John "Jack" Kirrane, who captained the 1960 U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team to a gold medal, passed away Sunday (Sept. 25). He was 88.
Kirrane practically grew up on skates. His father, the late John J. Kirrane, Sr., a captain in the Brookline, Mass., Fire Department, was an ardent hockey enthusiast who annually flooded the backyard of the family's Clyde Street residence. The elder Kirrane was also the expert who made sure the ice was right and the hockey sticks shellacked to make them last longer. It was in such a tradition that Jack and his brothers learned the game.
Jack progressed on to Brookline High School where he earned All Scholastic and Most Valuable Player honors in the Eastern Schoolboy Hockey League. After high school it was on to the Boston Junior Olympics and a subsequent spot on the 1948 Olympic Team. Only 17 at the time, Kirrane was a teammate of United States Hockey Hall of Fame enshrinees Jack Garrity, Jack Riley, and Manager Walter Brown, as the team finished fourth with a 5-3 record.
However, it was to be the 1960 Olympics for which Jack Kirrane would be remembered. An underdog United States team stunned the hockey world by upsetting Canada and the Soviet Union to bring America its then greatest hockey success since the 1933 World Tournament victory. In the 3-2 win over the Soviets it was said of Kirrane that regardless of personal safety, he threw his body into the path of Russian shots time after time to take the heat off goalie Jack McCartan. His defensive partner, John Mayasich, commented: "He was a team player and a catalyst of the '60 Olympic team. He was one of the older players on that team and he was all serious. Defensively he was one of the best."
Kirrane also played on the 1957 and 1963 National Teams and continued his local hockey career with such Massachusetts senior teams as the Wetzell Club of Brockton, Lynn, Estes, and Lowell. he also led the Wetzells to the 1957 Amateur Hockey Association of the United States National Senior Championship.