Weekly Feature

2018-02-14 / Obituaries

Al Mudd, coach, manager, mentor to countless Amherst athletes

by DAVID F. SHERMAN Managing Editor

Mudd Mudd From the dustiest sandlot to the most brilliantly-illuminated university ice rink, Al Mudd was always there — for the kids on his teams, his children and his grandchildren.

Mr. Mudd, 79, died Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

A member of the class of 1956 at Kensington High School, he taught health and physical education at Seneca Vocational High School for 30 years.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Buffalo in 1961 and a master’s degree in education from UB in 1966.

“He had lots of opportunities to move up and teach in suburban districts but elected to stay. He was a city kid through and through,” said his son, Michael, director of athletics at Wooster State University in Massachusetts.

Although Mr. Mudd never played organized hockey, he was a three-sport athlete at Kensington, participating in swimming and tennis and quarterbacking the football team.

He became a football coach at Seneca in 1961 and helped the school capture five Harvard Cup championships, including three in a row from 1969 through 1971 and subsequent titles in 1977 and 1979.

Michael Mudd took a youthful interest in being a hockey goaltender, giving his father the opportunity to fire shot after shot at him, often putting holes in the garage door.

When coach Patrick Rimar asked him to manage his Minor Pee Wee and Bantam teams, Mr. Mudd eagerly agreed. He was the manager of stellar Amherst Hockey Association teams that won national championships in 1981 and 1983.

“When I think of Al, I remember a quiet self-effacing gentleman who handled every task ever asked of him with professionalism and efficiency. He was the perfect ‘hockey parent.’ Al never complained, was supportive of every boy and found a measure of hope and joy in every contest, even those we lost,” Rimar said.

“Al loved the children we worked with — all of them — not merely his own boy. He understood that striving to be better was more important for children than winning and that success was never measured on the scoreboard but in the values the kids left the program with. He counted smiles rather than victories and reveled in hearing stories, and retelling those stories, about tournaments, games played, locker room occurrences and team events.”

Mr. Mudd picked up the love of the game from his father, Al Mudd Sr. He often told the story of how he, as a teen, and his father once drove to New York City to take in a Yankees game. While there, his father became ill and Mr. Mudd drove all night to get back to Buffalo.

Mr. Mudd was assistant coach of a Mel Ott Little League team that won a district title in 1982.

“He never wanted to be a head coach. He said he didn’t want to be a coach on his day off,” Michael Mudd said.

No matter the venue, parents and athletes alike gravitated to Mr. Mudd, seen as a gentle giant who never was afraid to speak his mind.

“He thought nothing of hopping in the car and driving seven hours to Boston to see me play [for St. Lawrence University] against Harvard, and then drive right back home again,” Michael Mudd said.

“At a moment where parents believe every child is going to obtain college scholarships and play professional sports, when manners and common courtesy have become uncommon and when ‘winning’ has become the sole criteria for achievement, minor sports — and children in general — could use thousands more like Al Mudd,” Rimar said.

In addition to his son, Mr. Mudd’s survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Sally Ann Heeb; a daughter, Jennifer Dimitroff; two brothers, Paul and Thomas; a sister, Susan Ahrens; and six grandchildren.

Services will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, in Lombardo Funeral Home, 885 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst, after a wake that begins at 3 p.m.

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