Jack’s Frozen Three in Waterbury Republican

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McDonald lovin’ Quinnipiac’s success on ice

By Kyle Brennan Republican-American
Former Quinnipiac athletic director Jack McDonald (Quinnipiac Athletics)
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Fourteen hundred miles away from this week’s Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., Jack McDonald will be Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 1.19.00 PM
glued to his TV with a Natural Light in his hand and a perspective shared by nobody else.

McDonald, the Boston College graduate and former athletic director at Quinnipiac and Denver, will watch three programs he knows intimately fight with North Dakota for a national championship.

“I’ve really coined the term ‘Frozen Three’ and everybody’s getting a kick out of it,” McDonald said Monday from campus of the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, where he is now its AD.

“I’m very lucky to have been able to be at three schools synonymous with success in men’s ice hockey.”

McDonald, a former Cheshire resident, used to be known as one of the top track athletes in New England. Boston College offered him a scholarship in 1969, and four years later he became the first runner in New England history to run a four-minute mile indoors (4:00.9).

In 1977, he became the head track coach at BC for $12,000 a year. After 10 seasons and four children, he retired from coaching and became an assistant athletic director at his alma mater.

That only lasted for three years. In 1990, he landed the athletic director job at Denver.

“Nobody likes the word ‘assistant’ in a title,” McDonald said, “so I took a run at being an AD.”

What he did for five years in the Rocky Mountains foreshadowed what he’d eventually do during his 20-year tenure at Quinnipiac.

“Denver at the time was a Division II school that was looking to turn to Division I,” McDonald said. “They had Division I hockey and Division I gymnastics, but they wanted to return the school to Division I. We had to do two things: Try to find a conference and begin the process of getting a new building.”

Soon, McDonald got the itch to return back to New England. Quinnipiac was the destination. The school wanted all of the same things as Denver planned, and McDonald helped make it all happen.

Quinnipiac moved to Division I in 1998 and opened the $52 million TD Bank Sports Center in 2007. The school now boasts one of the top hockey programs in the country, with two Frozen Four berths in the last four years.

McDonald still points to the Bobcats’ victory in the 2013 NCAA East Regional final in Providence, R.I., as a peak in his career.

“My wife and I were sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and I remember saying, ‘I can’t believe we’re going to the Frozen Four,'” McDonald said. “I remember as a kid going to what was then called the Final Four at the Boston Garden in 1968 and watching Ken Dryden. To think that Quinnipiac was going to the Frozen Four was beyond my imagination.”

During his 20 years as a Cheshire resident, he and his wife, Linda, helped raise money for the Cheshire Relay for Life’s Irish Eyes are Miling event and the Petit Family Foundation.

McDonald planned on retiring for good in 2015, but the University of New England reached out to him for advice on its own athletics program. That turned into a full-time job where he’s trying to replicate his past successes.

“We’re in the process of adding sports and building new facilities, so that probably sounds familiar,” McDonald said. “That’s what I like to do.”

McDonald said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold offered a seat on the charter plane and a hotel room in Tampa to join the team at the Frozen Four.

“I was like, wait a second,” McDonald said. “I’m just going to stay home and really concentrate on the game. I want to let (president) John Lahey and (athletic director) Greg Amodio enjoy the moment. I’m going to be watching the games Thursday with my friends. To think that BC and Quinnipiac are playing, that’s just beyond my imagination.

“To be able to enjoy all this as a (Quinnipiac) fan — and I consider myself a little bit of an alumnus — I couldn’t be more excited to watch them, and I want to see them win.”

The 65-year-old doesn’t seem to mind the fact that he doesn’t have any special connection to North Dakota, the party-crasher in McDonald’s Frozen Three.

“I have had a couple of beers in Grand Forks,” McDonald said. “I was there a couple of times when I was the AD at Denver. “Let’s just hope that the Saturday night (championship) game is Quinnipiac-Denver.”