Dan Shine was in his first year as athletic director of Arlington Catholic in 1978 when the school’s boys’ hockey team won its first state championship.
But as the following season approached, the program reached a crossroads. Then-coach Stephen Theall took a position in another school district that wouldn’t allow him to continue coaching.
“The job opened up kind of late, I was already there,” Shine recalled. “The board at the time thought it made sense to move me up, and here we are.”
The “here” is Shine’s announcement Wednesday that he is stepping down after 44 seasons behind the Arlington Catholic bench. After battling health issues for the past year, the 68-year-old Shine walks away having led the Cougars to 575 victories and three state championships.
“Very emotional moment, I must say,” Shine said of the meeting with his team Wednesday morning. “But kids are smart, they understand, they know what I went through.”
In reflecting on his career, Shine frequently referenced “the kids” — those players who were the heart of six Catholic Central League championships and 34 tournament berths.
“We had some great players over the years,” he said, “but more great kids than great players.”
Arlington Catholic made 12 appearances in the Super 8, a tournament Shine helped champion as the chairman of the MIAA ice hockey committee for three decades.
“He always cared solely about the sport itself. I never took it from him that he cared about Arlington Catholic, or a league, or whatever. He cared about the sport, the growth of the sport, the survival of the sport,” MIAA associate director Richard Pearson said.
The Super 8, on pause by the MIAA and also known as Division 1A, began in 1991 — one year after Shine won his first state championship in Division 2. The Cougars added a Division 1 title in 2010. But the biggest mark in program history was the 1997 victory over defending champion BC High for the Super 8 crown.
“The one thing that was funny about the Super 8 championship is, I don’t think we ever had the notion that we could win that,” Shine said. AC was the No. 3 seed in the tournament and had finished second in the CCL.
“We played extremely well throughout it, but everything went our way.”
Shine also gives plenty of credit to his staff over the years. Longtime assistants Joe Keeffe and Jack Hurd were with him from the beginning until the early 2000s, and assistant Jim Hunt joined in 1990.
“It’s great to have them, because they not only know the program, they were the program,” Shine said. “We were all Arlington High School graduates, we wanted to carry on the Arlington tradition, we wanted Arlington Catholic to have the same respect, and I think we accomplished that.”
Of all the memorable games in his career, one night sticks out.
“March 5, 1982 at the old Garden … I’m pretty sure it was a Friday night,” Shine recalled, in perfect detail. In a Division 1 state quarterfinal in front of 12,000 fans, AC prevailed against previously unbeaten Arlington, 4-3.
“That was a time when the two schools were huge rivals, in so many things,” he said. “We pulled off a come-from-behind victory. That was a lot of fun. That’s one of the memories I’ll cherish.”
On that night, Shine also got the better of legendary Arlington coach Ed Burns, who he said would become one of his mentors as they shared the same ice at the town’s rink on Summer Street.
“Great guy, I could pick his brain. Never held back, always gave me whatever we needed,” Shine said.
Burns and Shine are among the six coaches in MIAA hockey history with at least 500 career wins, a list that also includes longtime former Catholic Central rivals Marty Pierce (Matignon) and Frank Quinn (Archbishop Williams).
“A class act and gentleman who did a lot for Massachusetts high school hockey,” longtime Waltham coach John Maguire said.
Shine said one of his biggest thrills was being able to coach two of his nephews. Bryan Hunt was a goalie who graduated in 2013, and Tommy Peterson was a senior captain and defenseman this season.
While limited this season by his health issues, Shine was able to be on the bench during practices and games. Jim Hunt said they fit an old basement barstool he found being discarded in his neighborhood behind the AC bench at home games, and another smaller stool for road games.
“The kids were just absolutely fantastic,” Hunt said. “They looked out for him every time they came into the rink.”
Shine will continue as athletic director, as well his roles as MIAA ice hockey chair and on the board of directors, but for the first time since the late 1970s, the school must search for a boys’ hockey coach.
“I never thought in my wildest dream I would be there that long,” he said. “The game is a passion of mine, obviously. The years roll into each other. It’s hard to imagine I would be coaching  years.”
Jim Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.