NEW CANAAN, CT — Thomas “Bo” Hickey, a longtime assistant football coach and head coach of the boys hockey team at New Canaan High School, died Tuesday morning at the age of 77, leaving behind a lasting legacy to all who knew, worked with and played for him.
According to Athletic Director Jay Egan, Hickey was an assistant football coach at NCHS for 31 years, leading the Rams, under the guidance of Head Coach Lou Marinelli, to four FCIAC titles and eight state championships.
He also led the boys hockey team to 10 FCIAC titles and turned the program into a state powerhouse for over two decades, according to a post honoring him on the New Canaan Football Facebook page.
“He was behind the scenes as a football coach,” Egan said to Patch, “but he had a lot to do with the success of the football program…and we were very successful when he was the hockey coach.”
Egan had a long history with Hickey, having coached football with him from 1985, about four years after Hickey arrived in New Canaan in 1981, to 1995.
“He’s 10 years older than I am, but I’ve know [Hickey] probably since I was 15 years old,” Egan said. “I knew who he was, so I’ve had a number of different connections with Bo over the years.”
After Egan became the school’s athletic director in 2005, he worked with Hickey for about a decade as he continued to coach the boys hockey team until his retirement in 2014.
Hickey was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame last year. A Stamford native, he played college football for the University of Maryland and went on to play professional football for the Denver Broncos in the 1960s prior to coaching.
According to Egan, Hickey was a coach who demanded a lot of his players, but they all knew he loved them.
“He was a very kind person, and he did a lot for people that people never knew about,” Egan said. “I think that’s what the people who know him well would say about him.”
A larger-than-life character, Hickey was always interested in working with young people and helping them achieve and develop as athletes and people, Egan said.
“I think it was just something that he did that fulfilled him as far as his life was concerned,” Egan said. “He loved athletics and he loved working with kids, so he found as many ways to do that as he could. Football and hockey were two ways that he could do that.”
Egan also noted players would often revere Hickey, whose unique persona drew them in and made them want to succeed for him.
“Players wanted to do well for him,” Egan said, “they wanted him to like them, so I think he was a strong personality. He was a strong leader, and I think that kids were really drawn to him and who he was and how he went about things.”
A tribute on the New Canaan Football Facebook page described Hickey as more than a coach and more than wins and losses.
“Bo was about the kids,” the post reads. “Behind that tough exterior was a heart bigger than anyone’s. Everyone who was lucky enough to play for Bo knows this. Everyone who played for him loved to play for him. Bo was not afraid to tell you like he sees it. It often would come in the form of one-liners seldom heard in these parts. He was not afraid to rip you. To break you down. But he would build you up with a foundation that was better and stronger than you had before.”
Other descriptions of Hickey include “singular,” “authentic” and “a force of nature” who words almost fail to fully describe. Above all else, he cared about his players and always sought to bring out the best in them.
“He was a demanding coach and every player that ever played for him or was near him knew that he cared about them as much as possible,” Egan said. “He just had a very unique way of doing that. No matter who you talk to, I think that’s what they’re going to say about Bo.”