the rink near West Chester. “When we started out this season, we had a lot of question marks. It was hard to say how we were going to do.” Afterward in his talk with the team, Coyne focused on what should be a promising future.
The 1997-98 season begins with a controversy which would shake the Cheltenham Panthers program, and the SHSHL to its core. Last summer, several months after Cheltenham had defeated Marple Newtown to claim the Class A Flyers Cup Championship, it was learned that the Panthers had used an ineligible player. The player in question, then an eighth grader, resided in the Abington School District. Because eight graders are not permitted to compete in the Flyers Cup tournament, officials stripped the Panthers of their three tournament victories and awarded the title to the Marple Newtown Tigers. After Cheltenham’s win over CB West on January 15th, Coyne informed his team, (7-9-2) he is stepping down and would immediately turn over coaching duties to assistant coach, Gary Szczurek.
COYNE RETURNS TO THE BENCH!
2002-03 After four years of no high school ice hockey coaching, Tom Coyne returns with a brief stint at Cheltenham High School in the 2002-03 season. The Panthers played in the tough SHSHL Liberty division after not fielding a hockey team the prior two years and may drop back to play in the SHSHL Patriot division after a (5-10-4) campaign.
It’s official, Tom Coyne will be taking over head coaching duties at Archbishop Wood in the 2003-04 season, replacing former coach, Rick Gallagher. Coyne’s coaching career at Archbishop Wood spanned from 2003-2008, where they were in flyers cup playoffs every year and made it to the finals in 2004 only to lose to ICSHL powerhouse Archbishop Carroll at Class AA. The next 2 seasons Wood jumped to AAA which was Coyne’s goal from day one. They lost in the semifinals in 2005 to the eventual champion, the Cardinal O’Hara Lions.
THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET REALLY INTERESTING
After coach Coyne’s tenure with the Vikings, he took some time off before moving onto Central Bucks South, and that is where things took off. It took a bit of a culture change, but his overall record was 145-36-13, including two Flyers Cup and Pennsylvania state championships. Coyne’s career behind the bench included four Flyers Cup final appearances in both Class A and AA, five SHSHL championships, two undefeated seasons, and eight double digit winning seasons. Tom retired from coaching until Pennridge called (2019) where his team went to the Flyers Cup semifinal, and then won the 2020 the SHSHL championship vs his old Central Bucks South team, and then eventually lost in the semifinals of the Flyers Cup to Downingtown West. This would mark the end of Coyne’s career where he handed the Pennridge head coaching reins over to Jeff Montagna.
Tom Coyne was inducted into the Central Bucks South Coaches Hall of Fame in 2022.