Jack Riley, coach of first U.S. Olympic champion hockey team, dies

Jack Riley
AP
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WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Jack Riley, the Army hockey coach who in 1960 guided the U.S. to its first Olympic gold medal in hockey, has died. He was 95.

He died Wednesday on Cape Cod, Mass., the U.S. Military Academy said. He regularly attended Army home games into his early 90s.

“He lived a great life, and although he is known as a hockey coach to many people, he was a great husband, father, grandfather and friend to all,” said son Brian Riley, the current Army hockey coach.

Jack Riley compiled a 542-343-20 record at West Point during a 36-year college coaching career that started in 1950, transforming the Black Knights into an Eastern power. He led the Black Knights to 29 winning seasons, including a school-record 28 victories during the 1983-84 season.

He was the NCAA coach of the year in 1957 and 1960. When he retired in 1986, Riley was second in NCAA victories and currently ranks 18th.

“He did have a little bit of an Irish temper at the rink and on the golf course,” Brian Riley said. “He was a fierce competitor. He did not like to lose, but at home he was a softie.”

In 1986 and 2002, Jack Riley won the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to U.S. hockey. He was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 was inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. He was a member of the Army Sports Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2004.

Riley was born in the Boston area and played hockey at Dartmouth. He and was a member of the 1948 U.S. Olympic team. Twelve years later, he coached the U.S. team to the gold medal, with the Americans upsetting the Soviet Union at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games in California.

“He pushed his guys,” Brian said. “For the 1960 Olympics he brought his team back to West Point to train. He knew on paper they probably weren’t the favorites, but he was going to have the best-conditioned team and kind of skated the guys into the ice to make sure they were going to be in great shape. Obviously, they were.”

The West Point men’s hockey team has been coached by a member of the Riley family since Jack took the job in 1950. His son Rob succeeded him for 18 seasons and Brian became coach in 2004-05.

Jack Riley said of all his accomplishments he was perhaps proudest of being a Navy pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II.

“People always talk about my dad and the Olympics, but if you wanted to see a real gleam in my father’s eyes, let him talk to you about serving in the Navy and being a Navy pilot,” Brian said. “He took immense pride in serving his country.”

MORE: U.S. Olympic hockey star to play first game in two years

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”