The UConn Huskies community lost one of its own early Saturday morning, as former men’s hockey coach Bruce Marshall passed away in his sleep at the young age of 54.
Marshall played for the UConn men’s hockey team as a four-year letterwinner and served as the team’s captain in his senior year in 1984-85, when he led the team to its first ECAC playoff berth in school history. Marshall took over the helm as head coach of the hockey team just three years later, while the program was still a mediocre Division III team playing at an open-air ice rink.
Marshall led the Huskies to their first 20-win season in 1991-92 and earned the program its seventh consecutive 15-win season in 1995-96, an unbelievable feat given how bad UConn was at hockey prior to his arrival as coach.
Perhaps Marshall’s most incredible achievement at UConn was willing the program to become a Division I hockey team after so many years of irrelevance. The Huskies finally reached the highest level of college hockey prior to the 1998-99 season and Marshall was instrumental in coaching up his players and preparing them for the big jump. UConn’s inaugural season in D-1 was even better than anyone could have imagined, except for Marshall of course, as the team finished that first season with a 20-10-4 record. The very next season, the Huskies would win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title for the first time under his watch.
Marshall ended his UConn coaching career in 2012-13 as one of 40 coaches in Division I history with 350 career wins. He resigned as coach before the end of the season to deal with his personal life, including a alcohol abuse battle which he ultimately won. He made sure to leave the program with the foundation to become an elite hockey school.
"The entire UConn hockey community is saddened by the passing of Coach Marshall," current UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "I knew Bruce for over 25 years and saw his passion for the game and coaching. He was a great mentor for many young men who came to Storrs and wore a UConn jersey.”
Marshall’s next coaching stop after Storrs took him to Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, where he took the helm of a program very similar to UConn’s in 1988. The school was a middling Division III program that was definitely on the rise under Marshall’s tutelage and very well could’ve advanced to become a Division I school in the future.
Several members of the Franklin Pierce community gave their condolences following Marshall’s death.
“Bruce was a great friend, mentor and colleague in his time at Pierce. I learned a great deal from him and enjoyed interacting with him every day,” said David Stockdale, the Franklin Pierce women’s hockey coach. “His time at Pierce may have been short, but his impact was certainly not. My thoughts are with his family, his extended hockey families at UConn and FPU, and with all the many friends he made along the way.”
“As someone who was Connecticut born-and-raised during coach Marshall’s time at UConn, I have considered it both a unique privilege and a distinct honor to work with him, even if it will now be for far too short a time,” said Matthew Janik, Franklin Pierce’s Director of Athletic Communication. “I feel as if I’ve lost a member of two families: an integral member of our Ravens family, and a beloved member of the Connecticut hockey family. My deepest condolences to all who share our loss today.”
Marshall’s 25 years as UConn’s coach led to the development of an on-campus rink, a stable Division I program and the talent to progress into a bigger and better conference. Although he was not there for the Huskies’ arrival in Hockey East, the nation’s premiere collegiate hockey conference, Marshall was the most important person in getting them there.
The current state of UConn’s men’s hockey program, now in its third season in Hockey East, is fantastic, with a number of players associated with NHL pipelines and increasingly better recruiting under Cavanaugh. None of that would have been possible without the influence of Bruce Marshall, beloved player, coach and father. May he rest in peace, and may all those associated with UConn men’s hockey remember his impact on the program forever.
Chris Hanna is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.