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Massena native, former Clarkson hockey player recalls time in Olympic Games

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Tom Hurley is making sure his grandchildren have every opportunity to skate.

On a recent family outing, the former Olympic hockey player helped his 17-month-old granddaughter, Elise, break in her new pink and white skates during her first time on the ice.

Whether Elise becomes a hockey player — she already has her own stick — she likely will treasure the stories of her grandfather’s hockey-playing days.

Hurley, a Massena native and former Clarkson University player, competed on the U.S. Olympic hockey team at the 1968 Games in Grenoble, France.

He said the significance of the event was difficult to fathom at the time.

“I think the experience magnifies as you get older,” said Hurley, 69. “Being from a small town like Massena, having the opportunity that I had with Clarkson ... it’s great.”

The U.S. hockey team finished sixth in 1968, while the Soviet Union won its third Olympic gold medal in the sport. Czechoslovakia won the silver and Canada the bronze.

“We were very competitive against Canada, and we were very competitive against Sweden, but the Russians and Czechs were just a little bit better than us,” Hurley said.

The Americans beat West Germany and East Germany, and tied Finland. The United States lost to the Soviet Union 10-2.

“They were so disciplined, and they were such a tough team to play against,” Hurley said. “I was a pretty good skater, but those guys could fly.”

One of Hurley’s linemates was Herb Brooks, who later coached the United States to a gold medal after beating the heavily favored Soviet Union during the semifinals of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

Hurley said he regrets the 1968 team couldn’t participate in the opening ceremonies because it was scheduled to play Czechoslovakia at 5 p.m. that day. The ceremonies began at 3, but the teams were required to arrive at the rink two hours before their games.

“At the time you didn’t even think about it, but now you think about it,” Hurley said. “That would have been really fun to do.”

Hurley said one of his best moments was watching American Peggy Fleming win the figure skating competition. It was the United States’ only gold of those Games.

“We were all on the upper level when (she) won the gold medal,” Hurley said. “We all watched it together. That was fascinating; she was just great.”

Hurley credits Massena coach Stan Moore and Clarkson coach Len Ceglarski for their roles in his hockey career. Ceglarski was instrumental in getting Hurley on the U.S. hockey team in 1967.

“They were a great influence on me both on and off the ice,” Hurley said. “And my family and the people in Massena, they were always great.”

Hurley graduated from Clarkson in 1966, after helping the Golden Knights to their first ECAC Tournament title. Clarkson then lost to Michigan State in the finals of the NCAA tournament in Minneapolis.

While at Clarkson, Hurley became the first north country native to exceed 100 career points and the first Golden Knights hockey player to compete in the Olympics.

Hurley and his wife, Sandra (Guilbert), also a Massena native, now live in Windham, N.H. Hurley is retired from his job at Boston College, where he worked as the associate director of facilities for 34 years. He mentors kids with emotional disabilities at a nearby school.

Tom and Sandra have two grown children, Alison and Michael, and four grandchildren.

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