Hometown Heroes: Concord hockey’s Dunc Walsh is more than just a champion coach, but a generational mentor

  • Concord hockey’s Dunc Walsh (center) has been a staple in the community both on and off the ice since the 1990s. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/11/2022 2:15:20 PM
Modified: 4/11/2022 2:14:09 PM

In its varying definitions, most social scholars have concluded that a generation is defined by 15-30 years at a time.

Plenty happens within that time frame as the world continues to spin on its axis. Changes throughout society occur in all sorts of ways: fashions, hairstyles, mannerisms, music, slang. You get the point. Things change, people change.

But that old cliche of the more things change, the more they stay the same? Well, look no further than Concord’s own Dunc Walsh. He’s been running the Concord High boys’ hockey program since 1990 and under his watch, he’s elevated it from highly-regarded to a juggernaut.

The Crimson Tide have been to 14 championships, winning nine of them with Walsh behind the bench. His career record – 537-184-22 and counting – goes to prove two truths: winning is the standard and hockey brilliance skates throughout the capital.

Prior to the season, the Monitor sat down with the revered coach in a one-on-one to showcase what the team would look like this season. Where the strengths and weaknesses were, and just how far it could go. While winning on the ice never gets old, playing for Walsh is only a four-year guarantee – and that’s if you make the team.

His legacy is much more than just a respected, championship-winning coach. He’s a mentor, an advisor, a jokester, and to those who are finished playing under his tutelage, he’s a friend that helped shape one of the most instructional portions of a young man’s life.

Walsh’s former players are scattered throughout the state and the region, but most of them are still home, and all of them keep in contact with their old coach somehow. In 32 years, Walsh has seen a generation of players go from immature boys to respected men and he consciously sharpened their hockey skills.

What he’s done subconsciously, however, holds more weight than any trophy could bear as he’s molded and shaped members of the community into standouts.

Moments forever ingrained in life’s blueprint for former Concord players.

Mike Commerford

Commerford was a part of Walsh’s first championship team at Concord and holds the career record for points (198) and goals (105).

“He’s played a major role, I think more than he knows. I try to let him know sometimes when we have a serious moment. There’s a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, but every now and then we’ll have a serious moment and I try to let him know how appreciative I am of his mentorship.”

“I think from him, he’s always demanded that you give your best. As you go through life and take on jobs and opportunities, you realize that no matter where you go and if you want to be successful, you have to demand the best of yourself. And that’s something that he instills in everyone, and particularly me, as I’ve progressed through my adulthood.”

“He means a lot to me, more than I could tell him. He comes off to a lot of people as a funny, light-hearted person outside the rink. For me, because I came in when he was so young and just starting out, I feel like we’ve kind of grown up together. I want to say it was eleventh grade English class and we had to do an abstract paper, and I just remember writing about Dunc.”

“He’s always had a special place in my heart.”

Tim Walsh

Walsh was a forward for three seasons at Concord from 1993-1995. Following a career at UNH, Walsh became the coach Bow High where he regularly seeks out his old coach despite playing against one another.

“At least twice a week Dunc would come in to sit and talk with us in back locker room with the older guys for 45 minutes to an hour. And it wasn’t even about hockey, it was the other stuff. You get closer with your players and you get to know what’s really going on. I think that carried onto knowing that Dunc cared about us and he cared about the program overall.”

“I worked with Dunc at Everett Arena every summer while I was in college. A lot of people don’t know this, but my first game (at UNH) was in January of my freshman year. I wasn’t expecting to play my freshman year, but things happen like guys getting hurt and so they needed me to play. So my first game was at Merrimack College in January, and who was there? Dunc. He was at the game and that just meant a lot to me. It was pretty cool to look out and see him there as I went out on the ice.”

“We still hang around today. We’re in a group chat together with all the Bow coaches and all the Concord coaches. That’s just how we are. We root for each other except when we’re playing against each other.”

Bill MacDougall

MacDougall was a forward for Walsh for three seasons and has coached alongside him for several seasons.

“There was one period in a game where Dunc maybe wasn’t so happy with the older kids. Our line had gotten a couple of shifts, we were the “baby blue” line which was our color in practice, he came in and started giving it to the older guys pretty good and he said ‘you know, I could put out the baby blue line all night. They won’t score but they won’t give one up!’ ”

“He’s on you. You learn very quickly that you’re not going to pull one over on him or outsmart him. He treats you like an adult when you get to be a senior, there’s no excuses because he knows pretty much everything. But it’s good because you learn accountability, which for high school kids that’s a good lesson to learn. A lot of kids think they have control of the world, know everything and swindle their way through things; but not with Dunc.”

“There were practices where we didn’t see pucks, we just skated the whole time, at our own fault. He’d catch us helmet boxing or something like that, it was never for poor play, but because we were doing things we weren’t supposed to be doing so there’s another lesson. I think he’s closer now with the kids than he used to be and I think today’s kids need that more. Kids go out and play hard for him.”

“I admire his dedication to this program. I mean, it doesn’t happen everywhere and that’s one of his favorite things to say. He went to Plymouth State and came back home to be an assistant at Concord High and then over time he built it into this dynasty of what it is now. A lot of people would’ve said that after his run in the 90s that he could’ve gone to coach at Plymouth State or gone to coach somewhere else but he’s really dedicated to this program, to this city and this community.”

Ryan Philbrick

Philbrick was a defenseman for Walsh from 2018-21 and left for Cushing Academy in Massachusetts after his junior season where the Tide won the program’s eighth championship.

“I was really excited to play for him because I’ve known him and whenever he would come over I would talk about Concord High hockey when I was younger. Just talking to him about the team, it was pretty cool to be a part of his team. I have a great relationship with him. During the season, I never talked about it (leaving) with him because I didn’t want to be a distraction. But after the season he had heard I was leaving before I had the chance to talk to him, but he understood. He asked me where my top choice was and he was great about it.”

“He’s reached out while I’ve been at Cushing, asking me how things are going, how the games are going and I’ve seen him a couple of times since I’ve been home. It just means a lot.”

Matt Parker bio photo

Matt Parker is a sports reporter at the Monitor and started in August 2021. He is an Ohio native and relishes being from the Buckeye state. A proud graduate of Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio, he served as the sports editor for the student-run newspaper, The Post, from 2019-20. When not at a game or chasing around a coach, you can catch him playing his guitars or looking for the next Peanuts memorabilia piece to add in his growing collection.

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