By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Shrewsbury – Hockey is a tough sport, to play and to coach. For Shrewsbury resident Art Ward, whose fellow teammates nicknamed “The Butcher,” that challenge has always been met with spirit, grit and an unwavering commitment. But Ward now faces a battle much tougher than any he has ever faced on the ice or behind the bench. Just days after he turned 44, he had a stroke.
At St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, Ward was the team captain and a Worcester Telegram All-Star. He played for Fairfield University and, as an adult, continued to play in recreational leagues. Over the past decade, he shared his passion for the game with not only his own three boys but as a coach for hundreds of other young players.
After an initial stint at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Ward has since been a patient at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. He has made significant progress, but there is still a long road ahead. Ever since learning of his illness, his family and friends have aided his wife, Kristen, and their three sons – 15-year-old twins, Kevin and Colin, and Matthew, 13 – to ensure that they are getting all the support they need. After all, they say that is what “Art has always done” for them.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, a “Party for Artie” will be held at St. John's to benefit the Ward family. The event will feature dinner, music and dancing and a silent and live auction featuring vacation packages, Boston Bruins and New England Patriots memorabilia, an instant wine cellar and much more.
Ward's positive influence and commitment as a coach has extended not only to his players, but also their families.
Mary and Kevin Maloney's son Conor has played for Ward. As such, Ward always “placed desire and character above flashy and talented,” they said, and “consistently demanded best efforts, tempered with clean play.”
Diane Rutigliano echoed that sentiment. She noted that although her twin boys have moved on to play for St. John's, “Art's passion and love of the game has affected my boys. He continues that commitment and will come and watch my boys play. What a coach, what a family man and, most importantly, a dear friend.”
Ryan Jones recalled how in one game, he was upset after he had made a defensive error which allowed the opposition to score.
“As I got back to the bench, I was really upset with my mistake. All of a sudden, I felt coach Ward tap my helmet and say, “It is ok to make mistakes as long as you work twice as hard to fix them.” This saying has stuck with me since, and will for the rest of my life,” he said. “Thanks [to] coach Ward for making me a better hockey player, as well as a better person.”
Tickets for the fund-raiser are $100 each – 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Ward Family Fund. For more information, go to www.party4artie.com.