St. Mary’s Hockey Program Bids Fond Farewell to Retiring Coach Mark Lee at Awards Banquet

Mark Lee was such a successful and revered coach that the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2017, the same year that Lee led the Spartans to the Division 1 state championship.

Lee announced his retirement after this season, and at the St. Mary’s High School boys hockey team’s awards banquet Sunday at the Nahant Country Club, administrators, coaches, players, and parents paid tribute to one of the state’s all-time legendary coaches.

Lee tried to deflect the attention to his players and the program’s supporters during the awards dinner, true to his humbleness and character. But the emotional, standing ovation truly said it all about his career accomplishments and the respect he earned from his players: Mark Lee took a struggling Division 3 hockey program and turned it into a perennial contender for the Division 1 state title.

Head of School Dr. John said, “I want to congratulate Coach Lee on his successful career and the boys on a great season.”

St. Mary’s Athletic Director Jeff Newhall, who said as a youth in the late 1980s he was a junior sideline hockey assistant for the hockey team, also congratulated Lee on his stellar career that produced 497 victories.

“Thirty-seven years as the head coach, that’s just unbelievable,” said Newhall. “The word ‘family’ comes up all the time at St. Mary’s. Mark Lee started and built the boys hockey ‘family’ to where it is today. I’m thankful and grateful to him to have been part of that.”

Newhall said he will always remember the day that St. Mary’s defeated Framingham in the Division 1 state championship game at the Boston Garden.

“To come back and do that after what happened the year before (a 4-3 loss to Franklin in double overtime at the Garden) was just great,” said Newhall.

St. Mary’s assistant coach Doug Surette, who has been on the staff for 16 years, said Lee’s positive influence extended beyond the rink.

“I didn’t realize how much being a good coach could mean to a kid. Mark Lee showed the importance of trying to get into the minds of these players, and not only teach them the game, but help them to be good people,” credited Surette. “You opened my eyes to the realization that, to some of these kids, hockey is their outlet, their happy place, or even possibly the place where they’re looking for a positive role model or influence in their life, and I want to thank Coach Lee for that. Coach Lee has been that guy for hundreds of kids, and that’s what I hope to pass on to players and future coaches the way he has onto me.”

Doucette said Lee is in “a class of his own,” becoming the seventh winningest coach in the history of Massachusetts high school hockey.

“Mark, you went from a guy I grew up wanting to play hockey for, to my coach, to my co-worker and mentor, most importantly to my friend,” said Surette. “I can’t thank you enough for making this whole experience such a big part of my life.”

Incoming head coach Matt Smith, who played hockey for Lee at St. Mary’s, concluded the immense tribute paid to Lee’s coaching career, telling of his own hockey-playing days at St. Mary’s, “I attribute a lot in my life to Coach Lee. If it wasn’t for this guy coming to my house, taking me out for breakfast, talking to me – he really helped me and molded me into a guy that graduated from St. Mary’s, went on to Bridgton Academy and then to Norwich. That’s what a high school coach is. When you’re able to do that in a player’s life, that’s what it’s all about, and that’s who Mark Lee was. And that’s his legacy beyond all the wins. For all the players like myself, he was there for us on a personal level, and I can only hope to do that for as many players as he did. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

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