It was a grim Sunday on February 10 for the hockey community and the city of Worcester as hundreds of people, all from different walks of life, gathered together to pay their respects to a man who touched all of their lives, Lance Brady, who recently lost his battle with cancer. Nicknamed “Duke,” Lance was dedicated to the game he loved for his entire life, hockey.
After playing varsity hockey for Holy Cross, Brady, who served as captain his senior year, went on to launch a professional hockey career, playing in leagues such as the ECHL, IHL, and AHL, as well as playing professional roller hockey. Following his playing career, Brady took to coaching, starting at high school and quickly rising the ranks to college hockey. Brady would eventually land the position of head coach at Assumption, in which he would serve a ten-year tenure. During that time, Brady earned the Northeast-10 Conference (NE10) Coach of the Year honors three times, while also leading the program to their first NE10 championship in the 2016-17 season. This past year, he took the position of director of hockey operations at Division I Merrimack College.
Current Head Coach Michael Looney ‘12, who not only coached alongside Coach Brady for several years but also played under him at the College, called him “truly a player’s coach. Above that he was a true professional. On and off the ice Lance had an unparalleled work ethic in everything he did. He had a larger than life presence, and genuinely loved being at the rink with the boys whether as a player, assistant coach, head coach, or around the men’s leagues.”
Although Coach Brady’s accolades speak volumes of his success in the hockey world, those who played for him know that it was his love for the game and his players that was most important to him. Coach Brady was known by his players to be a reserved and quiet man, always making decisions that were in the best interest of his players. “Consistency, hard work, communication, and always give back to your community,” said Cam Laughlin ’18, who captained the Hounds his senior season and was named the 2017-18 NE10 player of the year, of the lessons he learned from his late coach. “He taught us to be good hockey players, but also better people. I use a lot of these lessons at my job now. If you’re able to communicate as a team and work as a team, you’ll find success.”
Following his first diagnosis of cancer, Brady took a leave from absence from the program in the fall of 2017 to focus on his health, only to return in spring 2018 in time to lead his team into the playoffs. “It was so inspiring to see,” said Nick Commesso ’17, who was the goaltender for the hounds on the NE10 championship team. “Personally, as someone who has had cancer affect their life, his return just showed his love and dedication for the game. You realize when someone is battling for their life that it is just a game, you remember why you started playing, to have fun.” Commesso, who is now the assistant coach at Curry College, also shared that the lessons Coach Brady taught him made him mentally tougher and molded him into the coach he is today. “There was one net and I wanted it to be mine. In order to do that I had to learn from Lance that there were no days off, nothing is handed to you, and to work hard no matter what,” he added.
Commesso reflected that one of his most fond memories of Coach Brady was following that thrilling overtime win at St. Michaels College to seal the NE10 Championship. “Giving him a big hug on the ice when we won the championship was such a good feeling,” he said. “We had gone through so much adversity together from my freshman to senior year, we didn’t say anything to each other, we didn’t have to, we just knew.” When asked to comment on the same moment Laughlin said, “He had such an intimidating and dominating presence about him, but to see his big smile holding the trophy after we won just showed a different side of him that not a lot of people see.”
Coach Brady was always one to stand up for those he cared about: he did it for his teammates when he played, and he did it for his players when he coached. He was a fighter, and he never backed down from any challenge or opponent, even cancer. He had the same mentality when he received his diagnosis, he took it on full steam ahead, fighting until the very end. Although Lance lost his battle, he lives on through his former players, and the mark he left on the Assumption College Ice Hockey program and the hockey community as a whole. Engraved on the 2016-17 championship rings is Coach Brady’s motto from that season: “Everyone rows the boat.” Those words and his legacy will live forever.
Kieran Peters, a senior, studies Organizational Communications. He is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.