York Hockey celebrates 50 years at senior night

By Murphy McFarlane, York Community High School

Last Friday night, York Hockey held their annual senior night to not only recognize the nine players graduating with the class of 2020, but to additionally celebrate 50 years as a program. The night reflected York Hockey’s presence in the high school hockey community and its lasting role in its player’s lives as a whole.

“York hockey is a tradition of brotherhood, friendships, pride and hard work,” senior and forward Brad Lynch said. “Our coaches push us every day to get to where we want to be. So, overall, the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last four years playing here is definitely hard work.”

Y’s Tales 1981
Current Assistant Coach Scott Metz, number fourteen, celebrates a goal with his lifelong friends. This season, the 1981 team would go on to defeat number one ranked Brother Rice after a game winning goal by current Head Coach Marc Kapsalis. Later, they would win the Chicago Metropolitan High School League West and far West Division.

Newly promoted after a coaching change made midway through the season, Head Varsity Coach Marc Kapsalis’s involvement in York Hockey runs deep. During his final years of high school, he laced up his skates and took to the ice as a York Duke from 1979 to 1981. When describing the team for which he played in his senior yearbook he distinctly ptrached, “we had to be very self-motivated.” Today, he passes this mentality onto his players.

“York Hockey is extremely proud of this group of seniors,” Kapsalis said. “These guys are special, and we’ve told them so. I know they will look back with great pride at their days wearing that Duke jersey.”

In 1981, Kapsalis’s team won the Chicago Metropolitan High School League West and Far West Division, achieving a great milestone for the program. At the time, that team was referred to as “maybe the best York team ever,” by former head coach Jerry Hughes. Kapsalis later played NCAA hockey for Army at West Point.

More recently, the program produced top-level athletes after graduating Billy Paschen and Chris Lee in 2019, both currently playing junior hockey with the Cochrane Crunch in Northern Ontario. Now, York hockey evokes a well-established prominence in today’s high school hockey world.

“Since my first year playing, the team performance really has gotten better,” senior and captain Jack Ray said. “Each year, we have gone further and further, unlike earlier years where we finished in last place.”

When this senior class was in its freshman year, the program was initially inducted into the Scholastic Hockey League (SHL), an exclusive league to which the last seven state champions currently compete. Last year, the JV team was crowned postseason champions and retains the best record in the SHL. The varsity team demonstrates they can compete with top competition; just last playoff season, state champion New Trier Green barely defeated York in the SHL best of three series semi-finals last year. They even reached eighth place in the state rankings last season.

However, the boys will remember the time spent with the team over their four years becomes greater than simply winning games and taking home hardware.

“York hockey, for me, has been all about creating relationships,” senior and captain Jack Timble said. “Before [my teammates] were just friends and strangers, but now I consider every single guy in this locker room my brother.”

Photo courtesy of York Hockey
Members of the varsity team participate in a buddy carry, one of the many army ranger drills meant to train and bond the boys.

A brotherhood, formed in the locker room and reinforced on the ice, continued this August in the hot and humid weather. Both the varsity and JV teams spent a strenuous weekend training with a United States Army Ranger. On Kapsalis’s 14- acre property in Grovertown, Ind., the boys slept, ate and dressed like army rangers.

“We spent three straight days with some guys we were just meeting,” Ray said. “It was a great way to meet the future team and connect with my returning teammates before the season officially started.”

The training served mainly to create bonds. For many, it brought the boys closer than ever.  Some will have a challenging time watching the seniors graduate.

“The seniors are my best friends, and it is going to be difficult to see them leave after playing with them for three years,” junior and alternate captain Mikey Kamienski said. “They pushed me to be the best I can be and always picked me up when I was down. They have been and always will be there for me and the rest of the team no matter what.”

There exists a special relationship between the players who proudly sport a York sweater on the cold of an ice rink. Whether that’s at the annual Friday Night Ice ‘Pink the Rink’ at Addison Ice Arena or a Chicago Metropolitan High School League West game at Carol Stream Ice Rink, York hockey players manage to forge friendships for life.

“Their years together as part of York hockey has produced a bond only the players can understand,” Kapsalis said. “A bond that has been forged in fire and hardened on ice. They are now and will forever will be part of ‘The Long Green Line’– on ice.

This story was originally published on This is York on January 30, 2020.