The Founder of Ringgold High School Ice Hockey

Note – This article was published in the Mon Valley Independent newspaper on November 24, 2017.  Much thanks to the Sports Editor Jeremy Sellew

Few men can be called “The Founder” of something.  You have to be around at the beginning of it, and it has to be of sufficient importance and longevity that people care enough to remember.  One such man is Dick Wright.  Mr. Wright, a long-time resident of Monongahela, was instrumental in starting the Ringgold ice hockey team in 1973.  At the time, high school hockey in the Pittsburgh area was in its infancy.  In 1972, a few teams formed the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (WPIHL) which played mainly at the now gone rink in Monroeville Mall, and the similarly defunct Alpine rink along the Parkway in Wilkinsburg.  A year later, they were joined by a new league, the South Pittsburgh Interscholastic Hockey League (SPIHL) that played at the Rostraver Ice Gardens.  The teams included Baldwin, Bethel Park, South Park, South Side, Carrick, South Allegheny, West Mifflin South, Clairton, and Ringgold.  How this league came into being is an interesting story.  The fact that Ringgold Ice Hockey continues 45 years later is a testament to the people who helped found the team, especially, Dick Wright.

Ringgold Hockey Team circa 1974 – That’s me next to the goalie in the bottom row and my dad on the far left

In 1973, I was a player in the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League (PAHL) Bantam (13-14 year old) Division, and a ninth-grade student at Finley Junior High School.  I played at the Rostraver Ice Garden in on Rt. 51.  Luckily, my mom worked there, so I spent a lot of time skating for free.  One evening after practice, my dad, Dick Wright, was approached by some of the other dads who were meeting in the back room to discuss the formation of a high school league.  The schools that were represented each had several players in the PAHL.  The other dads asked if Ringgold would be interested in fielding a team.  At the time, we had maybe five players in the PAHL.  They informed my dad that they were taking deposits of $100 to secure a spot for each school.  He just happened to have the cash on him and counted out the money.  The Ringgold Ice Hockey team was formed.

Ringgold’s original uniforms – The ram looks like a cross-eyed goat

Once we had a team, we had to find out if we had any players. Mr. Wright called meetings for all interested players at Monongahela and Donora High Schools, along with Finley and Carrol Junior High Schools.  The result was about 14 players ranging from ninth-grader Don Affinito, to senior captain Dave Chernuta.  Most of the players had honed their skills on frozen ponds.  Mr. Wright then tackled the pressing issues of who would coach the team, and how we would pay for ice time and uniforms.  Charleroi resident, Andy Barbe was chosen as the first coach of Ringgold.  Mr. Barbe was a Canadian who had a distinguished career with the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets, and spent time in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  So we had a team and a coach.  The uniforms were patterned after the Buffalo Sabres whose colors were blue and gold.  A local artist silk-screened a ram which was stitched onto the jersey.  The players stood on street corners in Monongahela and Donora collecting money in coffee cans.  Luckily, Mr. Wright was a member of the Ringgold School Board, and was able to secure some funding for the team.  Before long, Ringgold was ready to take the ice.

Nice to have people in high places – And I love that checked suit!

The team wasn’t great that first year.  Luckily, we had Tracy Campbell in goal who kept us in a lot of games.  Not surprisingly, the teams with the most PAHL players, Baldwin, Bethel Park and South Park, had the most success, but Ringgold placed fourth.  The next two years saw us hover in the middle of the pack.  Jeff Lynn captained the team in its second season, and I was privileged to captain the team in the third season.  As I moved on to play at Penn State, my brother, Scott Wright, began a five-year domination of Pittsburgh high school hockey ending with an 80-goal season in 1980-81 and a trip to the state playoffs.  Since then, the team’s fortunes have gone up and down, but it has always answered the bell.  It is one of the few high school hockey programs that started in the 1970s, and is still operating today.  Along with Scott Wright, other great players included Tim Parsons, Tom Parent, Chuck Rose, Dave Lewis, Dan Drnach, Rico Day, and Dan Tonini.

The 2017 Rams – Snazzier uniforms and a better record than we had

As I approach my 60th birthday, I count being a founding member of the Ringgold Hockey Team as one of my proudest accomplishments.  I estimate about 400 young men and a few women have donned the blue and gold over the years.  The experience has helped define who we are.  These players have one man to thank, Dick Wright.  I’m not sure what possessed him to start the team, but I’m glad he did.  I still play in an adult league in Delmont each week.  Sometimes I meet equally ancient players on other teams and we talk about our high school days.  Most of the teams they played on are now history, but not mine.  When I go to a Penguins game at PPG Paints Arena, I look at the framed jerseys of the high school teams, and I feel pride when I see the Ringgold Rams represented there.  And I remember the man who made it happen, Dick Wright.


Day-Tripping with Rick

Ringgold High School Defenseman, 1973-76

Captain, 1976

4 thoughts on “The Founder of Ringgold High School Ice Hockey

  1. Sandy Anderson 03/18/2020 at 3:40 am

    Well, those are some familiar old faces. I believe some of them used to play with my toys when I was a baby, right Ricky? I found my brother’s old shirt ages ago buried in the bottom of a cupboard at my mom’s house. I hope you and the family are doing well! Sandy Anderson (Let’s go Pronovost!)

    • Rick 03/18/2020 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Sandy. We are ok. Hope you are, too. It’s fun writing about the “glory days”. Take care.

  2. Allan harden 03/18/2020 at 8:18 am

    Wow a blast from the past i was saying the other day when i heard the state finals were cancelled and ringgold had a legitimate shot at winning the championship i remember rick and i standing on the corners in town at kmart and many other locations around the valley collecting money including charleroi who never had a hockey team that i remember. But to to the corona virus cancelling the finals i felt personally hurt due to the hard work we put into starting ringgolds team as well as helping other schools. Ricky scott and lindas mom penny getting sandy and i s mom a job at the rink rick and i were there 7 days a week we even talked our friend mary lou greenwood into joining belle vernons team being the only female to play in our era. Mary lou who went on to marry our defenseman don affinito. Im glad rick gave recognition to his dad and many players kinda hurt he didnt give me any recoognition for the help i gave especially when rick and i were inseperable back then riding our 10 speeds all over western pa and going to many hockey games at the old civic arena and forming friendships from many other schools that have lasted today and challenged the test of time including linda wright and her husband of 40 some years oh that makes me feel old dan drnach of clairton well i guess riick is old and his memory isnt what it once was. I enjoyed seeing him at our class reunion and evrn posing side by side for our class picture 40th reunion.

    • Rick 03/18/2020 at 4:18 pm

      Yeah, it was fun writing this. It was in the Valley paper last year. Ringgold won the state championship in there division last year and they invited my dad and me to the banquet. Dad didn’t make it so I took Scott with me. Hard to believe that was almost 50 years ago. Good to hear from you. Keep safe in this craziness.

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