From 1985 through 2002, the Canton High and Granby High field hockey team played some memorable contests. The two teams played twice a season in the NCCC and frequently faced off in the CIAC Class S state tournament.
One of Canton’s most memorable state championships came in 1985 when the Warriors, who lost twice to Granby in the regular season, battled to a 0-0 overtime tie with the Bears to claim a share of the Class S championship.
Leading the Granby High field hockey team was legendary coach Dot Johnson. She will be one of three coaches and two outstanding athletes who have been selected to receive a prestigious Gold Key award from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance in April.
Johnson coached field hockey at Granby for 34 years, retiring in 2002. She will receive a Gold Key along with PGA golf professional Dennis Coscina, New Canaan High football coach Lou Marinelli, UConn women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris and Olympic ice hockey gold medalist Gretchen Ulion-Silverman. The 77th annual Gold Key dinner will be Sunday, April 29, 2018 at the Aqua Turf in Southington.
First held in 1940, the Gold Key dinner has honored some of Connecticut’s greatest athletes and coaches including Olympic gold medalist sprinter Lindy Remigino, legendary NHL player Gordie Howe, Hall of Fame basketball coaches Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun, legendary softball and golf star Joan Joyce of Waterbury, golfer Julius Boros, marathon star Bill Rodgers and Olympic gold medal soccer player Kristine Lilly.
Johnson will be just the third field hockey coach to receive a Gold Key. The late Jean Hunt from Farmington High received a Gold Key in 2001 while Branford’s Cathy McGuirk was recognized in 2014.
When Connecticut high school field hockey first played a state tournament in 1973, there was just one Open division, and Granby knocked off Guilford 2-1 to claim the first CIAC field hockey title. The following year, Johnson led the Bears to the Class M championship, then five Class S crowns followed in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1985 and 2000.
Johnson guided the Bears for 34 years, retiring following the 2002 season with seven state titles and four second place finishes. She compiled a 393-83-80 record, a .779 winning percentage.
Among the numerous honors Johnson has received over the years include induction into four halls of fame (Connecticut High School Coaches Association, 1992; New Agenda Northeast, 1996; National Field Hockey coaches Association, 2005; Connecticut Field Hockey, 2005).
She was a three-time Connecticut Field Hockey Coaches Association Coach of the Year, the 1996 National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and was presented the Doc McInerney High School Coach of the Year Award by the CSWA at the 2001 Gold Key Dinner.
One of the charter members of the Connecticut PGA Hall of Fame in 2008, Dennis Coscina has experienced tremendous success in his five decades as a PGA professional. The 1963 graduate of Pulaski High School in New Britain and longtime resident of East Windsor won eight PGA Sectional championships between 1975 and 1994, and was named CT Section PGA Player of the Year on six occasions and CT Section PGA Senior Player of the Year twice.
He played in seven major championships – three PGA Championships, two U.S. Opens, the Senior PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. Between 1980 and 1995, he played seven times in the Greater Hartford Open. After turning 50 in 1995, he played the next two seasons on the PGA Senior Tour.
New Canaan’s Lou Marinelli, who became the state’s all-time winningest high school football coach in September, is in his 39th season coaching high school football. New Canaan’s 42-7 win over Danbury on Sept. 15 was his record-breaking 332nd career win. As of Oct. 22, Marinelli’s overall record is 335-102-7, a .762 winning percentage.
Marinelli coached three years in New York state before coming to New Canaan in 1981, taking over a program that had struggled through three consecutive winless seasons. He promptly led the Rams to a 4-5 mark in his first season. That would turn out to be his only losing season in New Canaan.
in only his second season, Marinelli guided the Rams to an 8-2 record and the 1982 Class L-II state championship. He has led the Rams to 11 state championships including four in a row from 2006-09 and 2013-16. Marinelli, a National Coach of the Year finalist in 2007 and 2010, was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.
Leonidas “Len” Tsantiris was mentored by the best during his college soccer days at UConn, playing for legendary head coach Joe Morrone. After a brief professional career with the Connecticut Yankees of the American Soccer League, he turned to coaching.
He coached at E.O. Smith in Storrs, a few steps away from the UConn campus and his Panthers had a 56-game streak without a loss – then a state record. He moved to UConn where he has coached the Huskies for 36 years, leading Connecticut to 29 NCAA tournament appearances.
Tsantiris (563-192-56) became just the second collegiate coach to earn more than 500 wins in 2012. He led the Huskies to the NCAA championship game four times in 1984, 1990, 1997 and 2003.
In 1998, Gretchen Ulion-Silverman scored the first goal in the initial gold medal game in women’s hockey at the Nagano Winter Olympics as the United States upset Canada, 3-1 to win the gold medal.
Ulion, a Marlborough resident and 1990 graduate of Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, wound up tying for the team lead in scoring during the 1998 Olympiad with eight points (three goals, five assists).
Ulion was a member of the U.S. women’s national team from 1993 to 1998. The U.S. women’s national team captured silver medals at the 1994 and 1997 World Championships, before bursting onto the world stage with the Olympic gold. The team was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
In college, she was a two-time Ivy League player of the year and rookie of the year in 1990. Ulion, now known as Gretchen Silverman, has been head coach of the girls ice hockey program at the Taft School in Watertown since 2013.
Tickets to the Gold Key dinner are $75 apiece, and may be reserved by contacting CSWA President Tim Jensen of Patch Media Corp. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-394-5091, or Vice President Rich Gregory of the Danbury News-Times at email@example.com or 203-705-8625.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Bo Kolinsky Journalism Scholarship, named after a longtime Hartford Courant sportswriter and past CSWA president who died unexpectedly in 2003.
Since 1939, members of the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance have been chronicling and sharing the exploits of Connecticut athletes with the citizens of the Nutmeg State. The Alliance began as a group of newspaper sportswriters but over the last 77 years, the Alliance has evolved to include sportswriters, television and radio broadcasters, photographers and online journalists.
Our mission is to perpetuate the craft of sports journalism through our financial aid/scholarship program for high school seniors who intend to pursue a career in sports journalism while honoring those who have enriched the sports landscape in Connecticut. Proceeds from the Gold Key dinner help fund our scholarship program.