The Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance is pleased to announce the recipients of the Gold Key for 2009. Since 1940, the Alliance has awarded those from Connecticut who have made their stamp on the sporting world on the youth, high school, college and professional levels. Past recipients of the Gold Key Award include New York Giants football great Ken Strong (1945), Eastern Connecticut State baseball coach Bill Holowaty (1989) and St. Joseph boys basketball coach Vito Montelli (1998).
This year's recipients are: Dr. Ray Cieplik, Coast Guard Academy athletic director and a former men's soccer coach; Thomas Nevers, former Hale Ray High School and Eastern Connecticut State soccer coach; Brian Leetch, former NHL defensemen for the New York Rangers; and Stan Ogrodnik, former Trinity College men's basketball coach.
The Gold Key Dinner will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 26, 2009 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington. Tickets are $75 and can be reserved by contacting Alliance president Bob Ehalt at (203) 929-6584 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Alliance vice president Tiffany Ventura at Tlv80@aol.com. Tickets can also be purchased by mailing a check to Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance, P.O. Box 70, Unionville, CT 06085. More information on the dinner, as well as other honorees, will follow in the coming weeks.
About the Gold Key recipients:
Dr. Raymond Cieplik: Since Aug. 24, 1970, Cieplik has been involved with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. He began as an instructor in physical education and coach of the men's soccer team - the latter of which he held for 31 seasons. From 1976 through 2000, he enjoyed 25 consecutive winning seasons, and his career record at the Academy is 248-165-37. His teams won two ECAC titles, in 1995 and '98, and three Constitution Athletic Conference titles. He was named Coach of the Year three times. He was inducted into the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's Hall of Fame in 1997, the Springfield College Hall of Fame in 2000, and received the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's Honor Award. He is still involved with Coast Guard today as the athletic director.
Brian Leetch: One of the best defensemen in National Hockey League history, Leetch, a Cheshire native and Avon Old Farms standout, was a mainstay during the New York Rangers' successful run of the 1990s. He collected four trophies during his 18-year career - Calder (top rookie), Norris (top defensemen), Conn Smyth (playoff MVP) and Stanley Cup (1994, with New York). He played for Boston College in 1986-87 before joining the Rangers the following season. He also captained the 1988 U.S. National Team. His career came to a close in 2006 with the Boston Bruins; he also played the 2003-04 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. For his career, Leetch scored 247 goals and tallied 781 assists for 1,028 career points. His No. 2 was raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters last January, and this past October he was inducted into the U.S. Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in Denver.
Tom Nevers: Nevers, of Mansfield, always found success on the soccer pitch. As a student, he led the UConn men's soccer team to the 1948 National Championship. Becoming the boys soccer coach at Hale-Ray High School in Moodus soon after, Nevers' clubs won seven state titles in 10 seasons. The Little Noises also established state records for consecutive unbeaten games (57) and least goals allowed in one season (0). In 1961, Nevers took over Eastern Connecticut State College's club soccer team and wasted little time developing it into a winner on the intercollegiate level. The 1965 campaign marked the first of 14 straight winning seasons under Nevers, and the club qualified for 10 straight postseason tournaments between 1966 and 1975. The 1968-69 clubs finished unbeaten (28-0-1) through regular season, conference and regional postseason play, placing third and fourth, respectively, in NAIA national tournament competition. In fact, the '69 club outscored its 11 regular-season opponents, 88-4, and finished with 101 goals. He was inducted into the ECSU Hall of Fame in 1986, and had the soccer field dedicated in his honor in 2001. In addition to soccer, Nevers also coached golf and basketball at ECSU.
Stanley Ogrodnik: Ogrodnik, of Tolland, recently retired as the most successful men's basketball coach at Trinity College. In 27 seasons, he compiled a 478-186 record and reached the NCAA Tournament seven times, including last season. His winning percentage (.720) is among the top 30 in Division III, and he guided the Bantams to four ECAC Division III New England titles and eight consecutive appearances in the NESCAC Championship Tournament. Twice, his teams won a school-record 24 games, and his 478 career victories are the most of any coach in Trinity athletics.