I waited 5 years for this?!
Hartford (Google Maps location)
August 14, 2010
For the first time in 184 museums I’m at a loss for words. I really have nothing to say about the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame. Though shouldn’t it be “Coaches’?” It’s their Hall of Fame, right? But as you’ll see in the few pictures I took, it’s clearly “Coaches.” I will note that on the incredibly awful CHSCA website, they do have it as “coaches’.”
Now, you’d think that site would have some good info on the Hall of Fame, but I can’t find anything other than an announcement about last years induction ceremony with a bunch of pictures formatted so poorly that they don’t show up on the three different browsers I tried. And trying to search for anything only yielded “Searching will be made available soon.” Because, y’know, it’s so hard to implement.
But this is an organization all about coaching our fine high school student athletes, not web design or museum promotion. In fact, the CHSCA HoF seems to actively thwart anyone getting inside it’s hallowed 5′ by 5′ afterthought of a closet space at the massive Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
I learned of this tiny little museum years ago… I think the first event I went to at Rentschler Field was a US Soccer World Cup qualifier in 2005. (I was silently protesting my alma mater’s move to 1-A football and avoided their games for the first couple years at the Rent, as the stadium is affectionately known.) There is a nice sign over the door, which is next to some bathrooms and a beer concession stand.
I forgot about it for a while, but then became a bit consumed with getting inside the CHSCA HoF. Why? Because it was never ever open. Every UConn football game, ever US Soccer game, every random event I went to at the Rent, it was always locked up tight. What secrets did the HoF hold? What invaluable artifacts were secured so tightly behind that white door? I simply had to know.
I walked by it for years, always to no avail. Add to that the aforementinoed fact that there is nothing online about the joint and the mystery only deepened. Then… It happened. Someone messed up and left the door open while I was there once! Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Now you’d think I just got lucky – and I did – but there’s more to the story than that…
There always is. Damian and I went to the Rent for the Whalers Fan Fest which was an event put on by Howard Baldwin to kick-off what he pretends is an honest effort to “Bring back the Whale.” I’ll take it; I love hockey and would have season tickets (again) should the Whale ever return. I know they won’t, but these events are fun and cool.
Upon arrival, I noticed the like to get in was many hundreds of people long. Nope, that’s not gonna work with Damian. So we walked around the stadium, wondering if there was an alternative. At one point, I saw some women leaving from a different area and decided to give the closed door a shot. It opened! Damian and I entered a little empty vestibule… Well this is dumb.
Then I picked up a piece of paper which was a VIP ticket to the event. Okay, that’s interesting. After a couple minutes, the (locked) door to the concourse opened and a security guy was helping an elderly woman out the heavy doors. Damian took the opportunity to mosey right on in. I followed.
And voila! I was in the VIP area with many former Whalers and a pretty decent food spread. I looked guilty as heck, but no one bothered me at all – despite the fact that there were 10 security guards and I had just appeared 90 minutes late. Oh hey! It’s Kevin Dineen, my old buddy! We had a great chat about the mid-90’s Whalers and Flyers and before I knew it, I was chatting with Joel Quenneville.
(This is a great story, huh?) Quenneville, as you surely know, just coached the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup over my beloved Philadelphia Flyers. I congratulated him and had a nice chat and when the Flyers were mentioned, Damian raised his “#1” finger and said “FFFFFffff!” (for Flyers). Coach told Damian that while a good team, the Flyers were not number one this year and – vigorous headshake from my son and another “#1 finger” and a “FFFFFffff!” I couldn’t have been more proud.
After all that excitement, I tried to blend into the background a little bit and wait – what?! The door the the Connecticut High School Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame was open! What are the chances?! So perhaps the lesson to you is that you will never actually get behind the blue door. Look at the cascade of impossibilities it took for me to get in there!
A couple professional photographers were stuffed into the teeny tiny HoF, yapping about nothing. They seemed startled by me and Damian, but I didn’t care. I was IN! And… I was… Thoroughly bored by it all. There was nothing much to read, some old trophies and photos and a bunch of plaques with names on it that mean nothing to me.
But that’s not the point. The point is that I was actually IN the CHSCA HoF! I took a moment to lose myself in the glint of the shiny old trophy that signified something to someone at some point. Damian simply left the room ready to go find Pucky the Whale.
Now, I could look up a few of the names on the pictures I can discern in my photos, but you don’t care. The only high school coach you know is Jack Cochran – the angry jerk who breaks all the rules and won state championships at New Britain, Bloomfield and New London before getting fired from each (more or less) with a trail of charges and accusations in his wake each time. (Cochran is not in the HoF to my knowledge.)
Here’s an article about a good guy coach whom I’ve heard about before: Marty Roos. He’s in the HoF. And I like this article, merely for the question mark, which sort of sums up this entire little place.