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Thomas Barnett ’79: Shoots and Scores


homas Barnett’s favorite childhood

memories include the backyard hockey games played on the ice rink his father, Donald Barnett ’50, built each winter. “We would break a few picket fences or knock out a couple windows with the pucks,” laughs Barnett, who operates Tom Barnett Custom Tailored Clothing. “But really, it was all about friendships, fun and the love of the game.” Those things were lacking when Barnett’s four-year old son, Oliver, joined a youth hockey organization. The experience prompted Barnett to establish the Buffalo Shamrocks Hockey Club in 2001. “We decided the platform for our program was going to be sportsmanship, team-play and personal responsibility,” says Barnett, who founded the program with help from friends he played hockey with – and against – in his youth. What began with just 30 players and a few coaches is now an organization that boasts more than 300 players and 47 coaches. Barnett, a former Ice Griff, has two Canisius hockey players on his coaching staff: Cory Conacher ’11 and Ryan Klusendorf ’10. Barnett attributes the program’s growth purely to word-ofmouth. “We’re not a win-at-all-costs program,” he says. “We’re an education-based, family-focused hockey program, and we hand-select our opponents so we can play those teams that have similar beliefs as ours.” The Shamrocks’ season is shorter than that of other leagues. It runs from October through St. Patrick’s Day. Team spirit is sown into the off season. The Shamrocks tend to a vegetable garden at the Buffalo Zoo. The crops are used to feed the animals. The project, says Barnett, “teaches players about the importance of giving back to the community.” In June 2009, Barnett became the inaugural recipient of the Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award. The award recognizes youth hockey players or mentors for their leadership contributions to youth sports or education. Barnett was handpicked for the award by the Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, and selected from more than 70 U.S. and Canadian nominees. “Coach Barnett is an educator on skates who not only teaches young players how to be better players and teammates, he teaches them to be leaders on and off the ice,” said Messier as he presented Barnett with the award. A humbled Barnett credits the instructors and coaches who “make this program happen.” But the greatest reward, adds Barnett: “Even if the kid doesn’t become a hockey superstar, he’s going to be part of a leadership program and part of a team. In our program, we strive for excellence and that in itself is its own reward.”






Canisius College Magazine Winter 2010  

Volume 11, Issue 1

Canisius College Magazine Winter 2010  

Volume 11, Issue 1