BROOKLINE, Mass. — John “Jack” Kirrane Jr., the captain of the U.S. hockey team that won the gold medal at the 1960 Winter Olympics, has died. He was 88.
The Brookline, Massachusetts, native died Sunday at a Quincy care facility of complications of Alzheimer’s disease, said his son, John P. Kirrane.
Kirrane first played for the Olympic hockey team in 1948 at age 17. At the 1960 Squaw Valley Games, the 31-year-old defenseman led a squad of mostly college players to upsets of Canada and the Soviet Union before beating Czechoslovakia for the gold.
His son was 5 years old at the time but clearly remembers the excitement as the whole family yelled and screamed around a small black and white television to watch the game.
The gold medal, placed in a display case, was always somewhere around the house when he was growing up, but the younger Kirrane said his father was forever humble about the achievement.
“He didn’t say much about it unless you asked him,” his son said. “He wasn’t the type of guy to blow his own horn. He was modest about it.”
The 1960 team never received the measure of fame enjoyed by the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” gold medal team, but Kirrane didn’t mind.
“He knew it was a different time,” his son said. “Back then, unless you were from Boston or Michigan or Minnesota, hockey really wasn’t a big deal.”
Kirrane served in the Army during the Korean War, although he never saw combat, his son said. He was also a firefighter in Brookline for nearly four decades.
The older Kirrane is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame, while the skating rink in Brookline is named after him.
He is survived by three children, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2010.
A funeral Mass is to be celebrated Thursday at St. Lawrence Church.