Dream Matchup For Long-Time Bench Figure
Maturo is Former Yale, Current Quinnipiac, Equipment Manager
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
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PITTSBURGH Though the schools play in the same league, and — in case you haven't heard — are seven miles apart, the connections between Yale and Quinnipiac, historically, are tenuous at best.
The same cannot be said for Quinnipiac equipment manager Ed Maturo.
For 32 years prior to arriving at Quinnipiac, Maturo was the beloved and highly-respected, all-sport equipment manager at Yale. He took a retirement package three years ago, but was not ready for Florida. So, itching for something to do, and with his two daughters working at Quinnipiac, Maturo decided to help out Rand Pecknold's Bobcats.
Consequently, for Maturo, this national championship game is a surreal experience. The teams may play down the connection, but it's an inescapable collision of life's forces for Maturo.
"It's indescribable," Maturo said. "To see both teams playing for a national championship is indescribable. The probability of one team being here is hard to believe, but two? The stars have to line up just right."
And line up it has, all the way since 1977, when Maturo was still trying to figure out what to do for a career.
"I was working at a paint store as the assistant manager, and every day I had to go to the bank and make a deposit," Maturo said. "And I used to walk by the personnel office at Yale, and periodically I would stop in and look at the job postings. They created an equipment position that never existed before and I said, 'That's what I'd like to do.'"
Despite having played some hockey, he had no experience as an equipment manager, but got the job anyway. He immediately set about making it his own.
"My first year, they had a little home washing machine, and one of the players on the team would take the laundry and dump it in the washing machine," Maturo said. "And then they'd put it in a bin and wheel it into the middle of the room, and everybody would try to get there first to get the best stuff they could out of the laundry. I said, 'This has gotta stop, we've got to create systems.' So the following year they gave me a washer and a dryer and pin systems where everbody got the same stuff back every day, and started treating all the athletes with some service. A lot of hours."
Maturo was coming to Yale just after Tim Taylor had arrived, a Harvard alum who went on to coach the Elis for almost 30 years, and become a pivotal figure in USA Hockey. Yale was never a powerhouse under Taylor, but there were plenty of bright spots. And the brightest of all came after Taylor was named coach of the 1994 U.S. Olympic team, when he took Maturo as his equipment manager.
"There are other equipment managers better than me, but I was someone Timmy was comfortable with," said Maturo, who had a similar experience with the women's Olympic team in 2006. "We made a lot trips to Europe to try to get familiar with the time changes, with food — when we went to Russia we had to shiop in our own water. We had the Ferraro brothers, Mike Dunham and Garth Snow, it was a very good team. Our tour record was incredible.
"To work for my country, it was a very special thing."
Unfortunately, the 1994 team's finish in the Lillehammer games was considered a big disappointment. Taylor returned to Yale and had a great run to an ECAC regular-season title in 1998 and the team's only NCAA appearance in his tenure. But the program never reached the kind of height it has in recent years under former Yale goalie Keith Allain.
"(Taylor) worked really hard at what he did, but the restrictions he had at Yale were hard," Maturo said. "Keith has it a little easier."
In 2006, Yale's administration thought it was time for Taylor to retire. Taylor wasn't completely against it, but wanted to do so on his own terms. The two sides couldn't reconcile, and Taylor was eventually pushed out the door.
Maturo said the two never really talked about it, but calls the whole thing an unfortunate end to Taylor's distinguished Yale career.
"I went through a divorce with him together, I was doing his laundry, and he didn't talk to me about any of that (either)," Maturo said.
The transition was made easier with the arrival of Allain, who Maturo had known as a player from his early days.
"Keith gets some of his tendencies from (Taylor)," Maturo said. "You don't realize what you learn at the time. ... (Keith) was always very tenacious. He was very focused. He used to get really upset when they scored on him. A real competitor.
"When you're in these positions, you learn to deal with everybody. Even dealing with Timmy, who was a soft spoken but very demanding person, and I learned an awful lot from him about how to deal with people. You try to get along with these kids and get a little bit of respect from them, and it kinda keeps me young even though I'm getting old, just being around them."
Maturo worked with Allain for five years before the retirement and subsequent move to Quinnipiac, where his three granddaughters attend school. Now, instead of handling 35 sports, he just works with the hockey team, and he says everyone at Quinnipiac has been just as wonderful to work with.
"The game is a little more emotional for me, because I still have connections to the players, coaches (at Yale)," Maturo said. "You don't just work somewhere 32 years and turn the switch off. But it's exciting for everybody. It's jump-starting our league a lot. Sometimes our league doesn't get the credit it should get, but here we are, we're the best."
The matchup comes with a bittersweet taste. Taylor has been battling cancer for a while, and is gravely ill. Even though Taylor distanced himself from the university, he remained close with Maturo and Allain, both of whom think about him often as the two teams have made their historic runs.
"He's very sick, I can't even talk about it," Maturo said, getting extremely, understandably emotional. "I saw him about 3 weeks ago.
"I loved him. Of anybody that I've known, he's changed my life the most. I've learned respect, not only for your job, but for people. He's an incredbile mentor. It's just being around him so much, especially when you're with hockey, it's family. You spend so much time together. It's not like other sports. You're there from 8 in the morning, and you're there until 6 at night. Naturally you go out and have a few beers, and you're friendly, and he'd come over the house for dinner. So we became very, very, very good friends."
Those kinds of relationships don't come along very often, and is what made the 32-year attachment to Yale so special. And what makes tonight's NCAA championships so surreal for Maturo.
"Even (Thursday) when I walked into the hotel and there were so many Yale alums there, friends I've known 30 years," Maturo said. "And we were there, talking and laughing, and the friendships you create along the way is so special. I really miss the alums.
"My wife, kids were brought up around Yale. She didn't see me much, but she made it a social event, would tailgate at football, she wouldn't miss a game. Then my grandkids came down and were water boys, and ... it's been wonderful.
"I wish it could be a 2-2 tie."