Hall-Southington Hockey Coach Named Coach of the Year

Longtime Hall-Southington boys hockey coach and West Hartford native Brian Cannon continued his role as head coach despite amputation of his right leg and part of his pelvis after a cancer diagnosis this summer. Photo credit: David Heushkel (we-ha.com file photo)

Brian Cannon of West Hartford, head coach of the Hall-Southington boys hockey team, has been named Division III Coach of the Year by Connecticut High School Hockey.

By Ronni Newton

Brian Cannon has had to take a slightly different approach to coaching the Hall-Southington boys ice hockey team this season since he can no longer skate, but that hasn’t stopped him, nor has it prevented the team from winning a majority of its games.

On Monday, Connecticut High School Hockey named Cannon the Division III Coach of the Year, and as the regular season winds down for Hall-Southington the team is 13-5-0, and in third place in Division III. Two regular season games remain this week – against McMahon-Norwalk and the JBWA (Joel Barlow/Weston/Abbot Tech) co-op.

Playoffs begin March 9.

The reason he’s no longer wearing skates to coach is because Cannon, a West Hartford resident and 1980 graduate of Hall High School, had his right leg amputated and part of his pelvis and hip joint removed in August. Doctors determined it was the only viable course of treatment for synovial chondrosarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer and one that doesn’t respond to either radiation or chemotherapy. The tumor was discovered when he was supposed to be having hip replacement surgery.

Cannon is not one to give in and feel sorry for himself, however, and decided he didn’t want to give up coaching.

In an interview with David Heuschkel in late November, just as the 2019-20 season was set to commence, Cannon said, “At the end of the year we’ll see what I think. We’ll see what the players think, we’ll see what the parents and administration thinks. We’ll see if they think I’m worth having around.”

As the season progressed, things were working out – for Cannon as well as for the Warrior-Knights.

On Dec. 21, when Hall-Southington won its second game in a row, Cannon told reporter Marlon Pitter that the team was supportive, and he believed the players could use his experience and mindset as an example of how fight adversity in their own lives.

“I think that’s more of a long-term, life thing for them as opposed to a little thing inside the hockey season, but they’ve been very supportive of me, so it’s certainly been a rallying point,” he said in an interview after the victory over Northeastern. “I think, later on in life, as they meet challenges, hopefully they’ll take that as ‘You can’t just sit there and pout. Do what you can do.’”

On Saturday, Senior Day, Hall-Southington came back from a two-goal deficit to beat E.O. Smith-Tolland 4-2, improving their record to 13-5-0.

When Connecticut High School Hockey announced Monday on Twitter (@CTHSHockey) that Cannon had been chosen as coach of the year, Richard DiPietro, whose son Michael DiPietro was one of the team’s co-captains in 2018-19, commented that it was a great choice. “Great Pick!! Toughest most resilient guy you’ll ever. be around. An Inspiring spirit who builds character and confidence in his player! Congratulations Coach!” DiPietro commented.

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