When Don MacLeod sees Matthews Arena today, two feelings run concurrently.
The Melrose native feels the pride of the 11 seasons he led Northeastern’s women’s hockey program, when it became the area’s 1980s powerhouse. He also feels the wonder of seeing how far the program and the sport have come over the last 40 years.
“The women have every bit that the men do,” said MacLeod.
MacLeod had reason to visit Matthews Arena last week, when his 1987-88 squad was inducted into Northeastern’s Athletic Hall of Fame. That team went an outstanding 26-0-1, winning the Beanpot and ECAC titles, the highest honors they could vie for back then.
MacLeod not only coached that stellar squad, he had the highest winning percentage among all women’s hockey coaches for some time. During his tenure from 1981-92 — 11 of the first 12 seasons Northeastern had women’s hockey — he went 210-60-6 for a .772 winning percentage.
He succeeded while juggling a full-time job at Federal Express, because Northeastern considered his job a part-time position.
“They listed it as part-time, even though as a varsity sport at the Division 1 level, there’s so much to do,” said MacLeod. “You have to handle the grades and talk to them about their studies. ‘You can’t be on the team if you don’t pass your studies.’ It was involved.”
He also went to bat for his Huskies teams (fitting, since he also coached high school softball). When he took control of the team in 1981, he was given little in terms of equipment.
“They gave us uniforms that the boys didn’t want,” said MacLeod. “I fought for more. I fought [director of women’s athletics] Jeanne Rowlands for more. She was tough to deal with, but she gave us what she could.”
Rowlands got MacLeod limited scholarship money to work with, but he used it the best he could, bringing in both local and international talent. It gave the Huskies the edge, especially come Beanpot time, because Harvard did not offer athletic scholarships, and Boston College and Boston University were still club teams.
“I was able to get some good people because I went to Canada,” said MacLeod. “I think I had three scholarships when I took the job and I ended up with six. Now they have 18 and a much bigger budget.”
But when MacLeod was told in early 1992 that Northeastern would follow in the footsteps of the region’s other women’s hockey powers, New Hampshire and Providence, and cut scholarships for the sport, he resigned, effective at the close of the season. (In a Globe report at the time, then-Northeastern athletic director Irwin Cohen told reporter Bob Monahan, “I refused his resignation twice and he forced me into accepting it the third time.”)
MacLeod also coached the first women’s US national team in 1990, which featured nine Massachusetts players and a laxer view of on-ice discipline.
“Back in those days, Canada was way ahead of us,” said MacLeod. “Now they’re not. We lost, 4-2, in Canada in the first world tournament in 1990, and it was full-contact. That was interesting, because they have taken it out now. But then there were people killing each other because it was allowed.”
Even after being out of coaching for a bit, the 87-year-old MacLeod will quickly tell you approximately how many girls are now members of USA Hockey (a little over 90,000) and express excitement for the Women’s Beanpot being held at TD Garden for the first time in January. (He does point out that one of his team’s Beanpot games was the first one televised by Channel 38. “We achieved that,” he said. “I guess that’s because we were one of the better teams.”)
It was fitting that the second induction at Northeastern for this “pioneer” of women’s hockey (he was honored as an individual in 2013) came alongside that of Kendall Coyne Schofield, the pioneer for the program’s more recent successes.
It also came mere days before Coyne Schofield and the rest of the new Professional Women’s Hockey League took the ice for their first training camp. It’s a sign of the progress in the sport, something MacLeod is immensely proud of.
“You see the games now, and they fly,” he said. “The skills are up there. It’s super.”
BC forward Sammy Taber won her third consecutive Hockey East Rookie of the Week honor. The Tewksbury native is the first player to win three in a row since Daryl Watts with the Eagles in 2017-18 . . . New Harvard coach Laura Bellamy earned her first victory Tuesday, a 3-1 win over BU . . . Assumption’s Ava McGaffigan was the NEWHA Rookie of the Week after a 2-point weekend against St. Michael’s. The Tabor product and South Dennis native is tied for the team lead with 7 points. It marked the first-year Greyhounds’ first-ever sweep of a league opponent . . . In a battle between two of Hockey East’s ranked teams, Georgetown native Sydney Correa made a career-high 33 saves in a 3-2 win for No. 13/14 Vermont over No. 15 BC Saturday.
Kat Cornetta can be reached at email@example.com.