Jack Capuano pleased for former Maine teammate Nonis | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaJack Capuano pleased for former Maine teammate Nonis

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 | 03:54 PM

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Newly appointed Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis made an impression on New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano and his brother Dave when they played three seasons together at the University of Maine. Newly appointed Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis made an impression on New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano and his brother Dave when they played three seasons together at the University of Maine. "I had a sense that he was going to stay in the game and be a success," Jack Capuano said. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano was more than pleased that Brian Burke's replacement was his old friend and Maine teammate, Dave Nonis.

Like most of the hockey community, Jack Capuano was stunned the Toronto Maple Leafs fired Brian Burke 10 days before the lockout-shortened 48-game season was to begin.

But the New York Islanders head coach was more than pleased that Burke's replacement, Capuano's old friend Dave Nonis, was given a second chance as a NHL general manager.

Capuano and Nonis played three seasons together on the University of Maine blue-line. Their last game as teammates was at the 1988 Frozen Four in Lake Placid, N.Y. when after losing the semifinal to the eventual champions from Lake Superior State, Capuano, Nonis and Maine rebounded to beat Minnesota 5-2 in the third-place game.

When Capuano arrived on the scene at Maine with his younger brother Dave, a forward, Nonis was in his second year. Nonis made an immediate impression on the Capuano brothers from Rhode Island.

"It didn't surprise me that after he left Maine with his Master's [in business administration] he found work right away with Brian Burke in Vancouver," said Jack Capuano, who wound up being acquired by the Canucks in 1989-90. He only played three games for Vancouver in 1990-91.

"Early on, you could tell this guy was smart, well educated. He was our captain. He was our leader. He made an impression from the start. I had a sense that he was going to stay in the game and be a success.

"We've all changed a bit from back then. Dave still is one of those guys who doesn't say a whole lot, but when he did it always was meaningful and something worth listening to. I think he'll do a fine job. There is nobody that wants to win more than Dave. He's got that mentality. He's a winner."

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After a year playing professionally in Denmark for a season, Nonis returned to Maine to work on his Master's in business administration. He also returned for a year as an assistant coach with the hockey team.

The 46-year-old Nonis, a native of Burnaby, B.C. who grew up dreaming about playing for the Canucks, joined the team's front office. Burke already was with the Canucks. When he later joined the league office, Nonis followed. The two wound up together again back in Vancouver - where Nonis wound up replacing Burke when he was fired in May 2004 - reunited in Anaheim and finally Toronto.

Even though Nonis and Capuano haven't been teammates for almost 25 years, they remain close. 

"He's a good friend," said Capuano, also 46. "He's so loyal. When I was going to be interviewed by the Islanders [for an assistant coaching position in 2005], Dave was one of the first guys to call Mike Milbury to endorse me."

When Capuano and Nonis were at Maine, their late head coach Shawn Walsh was an inspiration. He was controversial, but there was no denying Walsh's success. He built Maine into a powerhouse and wound up winning two national titles in 17 seasons.

Walsh, however, passed away in September 2001 at 46 after a 15-month battle with a rare form of cancer. He was one win shy of his 400th victory at Maine.

"If there was one thing that Shawn left on all of us it was that we will never be outworked," Capuano said.

"Shawn installed in all of us the amount of time you had to put in to be successful. There wasn't the technology and video that there is today, but just on a daily basis on how Shawn presented himself, how he ran his meetings, how every meeting was meaningful. He never had a meeting that didn't have a purpose. He just had a will not to be outworked and that left an impression on us."

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