Fifty years have passed since Brookline resident Jack Kirrane led the U.S. Hockey Team to victory in the monumental 1960 winter Olympics, and this year his hometown will finally salute him by renaming the skating rink at Larz Anderson Pavilion in his honor.
"Some say it's about time," said Sue Fields, Kirrane's daughter.
Kirrane was the captain of the U.S. Hockey Team that won the country's first gold medal in the sport. It was also the first U.S. team to play a perfect game and defeat reigning champions Russia and Canada.
Kirrane played the winning game with stubborn defense that resulted in a 3-2 win. He aggressively positioned himself in front of Russian players and sacrificed his personal safety to become one of the country's most celebrated hockey players.
"It's not just the town's hockey community [that he has influenced], but around the world because he still gets fan mail from Europe," Fields said.
After the Olympics, Kirrane returned to coach hockey at the skating rink in Brookline. Fields said dozens of children signed up to play and the town saw a surge of interest in the sport. Bob Allen, a former selectman, played on Kirrane's team.
"As a little kid, it was like a dream," Allen said. "If someone who got an Olympic gold medal was teaching you how to play hockey, you'd listen intently to everything he says."
Allen and Selectman Ken Goldstein proposed the renaming earlier this year. The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Naming Committee approved the idea and decided to call the facility at Larz Anderson Pavillion the "Jack Kirrane Skating Rink".
"We want to give him the tribute today that he would have had 50 years ago," said John Bain, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission. "He's helped a lot of kids and a lot of families and he's just a great guy. I'm proud to be chairman and know him."
Kirrane served the town as a firefighter for many years and he has worked with children in a wide range of endeavors. Fields recalled several instances when her father went into burning buildings and put himself in danger to save victims as quickly as he could.
"He's served quite a few people and he just really loved his job," she said said.
Kirrane's public service career path took after his father, Jack Kirrane Sr. who was, according to daughter Kristin, a police officer and a hockey player. Lisa Paradis, Recreation Director, said most of the family has worked for the Recreation Commission or in other town departments.
"The Kirrane family has been long time supporters of Brookline Town and the
Recreation department," Paradis said.
Like Jack, many of the family members have worked with children. Evelyn Kirrane —who had polio herself—and her brother Bill worked with all kind of children, including those also dealing with polio. The town pool was named after Evelyn.
"[The dedication ceremony for Jack] will be great and I'm sure it will involve kids because that's the way he would want it," Allen said.
Kirrane will be at the ceremony, health permitting, according to Allen. Bain said he would likely sign one of his hockey sticks to display at the rink.
The ceremony to honor Kirrane will be held at the skating rink at Larz Anderson Pavillion on Dec. 4 at 11 a.m.