By Carol Masshardt

Edward “Teddy” Cunniff has been involved with the Murphy Rink for forty-three years, and he is a man at home with both the past, and the opportunities of 2023. On a recent day, there were hundreds of young children and families, some with equal interest in snacks and skates, as Teddy held his position in the well-known skate rental and sharpening booth-like room at the rink. He has been President and Vice President of Youth Hockey and knows every element of the game and place.

The history is rich and deep, sad and joyful as is so often the case. First, Teddy holds the record for the most goals scored (thirteen) in a school game at South Boston High according to those at the rink sharing a comment or two.   “It is probably still a record. I think so. I haven’t kept count, but I hear it is,” he said. That goes back to the 1960’s, when skating was like life itself. Teddy’s “thirteen in thirty minutes” is known and repeated still.

“We started young, and they would flood M. St. Park and then we figured out how to deal with snow and it was a good experience. Then, we would take the bus to the Boston Public Gardens and skate under the bridge, and it was beautiful. Then we would  go to the White Tower for something to eat and take the bus back,” he said. “Public skating was the way we all learned, and some got very good at it, but it was about the friends and the fun.”

The” we” in all early accounts seem to to include Teddy’s much loved brother, John, a skating legend, who died of cancer.

“John was in the Olympics and coached. In a game with the Canadians, shortly before his death, we lost by a goal, but all the players came over to shake his hand. They knew he was dying.” Pictures of the handsome young skater still adorn the Murphy rink, and no one is as proud as his brother.

Teddy went on to be a sheet metal worker, retiring in 2007, and becoming a “reverse snowbird” to accommodate his never-ending love of the rink and all who skate.

“I love everybody, and I know everyone who comes here,” he said. “The Learn to Skate” and “Learn to Play” programs are back. It looks good for the future,” he said. It is no surprise that someone who knows the sport as he does would have opinions and observations.

“It’s about fun first. Then they learn balance,” he said. “And the parents have to learn that it starts with a sharp edge, but they think dull blades are safer, but they are not,” he warned.

The process in his mind, is both precise but simple. “They learn fun, balance and confidence in sixteen weeks, and everyone is happy.”

“We have great coaches, he said, and everyone from high school skaters to those who skated professionally, come to help and support public skating for girls and boys and everyone who comes. The volunteers are great and with a hundred kids, you need them. My nephew, David, who coached professionally is one of them,” he said, as skating tradition continues.

Teddy Cunniff honors his own past, his brother’s legacy and is thrilled to think about great skaters starting as they always have, at the Murphy Rink,. He also lives realistically and knows most will not become professional newsworthy athletes.

“No, that’s not it. This is about family commitment, being committed to helping kids learn something , and camaraderie with your community. That’s the real benefit,” he said. Of note, on a recent Saturday, there was hardly a child to be seen with a phone or tablet, as they prepared to take a loop, possibly fall, and get up again.

From renting and sharpening endless pairs of skates, to hearing complaints to seeing confidence develop he is there to see a fast-moving Boston Latin team practice and preschoolers getting  their first skates laced. Teddy Cunniff is the backbone, historian and manager of all skating matters in a place that only looks ordinary. As a coach of the Boston Latin Hockey team, Olivia, said, “Teddy is the best. He has been here since I started skating, and no one knows the sport like he does.”

The future? “Oh, I may stop at eighty,” he said as he imagines the next few years flying past. When asked why he would leave at a given age, his quick wit and mind respond to the nuance of the question. “Yeah, that’s true,” he said, likely remembering that leaving something you love that loves you back isn’t necessarily tied to a calendar.

Edward “ Teddy” Cunniff with Olympic poster signed my brother, John


Skates with back photo of SB hockey greats. From left: Brian Noonan, John Cunniff, Chris Nyland, Teddy Cunniff and Billy O’Dwyer


Lucille and parents ready to skate