Thirty years ago Dave Caccamise and Carey O'Donoghue would wait for the 3 p.m. school bell to ring, jump in the car and drive to Hyde Park Ice Pavilion for hockey practice as members of Trott Vocational.
Caccamise was a gritty defenseman and O'Donoghue was a play-making center who could score at will. Together, the two helped lead Trott to the school's only Section 6 championship when they defeated LaSalle, 4-3.
For the first time in 30 years, the two were back at an ice rink together on Dec. 15. This time as opponents.
OBSERVER Photo by Craig Harvey
Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers assistant coach Dave Caccamise, left, and Niagara Catholic coach Carey O’Donoghue hold a Trott Vocational jersey. The two were members of the 1983 Section 6 championship team. For the first time in 30 years, the two were at an ice rink together — this time as opposing coaches.
Caccamise is now the assistant coach for the Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers while O'Donoghue is the head coach of Niagara Catholic in the Western New York High School Club Hockey League.
And though 30 years have passed, the memories the two created seemed like only yesterday when Caccamise saw O'Donoghue walk into Steele Hall as the two greeted each other with a hug.
Caccamise noted attendance at games were around 400 while the Section 6 Championship game against LaSalle drew nearly 1,500 spectators.
"On a Friday night, when you were allowed to smoke, you would see cigarette butts on the ice," Caccamise laughed. "The fans would shake the glass on a big hit. It got everyone pumped up."
"It was a group of guys who all had a gift for the game," O'Donoghue reflected. "We played as a team first of all. The only thing that mattered was we won. Everyone got support. We only had a student body of 400 kids. We played schools of 1,200-1,300. We were the only high school team to win every game in the division in 1983. That had never been done before."
After that 1983 championship victory, then-coach Frank Woodley praised Caccamise's defensive efforts in that game while O'Donoghue was credited with a goal and an assist.
"This guy could score," Caccamise said, patting his friend on the shoulder. "If we ever needed a goal, we could always count on him. I was there for the hits, but this guy could put the puck in the net."
Caccamise's Steelers got the better of O'Donoghue's Niagara Catholic team in the first meeting, 10-1, at Steele Hall. Despite his team's loss, O'Donoghue's face lit up as he reminisced of his days as a high school hockey player.
"It was a special team," he said. "Everyone on the team came together to do one thing - play the game of hockey, play hard and play with your heart. It was a special thing. The camaraderie was fantastic. You don't see that much anymore and that's what high school hockey is missing. Our parents were always behind us 100 percent. They were always there cheering for us and raising money. It was something you look back 30 years ago and it was special."
The reunion was made possible as the Steelers dropped from the White Division down to the Blue Division this season.
"We always thought it would be cool and now it happened this year," Caccamise said. "It's the first time we have been on the same ice together since Section 6. We always thought it would be cool to face each other and we never did. We were always teammates. We have been calling each other before the game and looking forward to this. Carey has been volunteering and the same with me. We never lost it. We do it for the love and passion of the game. I have done youth hockey, travel hockey and high school hockey now."
"It's like you don't want to coach against each other because of the camaraderie," O'Donoghue added. "You wish he was there coaching with you. We would probably have more fun. We have put this many years into hockey, volunteering. We were raised that way - work hard, play hard and give back to your community and that's what we have done. We aren't here to get paid. It's for the passion. Our parents taught us the value of hockey."
Though Caccamise and O'Donoghue did not place any friendly bets on the game, there was certainly some razzing going on before the game.
The two teams play once more this season when Niagara Catholic will be the home team. The game will be played where their friendship started - the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion.