June 21, 2005
By Pete LaFleur
This week’s entry in the Monogram Club’s “Tuesday Testimonial” includes a collection of poignant comments and anecdotes provided by a father-son duo from the Notre Dame hockey program, Brian and Rory Walsh. The Monogram Club’s motto of “Bridging the Gap Between Legend and Legacy” certainly applies to the Walsh family, as Brian was an All-America centerman with the Irish hockey team during the late 1970s while Rory is a current member of the hockey team who has received aid from the Monogram Club’s unique Brennan-Boland-Riehle scholarship fund.
Brian and Rory Walsh combine to form one of several family success stories that are bound together by the Brennan-Boland-Riehle (BBR) Fund. Monogram Club members annually donate to the fund and the University handles the principal, with interest providing scholarship money. The fund has grown to approximately $3 million – one of Notre Dame’s largest endowments – and during the 2004-05 academic year helped support 45 sons and daughters of Monogram Club members as they pursued a Notre Dame degree. The 25-year-old fund has assisted 131 recipients whose combined scholarship allocations are nearly $2 million (including $320,000 for 2004-05).
The elder Walsh – who has been a regular contributor to the BBR Fund since his graduation in the late 1970s – still holds Notre Dame career records for points (234), assists (145) and hat tricks (8) and – like his son after him – attended Notre Dame after growing up in the Boston area.
Monogram Club archivist/publicist Pete LaFleur had the opportunity to interview Brian and Rory Walsh earlier this year for a feature on the BBR Fund and again during the weekend of the hockey team’s in-season reunion . The second interview was conducted in video format, as part of a Monogram Club feature that is included with the athletic department’s 2005 year-in-review highlight video. That short Monogram Club informational piece features brief comments from several individuals – including the Walsh’s – but there are plenty of other comments from Brian and Rory that are a fitting addition to the new Tuesday Testimonial series.
Below are excerpts from both interview sessions with the Walsh’s, as they reflect on their special Notre Dame experiences (also see the following link for the first Tuesday Testimonial, submitted by former soccer player and 1995 national championship team member Rosella Guerrero – http://und.collegesports.com/sports/monogramclub/spec-rel/061405aaa.html):
Tuesday Testimonial – Entry #2 (Part I.), Brian Walsh (hockey, ’77); June 21, 2005
“When I graduated from here some 25 years ago, I never anticipated I would have a son interested in coming here. It brings back the community feeling and the tradition of Notre Dame in a way that I’m very pleased with and very proud that he’s able to participate at the Division I level.
“Coming back for a hockey reunion is not about the glory days. We talk about family, how the kids are progressing, what kinds of interest they have? Rory will be going out in the business world soon. Bill Green and I were just together today and his son’s out there now in business now. So we talk more about the family atmosphere rather than the old glory days.
“Despite the passing of 25 years, there still is that sense of community that Notre Dame lives on. The school has changed its look but that sense of caring has remained the same. And I find that very refreshing.
“I’ve always contributed to the Monogram Club as a way of giving back. I came from a pretty large family in Cambridge, Mass., and I was lucky enough to be a grant-in-aid student-athlete as we were called back then ad I just gave because I thought it was a chance to give back, never thinking that we would ever have an opportunity to use the fund. Once it became available with two children in school, it’s a really nice program for all of us.
“No other school has a scholarship fund like this and I don’t think any other schools care to have it. The contributors to the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Fund go across all sports and genders. In general, the Monogram Club itself is a pretty special organization and the great success of this scholarship fund certainly bears that out.
“When I talk to my teammates, of the 126 graduates under Lefty Smith, I think they’re all contributing to the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Fund. We just think of it as our own little club, that we’re able to help other student-athletes come along and participate in it. What’s really special about it, is that it’s all our former teammates and classmates who actually played in the different sports here at school.
“I’m so happy that Father Riehle’s name is on the Monogram Club scholarship fund now. He was the hockey chaplain and head of Pangborn when I lived in Morrissey, He was like a father to us, a wonderful man.
“I think one of the biggest things at Notre Dame is the community living. I was in Morrissey Hall and, to this day, a lot of my friends from the university are from that community living. A beautiful part about Notre Dame is that there never have been athletic dorms and that’s a special bond that we hold here at Notre Dame. It’s that enduring community and everything is centered around the community – the community of Notre Dame.
“My family lived in a housing project in Cambridge and I never realized we were poor. I had seven brothers, three sisters and one block away was Raymond Park and they used to flood the park when we were kids and that’s where we learned to skate. My brothers and I would go up and skate all day.
“My dad worked two jobs all his life and I was the first male in the house fortunate enough to go to school and that was because of Notre Dame and the scholarship opportunity to play hockey. It was a good, hard-working family with 11 kids at the table, we had to sit in shifts – like a hockey line shift.
“There was a gentlemen, Bill Stuart, who had gone to school at Notre Dame and his father was the coach of the Blackhawks. Mr. Stuart was a coach and a teacher at Boston English and our high school used to play them and one day he pulled me over and he said, `Brian, I have a school for you. You need to get out of here. You need to get out of the Boston area.’
“So I wrote Lefty Smith and they came out and scouted and asked me to come out for a trip and it was great.
“Two things sold me on Notre Dame. Everywhere else, I was told exactly what line I’d be on, who my classmates were, that school would be OK and they’d take care of that and I’d live in an athletic dorm. When I came out here to Notre Dame, Lefty said, `You’ve got to come out and make the team. We think you’re capable. And of, by the way, you’ll live in Morrissey Hall with the rest of the student group.
“So, I wasn’t given anything. It was more of a challenge to me. And I really think that I needed to be away from home.
Brian Walsh took the challenge of leaving his native Boston, joining a Notre Dame hockey program where he remains one of the top all-time players.
“It was an overcrowded situation at Notre Dame and everyone was complaining about it back in ’73. There were five of us living in three rooms and I looked at my roommate and said that in the housing project there were six of us in one room. So this was the most space I ever had in my life.
“You missed a lot of school so it was a matter of getting acclimated to a Division I program and the academic requirements, because Notre Dame would not let you play if you did not go to class, didn’t do your homework and didn’t compete as hard academically as you did athletically. So I had a great support in that regard here at Notre Dame.
“Recently, one of my older brothers passed away and it was amazing that within three hours of my first friend finding out, I had six phone calls all from my former teammates and the folks that lived in Morrissey Hall. That’s the big thing about the Notre Dame community. When things are great, you see folks out at the football games and at reunions, it’s wonderful. But the true spirit of Notre Dame comes through when folks are in need. And it’s a sad thing to lose a sibling but it was a lot easier because all of my friends were there for me.
“Boston is a very parochial city but Notre Dame taught me there’s a world outside of the Boston area. The other thing – whether it be Father Jim Riehle, Jim Gibbons, coach Lefty Smith – they taught you real character. They taught you the difference between right and wrong. They would allow you to make a mistake, they would tell you what the mistake was and then they would set the standard so that you would come back and rise above that. I’ve really found that my time at Notre Dame developed me totally as a person.
“In general, the experience of coming to Notre Dame taught me to go out and take a risk. Just because it was different did not mean it was wrong. I learned to understand other peoples and cultures.
“If I had gone to school on the east coast, I probably would not have graduated. I would have left early to play pro hockey. But that was the deal with my dad, that I go to Notre Dame and graduate. The education was the most important thing for me, both in the classroom and the worldly education you got from traveling with the team.
“We had a great game every Christmas with five kids from Quebec, five from Toronto, probably 10 from Minnesota, one from Michigan and a couple from Boston. We used to have a game that we’d call Stanley’s Cup and it would be the Canadians against the Americans. It was probably the most spirited hockey game that you could imagine. Yet, it was all in fun.
“We always laugh, folks in Boston if they go to Cape Cod they bring an overnight bag. It’s only 45 minutes but for them it’s so far out of Boston. I roomed with Jack Brownschidle from upstate New York, Al Karsnia from the iron range of Minnesota, Jeff Collier who grew up in Montreal in a French-speaking family who was totally bilingual. So it was an experience of being exposed to the broader, real world. And I sit here 25 years later and the world has gone global – but for me, I went global 25 years ago with my teammates here at Notre Dame.
“I still visit many of my teammates and classmates from outside hockey when I’m in places like the west coast or Texas. It’s a great fraternal brotherhood and it gets more special as you get older.
“When you are at Notre Dame, you need someone outside of athletics because the season goes so long. Jim Gibbons was that person for me, he was the vice-president of protocol. He took me to functions outside the university, exposed me to folks that I would never have met outside the athletic realm. So after I finished playing hockey, I needed a job and I called Jim, he called the president of Gillette who was on our business council. They got me an interview and that was how I first found a job. That got my foot in the door of the business world and I just took it from there … again, the Notre Dame connection.
“I had helped Jim umpire some baseball games in South Bend during the summers and later on he told me, `Brian, you gave back and now this is my way to give back to you. This is the idea.’
“I’m a divisional vice-president for a company called ImBev and it just so happens that one of our largest brand is Labatt’s, very hockey-oriented. It’s amazing that people will come to me immediately and say, `Tell me about your experience at Notre Dame. What’s the mystique, what’s the tradition and what is so different about Notre Dame?’ There are so many subway alums out there and they really want to know it is that makes Notre Dame special. They want to know what that tradition is and they want to know how I can take that tradition and sense of community from Notre Dame and build that in what we do in the business world.
“I think that Notre Dame has to change with the way the world has changed and the world has gone global. When I was here, we had five varsity sports and now we have 26. It was only the second year of women in the student body and now it’s about a 50-50 split. It’s a bigger business now, school is a business and Notre Dame is a brand equity and the world is operating in that and we have to find a realm to work within those same parameters.
“There’s one young man from our teams when I played that really defines Notre Dame and it’s Steve Schneider. Steve was from up on the iron range in Minnesota, from a town called Babbitt. We used to joke because there were 3,000 people in the town of Babbitt and I told Steve that I had more relatives in the town of Boston than he had people in his town.
“Steve has gone on to be a wonderful community man and – his brother played on the 1980 Olympic team that won the gold medal – so Steve was in the background athletically. But academically, he worked as hard as we all worked athletically and Steve right now is one of the most successful and great family guys that I’ve met. He’s another one of those guys – as life swings like a pendulum from highs to lows – Steve always has been there for me, a very unheralded and very good hockey player. Just a wonderful person.
“I have to give Lefty Smith credit because we all had roles. Our fourth-liners knew that they were fourth-liners but they got a chance to play and participate. No one was above the team. The idea of a full team was really there and yet we were allowed to grow and develop.
“There were four other All-Americans that I played with and I was the least talented. Jack Brownschidle, one of the best character teammates to have. Soft-spoken, quiet, unassuming but the best defenseman I’ve every played with. He was cool under pressure. He’d move nice and fluid and had that air about him, with tape-to-tape passes. If we needed a goal, he’d be on the power-play in the right place at the right time, put it on someone’s stick … in the net. He also reminded me a lot of Joe Montana when he was here.
“Bill Nyrop was an outstanding talent. Most people don’t know that he went out for spring football and became the second or third quarterback on the depth chart. He went on to play 12 years in the NHL, won the Stanley Cup with Montreal.
“Eddie Bumbacco was my left wing my freshman year. He really taught me how to play and how to work. And the other one was my right wing my senior year, Greg Meredith, who has been honored by the NCAA for a humanitarian award. A very bright man, he went on to Harvard business school. This kid could player hockey but he was a Rhodes Scholar finalist. Each of my four years, each of those guys taught me something different, whether it be athletically, academically or socially.
Rory Walsh and his father Brian (’77) are linked through the unique Brennan-Boland-Riehle Scholarship Fund that currently helps support 45 sons and daughters of Monogram Club members as they pursue a Notre Dame degree.
Tuesday Testimonial – Entry #2 (Part II.), Rory Walsh (hockey, ’06); June 21, 2005
“It’s fun to see the old man strap the skates on at the hockey reunion and get out there and skate around. He skates every once in a while back home. It’s nice for him and my mother to come out to visit and it’s a special weekend for him, a chance to see his buddies.
“Playing a different position than my dad, I did not have to live up to certain expectations on the ice and he always was very humble about that stuff anyway. But I always hear stories from so many people about his glory days at Notre Dame. I joke with my mom that I could write a book about my dad with all the stories I’ve heard – but so many of those stories have grown exponentially over the years, some of them may not even be true anymore.
“It’s interesting because one of my roommates this year is Mike Walsh and his father also went to Notre Dame and played on the 1973 national championship football team and we talk about how every Saturday morning, 12 o’clock, TV was on watching Notre Dame football. Dad yelling at the TV. If they were having a good game, it was a great day after that. If they were having a bad game, it was a bad day. That was my first exposure to Notre Dame.
“I also got to come out when I was eight or nine years old and I remember walking around the campus and seeing the Golden Dome, going to the basilica, taking a trip around campus with my parents. And actually I got to skate on the ice when I came out on that trip. It’s nostalgic in a sense but it’s also surprising because I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be here at Notre Dame.
“My dad was a scrappy kid from the northeast but the BC and BU, people thought he was crazy to go Notre Dame, a fledgling program. He says it’s the only reason he is successful today. It made him move away from home and explore the world further.
“He came from a background where he worked very hard to get where he is and he always has wanted the best for me and my sister, without pushing us.
“I had some non-Division I opportunities out eat but we came out for my visit to Notre Dame and it’s obviously an excellent school, great mix of academics and academics. I really enjoyed my trip out here and coming back on the plane I told my dad I really want to go here. So I ended up calling coach Poulin and saying I want to be a part of the Notre Dame hockey program.
“Something like the Monogram Club goes beyond athletics. It’s something my father and I have talked about, it includes so many connections outside to the real world. I think the Monogram Club is a great way for student-athletes as graduates to give back to Notre Dame as a community. It’s an organization that definitely has helped me and will help so many people more people down the line. I think, as a group, Notre Dame is a very tight community and I think the athletic department is even tighter and that just shows with the type of fund like the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Fund that gives back the children of monogram club members.
“It’s great to see how supportive the Monogram Club members are from all the sports. They know how special being part of Notre Dame is and it’s not something to be undervalued.
“It’s definitely a different experience being at Notre Dame. The east coast itself is a smaller community and coming to the Midwest you get a lot of different viewpoints. You get different political and ideological views and I think it’s important to branch out and I think I’ve learned a lot more being out here at Notre Dame – beyond the academics – than I would have being back in the northeast. I think when you get a bunch of kids from Chicago, from California, from Minnesota and Wisconsin – that whole community is very interesting. Coming out here being an east-coast kid, you give your own special little twist on things.
“There’s the right mix of academics and athletics and there are so many Notre Dame connections that will be available later in life. Not just in athletics, but in the business world. The everyday students who go here are some pretty amazing people.
“I’ve always been interested in television and sports and worked the past summer with a radio station back in Boston. I took a class in sports journalism and it was a very interesting class. This summer, I’m hoping to get an internship with ESPN, just trying to get out there and get involved in that aspect of the business world.
Rory Walsh is a second-generation member of the Notre Dame hockey program.
“There are so many great things about being a Notre Dame athlete and I’m very happy and content here. Our 2003-04 season was phenomenal and we had seven seniors who were the core of our team. They were excellent leaders and we started winning right from the get-go and started gelling as a team. We came together that season and won a lot of close games. It was such an enjoyable season. This season was tough and we knew we were going to go through some grinds.
“There’s no question that Notre Dame has molded me and allowed me to develop as a person. It’s definitely a different culture and I embrace that. It’s a different part of country with differing viewpoints and being exposed to that makes you a better person.
“The academic services here for athletes are outstanding. We have to miss a lot of school due to travel and we have great academic advisors for each team and they do so many things that help us stay up-to-date with our academics as well as keeping a strenuous athletic schedule.
“It’s great to come up to the (Sports Heritage Hall) and see my father’s name on the wall, see his picture. It’s definitely a connection and when I do see my own name up there, it will be a sign or pride. It’s a connection that my father and I will always have. He’s my role model in life so to be for there to be that link between us is very important.”
Do you have a recommendation of a former Notre Dame student-athlete to participate in the “Tuesday Testimonial” series? If so, please pass on the individual’s name and contact info. (if available) to Monogram Club archivist/publicist Pete LaFleur at email@example.com.