Youth hockey in Massachusetts is big, and Steve Palmacci is a big name within the community.
During his 40-plus years as a coach, local and state board member and a national USA Hockey representative, Palmacci has experienced it all.
For his dynamic work as a top volunteer within the organization, Palmacci, 73, was named the 2023 Wm. Thayer Tutt Award winner by USA Hockey.
“You have no reason to believe that you’re any different than anybody else,” Palmacci said. “USA Hockey has this huge group of long-term volunteers and each one of the affiliates probably has even more. You hear your name selected, it’s shocking to say the least.”
According to Christine Mayer, Massachusetts Hockey second vice president and a USA Hockey director, there isn’t a more worthy winner for this award.
“All the people in hockey, including me, are hyper, and Steve is one of the calmest,” Mayer said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard him raise his voice, use a bad word or criticize anybody. Unbelievable, truly.”
“The reason I think he deserves this award is with everything going on, he always brings it back to the players, to the team. How is this going to affect the kids? In this world you can sometimes lose track of who this is really about, and he never, ever has.”
An Arlington, Massachusetts, native, Palmacci got his start on the ice in 1980 when he volunteered to help his son and others during a learn-to-skate program.
Palmacci’s involvement with hockey increased from there. He coached his son’s team up through the ranks and became the Arlington Youth Hockey vice president. Eventually he became president of the organization.
“I kind of started out not knowing where the road was going to take you, then opportunities arose to step up and do other things and I did,” Palmaccisaid. “Eventually after 22-23 years of coaching, I stopped coaching at that point.”
Palmacci was also the Middlesex girls’ hockey league director before becoming Massachusetts Hockey director from 1990-95, before taking over as the District 9 registrar, holding that position from 1995-2007.
Palmacci became Massachusetts Hockey vice president and then president for his first stint from 2007-11. He received a lot of help from role models Duke Kumpel, Ron DiFilippo and Mike Cheever.
The next step Palmacci took was at the national level as a USA Hockey affiliate registrar from 2011-22.
He has loved holding all these administrative positions over the years.
“You feel like you’re doing something good and something good for the kids,” Palmacci said. “That’s the main thing, it’s really about the kids. The game of hockey’s a fun game and all that but providing an opportunity for the kids to play. Winter’s a really long time.”
Being a big proponent of the kids on the ice will be Palmacci’s biggest legacy during his hockey tenure.
Palmacci, who was inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016, feels like his biggest impact will be starting up a local girls’ hockey program in 1994.
“Grassroots hockey is really where it’s at, and being able to expand that, and, by accident really we started this District 9 girls’ league,” Palmacci said.
While he was the president of Arlington Youth Hockey, a local coach ended one of their monthly meetings by suggesting they should start a girls’ program. Palmacci said if he could get 30 girls on the ice, they could get the program off the ground.
The coach got 60 girls to sign up, and that league still exists today as the Middlesex Yankee Conference Girls Hockey League (MYCGHL). Palmacci said MYCGHL now consists of more than 150 teams competing each year.
Palmacci retired about a decade ago after 35 years working in research and development at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It could be a stressful job, and hockey provided Palmacci with an outlet from his daily grind.
During his four-year stint as president from 2007-11, Palmacci was able to help Massachusetts Hockey move in a positive direction, leaving a lasting legacy on hockey in the state of Massachusetts.
“The first time I was president for four years, I think I had an impact,” Palmacci said. “People nominating me for this award, they must feel like I did, too.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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